132. A Short History of the Making of the Peterson Pipe Book

This week marks the 5th anniversary of Peterson Pipe Notes, and while there’s still a wealth of lore to share here on the blog and lots of promising research to be done, it seems like an opportune moment to stop and say thank you to everyone who has been on the journey which led to The Peterson Pipe’s launch at the Chicagoland show a few weeks ago.

At the show I had the privilege not only of meeting a number of long-time Pete fans, but of talking at length about the making of the book as well as how it’s put together. You probably don’t want to read all that, but you might be interested in some of the highlights.

C. S. Lewis once said that we write the books we want to read, and I’ve wanted to read a book about Peterson for almost as long as I’ve been smoking their pipes—not long after I first discovered Carl Ehwa’s enchanted Books of Pipes and Tobacco, in fact.

Jim Lilley

After writing about a pilgrimage to the Peterson factory for the NASPC’s The Pipe Collector in 2009, I began to think more seriously about the possibility of a book. In 2011 I contacted the late Jim Lilley, who had been blogging about Peterson for about a year. I convinced him that’d I “gopher” (liaise) the book if he and a few others would do the heavy lifting and thus began a year’s discussion, planning and outlining of what we’d like to see in the book.

“Trucker” Chuck Wright

Jim’s declining health forced him to withdraw from the project not long after our initial planning sessions, but not before he put me in touch with the late Chuck Wright, who was very active on the Peterson boards, and with then-Sacramento Pipe Club president (and estate pipe dealer) Gary Malmberg. Several months later, in May 2012, with an outline, reams of research and a dash of courage, Gary and I met with Gary B. Schrier of Briar Books Press at the Chicagoland Pipe and came away not long after with a contract. To my amazement.

To rightly understand the project, you need to know that I had never been to a pipe show. Although I’d been a pipeman since 1975, published a little pipe zine back in the 80s and occasionally wrote to Tom Dunn or Gene Umberger, my puffing was for the most part a solitary affair. This meant that I wanted all the help I could get on the book.

While there were a few who thumbed their noses at us (figuratively speaking), we eventually coerced some of the hobby’s brightest talents into participating in various ways. First was the real hospitality and sustained help of Tom Palmer, Peterson’s CEO and owner until 2018. Then came help from Sykes Wilford at Laudisi, who created a secret back door into the Smokingpipes digital archive for me to study every Peterson pipe they’d sold. Then came the enthusiasm and writing of Rick Newcombe, whom I had already dubbed “the Apostle of Pipes” on an earlier blog for his advocacy of our hobby.

“The Apostle of Pipes,” Rick Newcombe (icon written by Chas. Mundungus)

Steve Laug of Rebornpipes gave me advice on creating a blog to not only advertise the creation of the book but to share information overflowing the book’s boundaries. From the Peterson came almost daily correspondence with Tony Whelan Jr. and Joe Kenny, and from the Peterson office came the detective work and scanning work of Angela Fortune, Palmer’s assistant. And as we began to put the chapters together, we asked and received pieces from Neill Archer Roan, Marc Munroe Dion, Regis McCafferty, Anthony Macaluso, Dave Whitney, Steve Laug and many others.

By nature, I’m given to wanting to know everything about a few things. This means I usually have all the novels of an author I like, all the albums of my favorite prog metal band, multiple recordings of Bach’s cantatas, every recorded note Beethoven or DSCH wrote, all the movies of Laurel & Hardy or Buster Keaton and so on. I’m not sure this is obsessive, exactly, but it is perhaps a bit detail-oriented. Maybe peculiar.

