23. Peterson Chubbies, Part 3: The 107 P-Lip Straight Billiard (Revised)

107 Chubby Flame GrainAfter the classic John 999 and old 9BC, the third entry in my catalog of the all-time greatest Peterson Chubbies is a straight billiard, the 107 P-Lip. It’s also the newest of the three. A careful study of the K&P ephemera reveals that if a pipe is illustrated in a Peterson brochure (rather than a catalog or catalog brochure), it is often because that shape or line is new. Following this line of logic, the 107 was announced in the 1979 supplemental pages the 1975 catalog “now illustrated for the first time.”

107 Kildare Patch c 1979
107 Kildare Patch (c. 1979)

This might seem definitive if it were not for a troubling listing on ebay a short while ago of a Rogers Imports-era Shamrock 107. The photograph is distorted, but the number does appear to be a 107. The rim has been inexpertly rounded and the stem probably not original, as Shamrocks from this era were fitted with P-Lips, not fishtail stems. Still, it makes you wonder.

107 Shamrock
107 Shamrock (?)

The shape next appears around 1992 in the “Handmade” brochure as the “XL Billiard 107,” in the re-booted Sterling Silver line, which had been around since Rogers Imports introduced it in the late 1940s, but not seen in the ephemera for about ten years or so before resurfacing in the early 1990s.

XL107 1992 Brochure
XL Billiard 107 (1992 Handmade Brochure)

While Peterson is known for its iconic bent System shapes, from the very beginning they also made straight pipes—first the small-chambered Patents, then traditional English shapes, which of course morphed into the bigger, bolder, and more masculine shapes for which Peterson is renowned. The 107 is about as “Peterson” as a straight pipe can get in its design language, especially if coupled with the graduated-bore P-Lip stem—which also gives it a dryer, cooler smoke and relieves the pipeman of the necessity of running a pipe cleaner down the stem half-way through the smoke.

The 107 is part of the “100” series line, which dates back to the 1906 catalog. Interestingly enough, the number itself seems never to have been used officially until 1979, or at least, it is undocumented in the ephemera we have seen so far. The 1906 catalog has a number of classic billiard shape: 101, 102, 103, 104, 104, 105, 106, 109 (not to be confused with the XL diamond-shanked 109 of recent years), and 110, but no 107.

Maigret 107
Maigret (Italian Market only, photo courtesy Mario Lubinski)

I came to straight Petes fairly recently in my smoking, thanks to the encouragement of Phil Blumenthal over at the IPPC, and tried a Maigret 107 about a year ago. I found the pipe too heavy and uncomfortable with its fishtail acrylic stem, and let it go. A few months ago I spotted the 107 in a Flame Grain, and with the P-Lip it seemed the very epitome of Peterson’s best Chubby Aesthetic, so I went for it.

What makes a pipe a “Chubby” is a matter of some debate, but as far as I’m concerned it has to do with the thickness of its bowl, bowl walls, stummel and stem compared with traditional shapes in its classification—as a billiard, in this instance, it will be considerably more “inflated” than other straight billiards.* The tapered effect of the 107 P-Lip on its massive stem contributes significantly to making the shape look not merely large but truly Chubby.

A visual comparison between the 105, 106 and 107, all adorned with bands and P-Lips, points out the Chubby contrast nicely:

105 106 107
Top to Bottom: 105, 106, 107
(Photos Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

You can also see it in the measurement numbers:

Pipe                           X105 Aran                  106 Aran                     107 Flame Grain

Length                        5.55 in / 140.84           5.78 in / 140.84 mm    5.82 in / 147.83 mm

Weight                       1.39oz / 39.54 g          1.80 oz / 51.03 gr        1.90 oz / 53.86 gr

Bowl Height               1.79 in / 45.49 mm      1.90 in / 48.26 mm      1.99 in /50.55 mm

Chamber Depth        1.54 in / 39.21 mm      1.61 in / 40.89 mm      1.61 in / 40.89 mm

Chamber Diameter   0.78 in / 19.85 mm      0.79 in / 20.07 mm      0.82 in / 20.83 mm

Outside Diameter     1.40 in / 35.49 mm      1.49 in / 37.85 mm      1.61 in / 40.89 mm

All three pipes retain what I think of as the classic bowl geometry of 2 : 1, depth by width, making them great all-around pipes whatever your tobacco tastes, but particularly desirable for Virginia flake and Va/Per smokers.

