146. A Guide to System Shapes, 1896 – 2019, Part 1 (The 300 Shape Group)

For System Day 2019—which is today, September 3rd—it being the 121st anniversary of the final patent of Charles Peterson’s celebrated pipe, I wanted to do something special, and this is the first installment: a complete guide to Peterson’s production System shapes from 1896 to 2019.

I’ve been mad about movies since I bought my first film projector, a Kodak M64 8/Super 8 back in the early 1970s, and to this day I sometimes drive my wife crazy when, after watching a Blu-ray on Friday night, I immediately want to watch all the deleted scenes and bonus features. Well, one of the “deleted scenes” from the Peterson book was an annotated guide to the System shapes. At the time, some folks thought the book was already getting a bit out of hand and that this kind of information would take up too many pages and be so detail-oriented that only the geekiest of Pete Freeks would be interested. I’m hoping that you might be one of those odd birds.

Before getting started, let me say that our book is over half-way through its print run, and as it’s unlikely to be reprinted please give some thought to whether you’d like to add it to your reference library. Every week I get a handful of questions about Peterson, and while I enjoy answering them, nearly all have already been answered in the book.

Insofar as the P-Lip System is concerned, the book contains detailed analyses on what makes a Peterson a System pipe (it must have a P-Lip graduated bore mouthpiece and a reservoir in the stummel); on the benefits of self-awareness in choosing a shape by chamber size and finish; on the care and performance of the System; on “Sub-Systems” and how they worked (Peterson no longer makes them); and on the “aspirational tiers” from Standard, nickel-mount pipes (which were originally 3rd grade) to Supreme gold mounts (which you’ll probably never see). But you won’t find a visual guide to all the production System shapes from 1896 to 2019, but never fear, here it is!

System Shapes & Shape Names from the 1955 Tri-Fold Brochure

In what follows, I’ve given what we’ll call “average” measurements, because by its very nature briar, when combined with the variables of craftsmanship, can cause subtle variations. Measurements, especially of chambers, can vary a few millimeters, especially over the decades some of these shapes have been made. The fact that bowls were sometimes turned in the Peterson factory in Dublin, sometimes in the small Peterson factory in London and sometimes outsourced has also caused variations. But with the exceptions noted below, Charles Peterson’s original 1896 shapes are close and sometimes identical to 2019 shapes.

Many of the photos are courtesy Smokingpipes.com, but they’re from 2012, when Systems were still made with vulcanite and still adhered to traditional bending techniques, instead of acrylic mouthpieces, which have become, since their introduction, steadily less bent. Charles Mundungus has provided photos of rare shapes, or shapes that need special explanation.

 

The 300 Series

I’ll begin with the 300 shape group numbers, since they’re what most Pete Freeks are familiar with, but cross-reference numbers for De Luxe and Classic Range issues are included, as well previous catalog numbers and a few notes on what to expect and what to avoid, if possible.

 

This 1981 sterling-mount STAR System shows just how awesome
a 301 can be when the mouthpiece is visually balanced and correctly bent.

301 Short Dutch Billiard [Bent Pot]. 1978-Present.

Length: 5.52 in. / 140.21 mm.
Weight: 1.60 oz. / 45.36 g.
Bowl Height: 1.78 in. / 45.21 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.55 in. / 39.37 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.86 in. / 21.84mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.43 in. / 36.32 mm.

The 301short dutch (or pot) entered the System line along with the 302, 303, and original dublin-style 305 in the 1978 Peterson-Glass catalog as the first new System shapes since the Original Six were settled on in the 1930s.

Upon its release, the short dutch was simultaneously issued as a De Luxe System 1S, a Dunmore System 71, and the Classic Range 1. Not to be confused with the 1A dutch billiard in the 1906 catalog, the 301 is nevertheless a descendent, reflecting Charles Peterson’s love for straight-sided bent pipes.

From its introduction in 1978 until the 1990 catalog, the 301 was issued with a wide, horn-flared push stem, also issued on its Dunmore Unmounted Premier System cousin during the same period. This wide, extremely comfortable P-Lip gave the original 301 a very distinctive appearance and superior smoking quality and is to be preferred whenever found.

 A 302 Spigot System (left) and SPD 2019 (right)
showing the two different bowls

302 Extra-Large Apple. 1978-Present.

Length: 5.75 in. / 146.05 mm.
Weight: 2.30 oz. / 65.20 g.
Bowl Height: 1.72 in. / 43.69 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.39 in. / 35.31 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.80 in. / 20.32 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.74 in. / 44.20 mm.