But as far as the book is concerned, my self-diagnosed personality aberration paid off in the exhaustive nature of the book’s design. Because the book is so very massive, I think it’s helpful for the reader to see it as a kind of trinity knot or triquetra braiding together Peterson’s history, pipes and craftsmanship:

  1. We knew we wanted a fairly detailed history of Kapp & Peterson, which was the scariest part of the project for me and was Gary Malmberg’s genius and gift to the book.
  2. We also knew we wanted a close and extensive look at the pipes. We wanted to create a nuanced and reliable dating guide that goes beyond the puerile and meaningless “Pre-Republic” claims you read in every other eBay posting, and I think we achieved that, illustrating Peterson pipes by their stamping eras from Pre-Patent (1865-1890) to the most recent Dublin era (1991-2018) and demonstrating once and for all that “Pre” or “post”-Republic is meaningless as far the quality of Peterson pipes are concerned.
  3. And I wanted several chapters written with common Peterson user’s questions in mind, including a detailed look at how Peterson pipes have always been made, how to smoke the System pipe, how to buy and restore estate pipes, and of course how to date a pipe you own or are thinking of acquiring.

To this three-fold design we added bookends. First, a layer of oral histories by Peterson staff, current and retired, running through the entire book and giving human shape, personality and depth to all those who have said, “We work for Kapp’s” (which is how the company is still named by those who work there today) from that first group of 20 hires in 1891 until today. What emerges from their stories is a fascinating culture of inclusiveness, of women accounting for slightly more than 50% of Peterson staff, of a family business which maintained a familial sense of responsibility for a century, and of an Irish sensibility of craftsmanship which is far different from either the old British factory understanding or contemporary American preconceptions. The second bookend is the Collector’s Reference section, containing an Irish hallmarks chart, pipe identification guide, annotated bibliography and deep index.

Paddy Larrigan (2013), Peterson’s Master Craftsman (Marie Irwin)

In the summer of 2013, with some idea in mind of the scope just outlined, Gary and I and Marie Irwin, our third author (a data miner and book designer who is a librarian by day) went to the Peterson factory. We photographed and scanned everything we could find for a full week, digging through draws, cabinets and press books, climbing upstairs, looking around corners and trying not to get in anyone’s way. I did oral interviews with over a dozen current and retired staffers. Gary had detailed discussions with Paddy Larrigan and David Blake, two of Peterson’s most celebrated craftsmen. Marie kept pulling out catalogs, ledgers and pipes, insisting we document them all. And we had a blast.

I spent the rest of 2013 and most of 2014 unpacking everything we’d brought back, transcribing and editing recordings, filing and doing initial digital darkroom work on the photos we took. That was also the year the blog launched, it being in my mind that since the book would be out in the next year or two, it wouldn’t hurt to do a little promotion. Oops. A little optimistic, there.

The Digital Darkroom: 1898 Kodak Brownie and 2017 Peterson POY (Charles Mundungus)

The next two years (2015–16) were given to the digital darkroom on the one hand and getting a manuscript presentable on the other. The last time I took a word count was in December of 2017, when the manuscript stood at 123,750 words. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, I suppose. An average novel, just for comparison’s sake, runs about 90,000 words. I’ve already heard some pipemen call the book “the Peterson bible,” and I’m hoping they mean that as a compliment. Not that it matters—I’m just grateful that everything I thought should be in the book is there (well almost everything).

Gary Malmberg was responsible for the bulk of the first five historical chapters of the book as well as the pipe chapters from the Pre-Patent (1865–91) through the Éire (1938–48) eras, and his documentation of hundreds and hundreds of antique Peterson pipes was indispensable to our understanding of the company.

I took over beginning with the pipes of the Early Republic era chapter (1948–69) and continuing on to the end of the craftsmanship chapters. We collaborated on the Identification Guide, which should be seen as one of the foundations of the book, the other being my annotated bibliography of Peterson catalogs and brochures, which is the documentary grounding of Peterson’s shape and line history.

In the summer of 2017, after re-immersing herself all spring in the world of desktop publishing, our designer Marie came back on board for the first time since the research trip to Sallynoggin. If you think Gary and I are geeky, you should meet this lady. She looks at learning curves like Kami Rita Sherpa looks at Mt. Everest (and Sherpa has reached the summit 23 times so far).