Currently the 107 appears in a number of Classic Lines, including of late the Christmas 2014 and Dracula series, but seems to be available with the P-Lip only in the Flame Grain, Killarney and Dublin Filter. I wish the 107 P-Lip was more widely available, as it is actually easier to grip in the mouth than the fishtail. The Flame Grain runs about $160 (and you’ll see a fill or two). Sometimes it shows up in the Killarney entry grade (under $100) as well. I’ve also spotted the 107 P-Lip in the older U.S. Rock of Cashel line as well as the Dublin Filter, but sadly, not in the Aran, where I think it would be a natural.

 

*My diatribe on Chubby pipes can be found at http://www.neatpipes.com/blog/built-for-comfort-a-short-history-of-the-chubby-style/&id=7.

 

 

 

 

 

22. Peterson Chubbies, Part 2: The Old 9BC

A few weeks ago I began thinking about my favorite Peterson Chubbies, beginning with the John Bull 999. Today I want to look at another old-timer, the 9BC. Like the John Bull, the 9BC is something special among Peterson collectors, perhaps because it is hands-down the most sensuously curvy bent billiard Peterson has ever put on the market. You don’t have to take my word for it—Allison Rose Harrell’s photograph for Smokingpipes.com says it all:

9BC Pre Republic9BC Shamrock Natural Finish
(Photo Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

 So where did it come from, and where did it go?

The shape number of the 9BC tells us that it’s a classic “9”—a Charles Peterson Patent shape that’s been in the catalog since 1896. In the 1906 catalog it was first identified as a 9, which by the late 1940s would become a “307” in the Standard System numbering or 9S in the DeLuxe. It remains a standard in the Peterson catalog and is routinely found in the Classic Lines as the XL90s as well as in its original System versions as the 9s and 307.

This is a big pipe, at least in the traditional sense of the word, with a chamber geometry hovering at 20mm x 42 and a weight of around 65-68 grams. The shape was the largest of the regular System offerings until the B42 / Darwin slightly eclipsed it a few years back.

The “BC” in the shape number designates something special—it refers to the stem style and length, respectively. No other instance in the Peterson catalog is known of a pipe stamped “BC,” although both the 1896 and 1906 catalogs make it plain that a customer could custom-order any Peterson pipe with a BC stem. The “B” tells us the 9BC has a got a tapered, rather than saddle, stem style. The “C” means it’s got a shortened stem, which gives the 9BC pipe its distinctive chubby character.

9BC 1953 Rogers ImportsThe 9BC from the 1953 Rogers Import Catalog Shape Chart

We owe the existence of this shape, apparently, to the enthusiasm of Harry L. Rogers, Peterson’s incredible importer here in the United States from the late 1930s through the 1960s, as it appears nowhere other than in the Rogers ephemera.

The first appearance of the shape I’ve been able to track down is in the 1953 Rogers Imports catalog’s shape chart. It reappears in their “Chat With the Smoker” pipe-box brochure, also issued sometime in the 1950s, as well as their 1957 catalog. In all three cases, it is shown as an unmounted pipe, although the only 9BCs one is likely to run across these days are in its Shamrock dress and, sometimes, in the Sterling line.

The Shamrock was the least expensive of the Rogers Imports “individually boxed” lines during the 1950s and retailed at $3.50, while Peterson’s top of the line, the unmounted Supreme, cost $15.

At some point during the 1950s or early 1960s, I think Shamrocks were given a lighter finish, as can be seen by comparing the following two photographs:

 9BC Shamrock Early Stain Color
Early 9BC Stain Color

 9BC Shamrock Later Stain Color
Later 9BC Stain Color

 I’m quite willing to be proven wrong on this, but if you look at enough Shamrocks, you’ll begin noticing there’s two stain colors, and the earliest catalog descriptions and illustrations are always of the darker stain.

The lighter-finished 9BC’s stem illustrates one problem in sourcing one of these beauties: whoever restored this pipe thinned down the button, and in the process the pipe lost a bit of its chubby charm.

The current production XL90[B]—the pipe with the tapered stem, not what would traditionally have been stamped the XL90s for “saddle” but is not currently so stamped—is for all intents and purposes the same shape as the old 9BC, as a comparison of their measurements reveals. It doesn’t have quite the delirious curve at the button, but is in other respects nearly identical.