The 302 and its smaller, less jowly sibling the 303, first appeared in the 1978 Peterson-Glass catalog and were issued simultaneously as the De Luxe Systems XL2S (later 2S) and 3S, the Classic Range 02 / XL02 and 03, and in the Dunmore System as the 70 and 73. Peterson describes the 302 shape as “an extra-large apple” in the 1986 catalog and the 303 as a “medium apple.” If you look at this bowls closely, whether in new or vintage pipes, you’ll notice there are actually two shapes, one wider at the back and bottom of the shank and the other more rounded. This stems, I suspect, from outsourcing to two different bowl sources, as the difference is too great to be merely a sanding problem. In any event, I like and smoke both.  The fat-bottom seems to have been the model for the Lestrade Sherlock Holmes, XL23. For both the 302 and 303, it’s worth seeking out the early-issue mouthpiece versions (pre-1990), some being quite short and some longer, but all possessing the wide saddle and the Comfort P-Lip.

303 Medium Apple. 1978-Present.

Length: 4.94 in. / 125.48 mm.
Weight: 1.70 oz. / 48.19 g.
Bowl Height: 1.54 in. / 39.12 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.16 in. / 29.46 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.77 in. / 19.56 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.60 in. / 40.64 mm.

See 302 above.

304 Medium Flat Bottom. 1991-Present.

Length: 4.54 in. / 115.32 mm.
Weight: 1.90 oz. / 53.86 g.
Bowl Height: 1.81 in. / 45.97 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.40 in. / 35.56 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.71 in. / 18.03 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.44 in. / 36.58 mm.

Shape 304 and its larger sibling the 306(b) first made their appearance in the 1991 Flat Bottom catalog brochure and retain their shape numbers for the Classic Range issues. The De Luxe System shape number for the 304 is the 20FB and for the 306(b) is 11FB. This was Paddy Larrigan’s second flat-bottom System design and original Peterson Pub Pipe (as Larrigan discusses in the book), the first being the Dunmore Premier System and is quintessentially Irish in its barrel aesthetic.

305(a) Bent Dublin. 1978-1984.

Length: 5.80 in. / 148 mm.
Weight: 1.20 oz. / 34 g.
Bowl Height: 1.80 in. / 45.86 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.45 in. / 36.88 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.78 in. / 20.00 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.38 in. / 33.98 mm.

The 305(a) bent dublin was one of four new System shapes launched in the 1978 Peterson-Glass catalog and is the most short-lived of all System shapes, although still seen fairly frequently on the estate market. It was replaced by the 305(b) calabash as early as 1984. It was simultaneously issued as the 5S De Luxe System, the 75 Dunmore System, and the 5 in the Classic Range, as well as appearing as a Spigot, the 05S. While the V-shaped bowl made for infrequent relights and was a great smoker, the shank was simply too thin to bore a properly-executed reservoir, and experienced System smokers complained it didn’t function correctly. It didn’t function at all.

XL305 / XL315(a) Bent Dublin. 1978-1984.

Length: 6.09 in. / 155 mm.
Weight: 1.85 oz. / 53 g.
Bowl height: 2.27 in. / 57.6 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.76 in. / 44.8 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.93 in. / 23.74 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.62 in. / 41.1 mm.

(Measurements given for the XL75 Dunmore)

The XL305 / XL315(a) bent dublin (not pictured) was the larger version of the 305(a) released in 1978 and was replaced by the mid-1980s with the 305(b) calabash. It was simultaneously released as the XL5S De Luxe System and the XL75 Dunmore. The XL315 is a shape designation reserved for the American market. As the XL305a and XL315a, it featured the wide, comfortable horn-flare stem. This is quite a rarity on the estate market–in fact, I’ve never seen one, although I companion the Dunmore XL75, so I know it exists.

 

305(b) Calabash. 1986-Present.

Length: 5.08 in. / 129.03 mm.
Weight: 1.90 oz. / 53.86 g.
Bowl Height: 1.93 in. / 49.02 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.64 in. / 41.66 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.71 in. / 18.03 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.36 in. / 34.54 mm.

The 305(b) first appears in the 1986 catalog alongside the 305(a), indicating a cross-over period of production. It was simultaneously released as the De Luxe System 5S, the Dunmore System 75 and the Classic Range 5 or 05. Sometimes erroneously called a bell shape, Peterson has always called it a calabash. (A 305(b) Premier with a 1984 hallmark has been documented, indicating an earlier availability of the shape, which should be kept in mind for all catalog shape dates.)

 

XL305(b) / XL315(b) Calabash. 1986-Present.

Length: 5.99 in. /152.15 mm.
Weight: 2.80 oz. / 79.38 g.
Bowl Height: 2.23 in. / 56.64 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.78 in./45.21 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.83 in./21.08 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.54 in./39.12 mm.