While this part of the book took us another 18 months, it was a blast working with her, first because I could do a lot of back-seat driving—“Say, could we make the text swirl around the pipes here?” More importantly, on at least a dozen occasions I’d say something like, “I wish we had a photo of the old Cuffe Lane factory entrance,” or “there’s got to be a photo of Kelly’s fort with the Kapp & Peterson sign above it just after the Easter Rising”—and she’d find them.

It was also fun because she’d throw a lot of stuff back my way, encouraging me to come up with some of my own layouts (I’m proud of the hallmark chart and the Rogers Imports 2-page spread). And we had a lot of fun collaborating on double-page spreads like “The Thinking Man” or putting together the funny story from the Irish Times about a drunken medical student who stole billiard balls from Kapp & Peterson’s shop billiard room.

“Unlawful Possession”—A Kapp & Peterson True Crime Story from the Irish Times

All along the way we had the world’s best editor. If you’ve ever worked with one, you know that means nasty, brutish, eats broken glass for breakfast and other epithets I won’t go into. He made us justify everything, explain everything, spell-check everything (!), rewrite it all and then absent-mindedly say he didn’t remember the last draft (but it stunk) and we needed to give it another go. If I ever write another book, I want this guy.

I hope, when and if you get a chance to read the book, you enjoy reading it even half as much as enjoyed writing it.

 

 

K&P Cuffe Lane Tobacco Drying Paper

PetersonPipeNotes.org GOLD BOX Drying Paper May 2019

To celebrate the blog’s fifth anniversary, I’ve made a new Peterson tobacco drying paper. This one is taken from the lid of a vintage Kapp & Peterson tobacco tin in Gary Malmberg’s collection. Gary brought the tin for his Peterson exhibit at the Chicagoland show in 2018 and again in 2019. With his permission and using photographs of the lid, I was able eventually to re-create the graphic design and add a few flourishes to it. You can download a plain copy PDF suitable for printing on 8 ½ by 11” paper by right-clicking on the title above.

The K&P Tin, c. 1906 (note the telephone number)

The idea behind a tobacco drying paper (if you haven’t heard of such a thing) is simply to give you a flexible sheet to pack you pipe. If you like to dry your virginias or va/pers, it’s the perfect way to do so, because you can easily funnel back the unused portion of tobacco after packing your pipe. And even if you don’t routinely dry your tobaccos, it’s a tidy way to pull out a pinch or a few flakes of your favorite tobacco without spilling ribbons or strands everywhere.

 

Top photo courtesy Smokingpipes.eu

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Jorgen Jensen
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Jorgen Jensen

Good morning, right out of bed to coffee and good reading. Thank you

Steven Hersey
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Steven Hersey

Had my own coffee and breakfast here, so a good read for me too. Excellent. A great deal of hard work in this project which, like all good things, takes much longer to realise than originally planned. I hope that you are reaping some just rewards as a result of your labours.
So pleased to have the book. I’ve seen nothing else like it.
Just downloaded and printed the drying paper design, too. It may very well end up on the wall in the study (where I house most of my pipes).
Good wishes.
S

Andy Camire
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Andy Camire

All of Your hard work, including the other authors/collaborators have produced the most cherished book in my small library of tobaccianna. Not being as articulate as many writers it’s hard to put into words how much this book does for me and other Peterson collectors and smokers that care about where those treasured pipes originated. Thanks to all for such an incredible tome. It was well worth waiting the 7 years!!

Lowell Nussey
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Lowell Nussey

I bought my first Pete back in 1970 and have been enjoying them ever since. I’m about half way through your book and I’m conflicted. I can’t decide whether to read faster, and consume the Peterson feast, or read slower and savour ever word and photo. But then, I guess it really doesn’t matter because I know I shall be referencing this book and enjoying it for years to come, no matter how often I have read it. Thanks a bunch for all your diligent work.

