175. Patent and Irish Free State-Era Pipe Boxes Made by P. O’Reilly of Dublin

175. Patent and Irish Free State-Era Pipe Boxes Made by P. O’Reilly of Dublin

We like to think that we know a great deal about the past here in the second decade of the 21st century, but the more I read history, historical novels and study pipes & tobaccos, the more I’m convinced that we have very little visual understanding of the quotidian realities of bygone days. Take almost anything from the past—the tenements and mansions of Dickensian London, the British naval vessels of Patrick O’Brien’s “Aubreyiad” (the Aubrey-Maturin novels), our own home towns 50, 80 or 100 years ago, or the actual pipes, tobaccos and related ephemera that might be found in any of them—and it’s difficult to conjure any kind of real sensory impression of what they were like.

Even in more recent history, we know so little about what it might have been like to buy, say, a Peterson pipe 70 years ago, either here in the US or in Europe or abroad. I think that’s why, when we started writing the Peterson book, I became fascinated by the wealth of Peterson pipe boxes, especially when I would see what looked to be a NOS pipe with its box, brochure, sock, guarantee and maybe even Gratis Pipe Tool. I knew that the boxes each had a story to tell, prompting to me create the montage of boxes on p. 131, one of my favorite images in the book.*

I know there are some dedicated collectors of Dunhill, Comoys, Barling and other great production pipes of the past who sometimes read this blog—if you’re one of them, can you tell us whether these or other companies had the same profusion of pipe boxes through the 20th century?

There were a number of fascinating Peterson boxes that I did not have at the time I created that montage for the book, including the following one that’s seen in period photographs of the factory’s shipping department and dates from late 1940s and early 1950s. It was a struggle not to bid for it, as it was part of a nearly-complete Standard System 307 set on eBay, which went for $143, just a little more than a new Premier System:

But knowing I wouldn’t smoke the 307 and was only buying it for the box, I resisted (and had a bit of remorse in doing so!).

There are four early boxes that I want to share, all made in Dublin by P. O’Reilly, who did business in Dublin at 32 & 33 Poolbeg St. and made cardboard boxes, as this ad from the September 13, 1902 issue of All Ireland Review indicates, for millinery, mantles, costumes, soaps, cigarettes and tobacco:

Today it’s about a 15 minute walk from the Poolbeg address to the St. Stephen’s Green factory site (Cuffe Lane being the back entrance where employees entered):

It’s a pleasant coincidence that Kapp & Peterson took an ad out on the same page of the All Ireland Review, and it turns out that in addition to doing business with P. O’Reilly, Alfred H. Kapp and Malchi J. O’Reilly (of P. O’Reilly’s) were fellow Rotarians, as indicated in The Rotarian for October, 1913:

I was unable to trace when these fellow Dublin Rotarians first  began doing business together, but it was certainly by the time of the Patent shipping cartons (c. 1906) we’ve seen, and of course could have been much earlier.

The earliest Peterson boxes Gary Malmberg and I found, which are seen on p. 62 of the book, are actually shipping cartons. These were made in several sizes, and not long ago I found this small one in remarkable condition. At 7 ½ x 4 x 2 inches it was designed to hold a half-dozen “K” briars, per the packing sticker on the side.

The Big “K” apples from K&P’s 1937 catalog

The “K” briar pipes it contained were from a K&P entry-grade or “Product Line” which is first mentioned in the catalogs in 1937. This doesn’t mean they weren’t made earlier, although it’s interesting that K&P would continue using the same shipping carton twenty years after the patent’s expiration.

The beautiful herringbone-patterned Kapet box seen above is just six inches long, an inch shorter than most every other Peterson box ever made. It is stamped for the 53 lovat, which at just over five inches, will fit quite comfortably, but one wonders about longer Classic Range shapes.

The 53 lovat entered the classic range about 1937

The Kapet line entered the known catalog in 1925, although I don’t find shape 53 mentioned earlier than 1937. The box bottom is rubber-stamped MADE IN over IRISH FREE STATE, which accords with the catalog information we have on the Kapet line and shape 53 (IFS = 1927-1938).