Paddy Larrigan in his interview during the summer of 2013 indicated that it was his idea to use the 305(b) calabash in a larger size to launch the Sherlock Holmes series in 1988. This became the Standard System XL305 / XL315 (American market), and was simultaneously released as the De Luxe System XL5S and the Dunmore System XL75.

 

306(a) XL Oom Paul. 1896-1937.

Length: 6.00 in. / 152.4 mm.
Weight: 2.15 oz. / 61.5 g.
Bowl Height: 2.13 in. / 54.25 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.86 in. / 47.26 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.77 in. / 19.73 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.34 in. 34.25 mm.

The 306(a) first appears in the 1896 catalog as shape 2. In the 1937 catalog the number reverts to describing only a 1st quality pipe, 306 being the number of a 2nd quality and 356 a third quality. The 356 is the most commonly seen of the three on the estate market.

After 1937 the shape was dropped from the catalog, although it probably continued in production for several years. Shape 02 (sometimes O2BB) in the Shamrock line, often with a System reservoir, was in production by the late 1940s and is a slimmer modification of the original 2, but retaining the same chamber dimensions.

 

306(b) Large Flat-Bottom. 1991-Present.

Length: 5.63 in. / 143.00 mm.
Weight: 2.20 oz. / 62.37 g.
Bowl Height: 1.95 in. / 49.53 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.49 in. / 37.85 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.79 in. / 20.07 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.46 in. / 37.08 mm.

See 304 above.

 

307 Extra-Large Billiard. 1896-Present.

Length: 6.08 in. / 154.43 mm.
Weight: 2.50 oz. / 70.87 g.
Bowl Height: 2.14 in. / 54.36 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.71 in. / 43.43 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.77 in. / 19.56 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.60 in. / 40.64 mm.

The 307 is an original Patent bent billiard-shape, shown in the 1896 catalog as shape 9. It has retained its original shape number in the De Luxe version, but was issued in the 1937 catalog as the 307 (2nd quality) / 357 (3rd quality). Since then, it has also appeared as the 9S and 9B (De Luxe), Dunmore System 78 (1978-1983), and the Classic Range 9BC (1940s-1950s) / XL90 (1980s-Present). The 9B dating from the 1940s-1960s (the De Luxe System with a tapered rather than saddle bit) is rarely seen on the estate market. There have been changes in the shape since the 1960s, all toward less “cheeking,” making earlier versions, when available, preferable to those wishing to get back to the first, classic iteration of the shape.

 

308 Large Chubby Billiard. 1896-1959.

Length: 6.26 in. / 159 mm.
Weight:1.90 oz. / 54 g.
Bowl Height: 1.87 in. / 47.57 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.46 in. / 37.13 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.75 in. / 19.02 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.52 in. / 38.60 mm.

The 308 is another original Patent shape, first seen in the 1896 catalog as shape 14. It was given the 308 shape number as a 2nd quality pipe in the 1937 catalog, where it was also available as a De Luxe (14S) and 3rd quality (358). It officially dropped out of the catalog in 1959.[1] It is, incidentally, the shape which inspired the 1981 Mark Twain Commemorative. It is a pity that Peterson lost this shape with its cavernous mortise and reservoir, because it ranks among the best-smoking Systems ever made.

 

309 Large Bent Dutch. 1896-2013 [“The Thinking Man,” “The Basil Rathbone”].

Length: 5.23 in. / 132.84 mm.
Weight: 2.00 oz. / 56.70 g.
Bowl Height: 2.08 in. / 52.83 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.60 in. / 40.64 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.73 in. / 18.54 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.28 in. / 32.51 mm.

The 309 is an original Patent shape, first labeled shape 4 in the 1896 catalog as one of an octet of dutch billiards. By the 1937 catalog it had become the 4AB—the pipe Basil Rathbone smokes throughout much of his Sherlock Holmes series for Universal Studios—and the 309 (2nd quality) and 359 (3rd quality). It was released much later as the 339 and XL339 (slightly larger bowl, but same chamber dimensions) in the Classic Range. Always seen between the lips of the black and white drawing of the Thinking Man in its 4S dress, it remained a staple in the Peterson lineup until it was discontinued in 2013, although a few popped up in both the Derry Rustic and Arklow lines later on.

As I’ve said many times, for me this is the Peterson shape. I’ve included Charles Mundungus’s photo of a 309 STAR with the best bend I’ve ever seen on a 309, a 2010-hallmarked STAR I found in the Grafton Street shop in Dublin in 2013. It’s similar to the “rainbow bend” documented in the Peterson book, but moves the bent a little closer to the button and offers maximum comfort as well as a most striking profile. I’ve re-bent one or two other 309s to this shape with a heat gun and found it absolutely perfect–for me.