Jorgen Jensen
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Jorgen Jensen

I always thought that J.W.Coles 199 pages ” The GBD St Claude Story” was the best pipe book ever written so I would have been happy if the book have had the same format. But the result exceed all expectations and make you feel good when you are reading.
It must have been and empty feeling when the book was on the street – after all that work and years-
Next week should arrive from England the 1955 brochure and the 1947 shape card.

Al Jones
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Al Jones

A true labor of love for which Peterson fans worldwide are appreciative!

Robert
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Robert

Hello Mark and thanks for this stunning report. I am a steady reader of this great blog and have desired to get THE BOOK since rumours about its birth came out. To be able to order it here in an Austrian bookshop I need its bibliographic data as the ISBN-number and so on. Would You be so kind and help me with this data please?

Kind regards from Innsbruck
Robert

Jorgen Jensen
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Jorgen Jensen

From Smokingpipes. EU € 70 for the book and € 7 for thr post to Danmark

Robert
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Robert

Thank You very much for the information. So I’ll have to look around a bit. The book must be kind of “self-published”, as it doesn’t have an ISBN for international book trade and catalogues.

Robert
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Robert

Sorry for double/cross-posting. Just wanted to thank Jorgen as well…

Steven Hersey
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Steven Hersey

Further to thoughts on the book, I mentioned it on a UK forum of which I am a member. A fellow piper has been wanting the book for a while and, though writing direct to Petersons in Dublin concerning it, hadn’t received a reply from them. My post on the forum triggered a conversation and I was able to give him the smokingpipes.eu address, from which, I’m happy to say, he has now ordered the book, much to his delight. So, another copy sold and another customer made deliriously happy…
S

Charlie
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Charlie

Thank you for all the time put in to deliver some solid information that better informs the Peterson enthusiast…very well written and a first class production.

I recently posted a story on a forum about another branch of the Peterson family that I found pretty interesting.

https://thebriarpatchforum.com/thread/7023/peterson-small-world-after-all

trailboss60
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trailboss60

That is great, safe travels, and I hope the meeting is fruitful.

Charlie
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Charlie

Thanks Mark,

I could help but seeing this excerpt from the linked article I posted:

“In the 1911 census, the Peterson family were living at 114 Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6. Konrad, aged 21, was listed as a scholar. He listed his religion as a “Free Thinker” as did his uncles Charles (60) and John (45), both pipe-makers. Charle’s wife was a Dublin-born Catholic called Annie Peterson (nee Forde).”

“The Thinking man’s pipe”.we have seen in the poster….I wonder if that was the Genesis of that marketing process.

Steven Hersey
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Steven Hersey

Ordered the Pipe of TheYear; expecting it tomorrow (hopefully) so I can spend the weekend getting to know it a little. Went for the rusticated version, non filter. First POTY from Peterson so something special. All down to the recent article on 999s and the inspiration from the BOOK…hope sales of this latter are doing well. It’s worth every penny…
S

Jorgen Jensen
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Jorgen Jensen

Half way through the print run, it sounds good.
POY is now on the English market. I ordered a smooth one yesterday evening. This Saturday morning it is already on its way.

Tom Mydosh
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Tom Mydosh

Hi Mark, Just received your book in the mail. Fantastic job! I used it to try and date a Peterson I own, can you please verify that I am correct? The Pipe is marked Petersons (with forked tail P) over System over a circled number 3 on the shank, no other stampings. The ferrule is stamped K&P, each in separate shields, over PETERSON over DUBLIN (with a horizonal line between the words. Am I correct that this pipe dates from between 1937-1959, and that the ferrule is sterling silver, as you describe in the collector’s glossary? Thanks!

Tom Mydosh
Guest
Tom Mydosh

Glad to hear the catalog book is in the works. You are a braver man than me if you can freehand drill a reservoir extension! I would at least use a drill press. I think it would make for an interesting topic to review the differences between new and older Systems in terms of changes in reservoir depth and stem tip placement and other things. It seems that at some point newer System pipes shortened the tenon extension (maybe when they switched to ‘stepped’ tenons as opposed to tapered ones) so that they barely extend beyond the airway opening. Older… Read more »

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