For those wanting the original 9BC, Ebay has them on offer almost monthly. Right now there’s a 9BC Sterling whose only problem is a sawed-off P-Lip stem and the need for a bit of reconditioning. The former, of course, can be taken care of by dropping it in the mail to Peterson. For the latter, if you’ve never restored a pipe, you can find all the help you need at Steve Laug’s www.rebornpipes.com blog.

 XL90 Supreme
XL90 Supreme

Next:
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
What’s the chubbiest straight of all?”

19. Peterson Chubbies, Part 1: The 999 John Bull (Bent Rhodesian)

999 John Bull Shamrock

I don’t know how long I’ve been in love with Chubby pipes, but my awareness (so to speak) first dawned when Luca di Piazza teamed up with Luigi Radice several years ago and began releasing the Neatpipes/Radice Chubby Billiard. In the years since, Luca and Luigi have issued a number of chubby shapes, and several of the Italian artisans represented by Luca at his Neatpipes boutique have offered their own versions.

What is it about fat pipes that makes them so… so je ne sais quoi? I can’t speak for others, but for myself it seems to be something to do with comfort. Not only how they feel in the hand, but how they look.*

Anyway, if you’re both a Pete Nut and a Chubby fan, it won’t come as a surprise that Peterson and Chubby go together like Laurel and Hardy, Gilbert and Sullivan, or Sherlock and Watson. We talk quite a bit about the Peterson aesthetic in the book, so I won’t say more here.

119 Chubby Billiard 1947119 Chubby Billiard (c. 1947 Shape Chart)

I don’t know when the word was first used in the larger world of pipe ephemera, but K&P first used the word “Chubby” in their 1947 shape chart to describe shape 119, a “Chubby Billiard.” But this isn’t the shape most Pete Nuts think of when they think Peterson Chubby.

 999 from 1935 Chat

999 John Bull from the “Chat With the Smoker” Brochure (c. 1935)

Current pride of place has to go, I think, to the long-unavailable original shape 999, which Peterson always called a “John Bull”—not a Rhodesian. The first appearance I’ve been able to track for it in the K&P ephemera is in the 1935 “A Chat With the Smoker” pipe-box brochure.

999 John Bull 1942 Geo Yale

 999 in the George Yale Catalog (Summer 1942)

 It next appears in the Peterson ephemera on p. 13 of the George Yale catalog for the summer of 1942, this time in the U.S.-only Rogers Imports initial Shamrock release, strikingly without its double-bead and without a P-Lip. It’s really more of a chubby quarter-bent apple, I suppose, in this strange rendition.

In 1945, the 999 appears in the K&P “Red” catalog, adorned with its double-bead and P-Lip, as part of both the high-grade Deluxe and Dublin & London lines, as well as being available in the lower Kapet (no band) & Kapruf (sandblast, no band) lines.

998 and 999 from 1977 Assoc Imports

998 / 999 Side by Side (1977 Associated Imports Catalog)

Around 1977, as seen in the Associated Imports Distributor’s Catalog illustrations above, the John Bull 999 became the XL999, and Peterson introduced shape 998, a stream-lined version of the 999 The two shapes ran alongside one another for several years, which happens when shapes are in transition. The XL999 / 999 Large John Bull was still in the 1987 catalog, but by the 1992 Handmade Brochure it had morphed into the slimmer 998 shape, which number was henceforth deleted from the catalog. I might add it was still called the “John Bull,” and Pete Nuts worthy of the name should educate all comers that while others may call the shape a bent Rhodesian, we know better.

If you’re looking for an original John Bull, you should be aware that photos of the old 999 on ebay make it appear larger than it actually is. It’s really within the parameters of most pipes of its day, with a chamber size of (approximately) 0.7 x 1.3 in. (that’s 17.78 x 33.24 mm) and comes in at just under 5 ½ inches, weighing 2 oz (that’s 56 gr).

Peterson estates remain great bargains on the pipe market today, even though a shape like the John Bull 999, which seems to have become a bit of a cult item, can sometimes go for a bit more. Recent DIY specimens (that is, needing restoration) went on ebay for $55 and $132—the $55 dollar being a Sterling Silver Line with fantastic wood and the $132 being a Shamrock!

999 Dracula
The Current (Post-1992) 999 in its Dracula Attire

Incidentally, Sykes Wilford at Smokingpipes.com says the 999 is his best-selling Peterson shape.

 

* For more on Chubbies, see my article “Built for Comfort: A Short History of the Chubby Style ,” at http://www.neatpipes.com/blog/built-for-comfort-a-short-history-of-the-chubby-style/&id=7 .