Not long ago I was in conversation with someone from the business side of pipes and tobaccos, who believes bends like this one and all others that give a bowl a 20 to 30 degree drop—result in an increased probability of burnout at the chamber’s air hole. As most of my favorite Petes—the John Bull 999, for example—have dropped bowls—it seemed to me like the weight of Peterson history is against the straightening of bent pipes, but there you go. Straightening them certainly results in heavier felt weight and a less pleasant smoking experience for those who like to clench. But as Brian Levine likes to say, everyone is an expert in their own opinion. And fortunately for many of us, the judicious application of a heat gun can transform an uncomfortable and ungainly Pete into one that that not only looks “K&P Classic,” but smokes it, as well.

 

312 Large Bent Billiard. 1896-Present.

Length: 5.69 in. / 144.53 mm.
Weight: 2.10 oz. / 59.53 g.
Bowl Height: 1.92 in. / 48.77 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.54 in. / 39.12 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.73 in. / 18.54 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.39 in. / 35.31 mm.

The 312 is one of four original Patent billiards, all the same shape but in different sizes. In the 1896 catalog was given shape 11. In the 1937 catalog, the shape appears in a 2nd Quality as number 312 and in 3rd Quality as 362. The latter was dropped before the Early Republic era, leaving the current De Luxe 11S and Standard-Premier 312 in continuous production. It also appeared as the Dunmore System 72 and is available in the Classic Range as slightly larger, chubbier X220. Earlier 312s have a taller bowl (usually about 2 mm or so) and fatter cheeking, giving them a more pronounced egg shape than current models, and while I admire it in all its iterations, holding an early 312 in the hand is a remarkable experience.

 

313 Medium Bent Dutch. 1896-Present.

Length: 4.94 in. / 125.48 mm.
Weight: 1.40 oz. / 39.69 g.
Bowl Height: 1.78 in. / 45.21 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.53 in. / 38.86 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.70 in. / 17.78 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.19 in. /30.23 mm.

The 313 is an original Patent dutch billiard bowl, pictured in the 1896 catalog as shape 8 and listed in the 1906 catalog as one of the small Patents. It was given its current shape number as a 2nd Quality pipe in the 1937 catalog, where it also appears as a 3rd Quality pipe with shape number 363. That catalog also gives shape number 8S to its De Luxe version, where it also appears as a Classic Range 2004B (K and 1st Quality) and 338 (Kapet and De Luxe). In the late 1970s it was released in the Dunmore System line as number 73.

  

314 Medium Bent Billiard. 1896-Present.

Length: 5.11 in. / 129.79 mm.
Weight: 1.70 oz. / 48.19 g.
Bowl Height: 1.71 in. / 43.43 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.52 in. / 38.61 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.71 in. / 18.03 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.42 in. / 36.07 mm.

The 314 is an original Patent System shape, pictured in the 1896 catalog as shape 20, next-to-smallest of eight “round or ball-shaped bowls.” It is not seen as a System pipe in the 1937 catalog, in favor of its Classic Range counterpart, the 221. Its first appearance in the De Luxe System, as shape 20S, is seen in the 1945 catalog. It was also included in the Dunmore System line in the late 1970s as the 74.

 317 Small Bent Billiard. Small. 1896-Present.

Length: 4.87 in. / 123.70 mm.
Weight: 1.40 oz. / 39.69 g.
Bowl Height: 1.61 in. / 40.89 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.35 in. / 34.29 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.66 in. / 16.76 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.33 in. / 33.78 mm.

This is the smallest of the original Patent System shapes, illustrated in the 1896 catalog as shape 12½. It has retained the quaint 12½ number as a De Luxe System since the 1937 catalog, but is given the familiar 317 number as a 2nd Quality (Premier) and 367 or 3rd Quality (Standard, later dropped). It was issued in the Dunmore System line as shape 77, and in the Classic Range as the 230.

 

As per usual, many thanks to the folks at Smokingpipes
and to Charles Mundungus
Banner Demonstrator Illustration from the 1955 K&P Tri-Fold Brocchure

HAPPY SYSTEM DAY 2019!

 

 

Next: Part 2, Other System Shapes

 

[1] “Peterson’s Announce A Change in Their Celebrated System Bent Pipe Range,” advertisement, Tobacco World (May 1959), p. 79.

 

Continue Reading 146. A Guide to System Shapes, 1896 – 2019, Part 1 (The 300 Shape Group)