 

Jorgen Jensen, my co-author Gary Malmberg and myself were all fascinated by a Peterson auction on eBay not too long ago for an empty pipe box with the title Peterson’s “Goldsmith” Briars. Gary Malmberg speculates, “Like you I had never heard of such a thing. As I recall, the seller was in Dublin. I don’t know what that means. Goldsmith might refer to a person’s name, but I doubt it. It might have been made specifically for Fox or some other retailer. It may have been a gold-banded pipe. It may have been named in honor of the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin.” For my part, I thought it quite appropriate that a previous owner has penciled “Religious Object” just above “Peterson’s.”

The 440 entered the Classic Range about 1937

Now that we know a little of the history of collaborations between James Fox and Peterson, we can discount Gary’s third speculation, since James Fox did not carry K&P until quite recently, but only their own line (which was not sourced through Peterson) as well as several other famous production lines. I have yet to find any K&P pipe with the Goldsmith line stamp, and if you have one or see one, do drop me a line so we can document what it looked like.

The Shamrock box seen above came with the earliest pipe-box version of the K&P “Chat With a Smoker” essay I’ve been able to document (and which graces p. 3 of the Peterson book). The box predates the Rogers Imports, Ltd. Shamrock boxes and I believe that it also dates from the Irish Free State era or the first years of the Early Republic era (1939-48). My reasoning for this is twofold: first, the calligraphy is similar to the Kapet box and would seem to be the work of the same period or even designer; and second, the side panel shows it contained a 3262 bulldog, which is seen the 1939 Rogers Imports catalog:

A 3263 bulldog from the Rogers Imports 1939 catalog

 All three of the pipe boxes carry the P. O’REILLY LTD. DUBLIN legend on the guarantee, which is glued to the top inner edge of each box (the shipping carton O’Reilly legend is printed on the bottom–see below):

I know a number of collectors with extremely deep pockets who couldn’t care tuppence about pipe boxes & brochures. If you’re one and have a closet full of such unwanted clutter, do let me know and I’ll happily arrange to have them removed! But for everyone else—when you add a Pete to your collection, if you can find the space, tag the box, sock and ephemera and hold onto it. Even better, display them in with your pipes. They’re one of those things that will help you as you transition, as Ralle Perrera so drolly comments, from a rookie to a truly experienced pipeman:

 

 

Thanks to Ralle Perrera, Gary Malmberg, Jorgen Jensen
and Chas. Mundungus
440 and 53 shape photographs courtesy Smokingpipes.com

*Peterson book news: I have just heard from Briar Books Press that their inventory is now exhausted. The book is still available through Smokingpipes.com, and I’ve heard that Smokingpipes.eu, which has been out of it for some time, will be restocking it in the near future.  If you’re interested in a copy, do think about acquiring one before too long.

 

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Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
7 months ago

Good morning. Has Mark Irwin nothing else to do ? To be honest, I have nothing else to do than smoke and look. I not only like it, I love it. To get up in the morning and look on old boxes…………… Ohhh !

William Auld
William Auld
7 months ago

Another incredible post, Mark! Thank you! So much to glean from this one. Now, off to read and study it again … And I really like the looks of those ‘37 K apples.

Erik Millqvist
Erik Millqvist
7 months ago

Every time I read one of your articles I get the urge to smoke one of my Peterson’s, and I thank you for that!

Al Jones
Al Jones
7 months ago

I have a feeling if anyone has old boxes, it might be Jorgen J! Fascinating to see the range of styles and shapes.

Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
7 months ago

Good to see these old incarnations…they always seem to look so much more stylish and robust than some of their modern counterparts, but that could be a personal viewpoint…
Love the diversity of these designs, too. In addition, there is something substantial about this early packaging. I also think they point back to a period when the pipe was accepted in society as a pretty normal activity…
The box subject sits nicely alongside the pipe content, the two going together. I’d happily have a shelf of these boxes.
Thank you again for a fascinating article.
Steve

Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

I have an old St. Bruno Flake tin, for one pound in weight of tobacco. I’m unsure of its date but reckon the 1940s or so…I don’t own too many tins but this is a favourite and I love the printed lettering and decorative work around the tin, plus the distinctive St. Bruno font and type. It is robust, attractive and a real keepsake as a reminder and memento of days gone by. The thought that someone bought a pound of tobacco (and one of my go-to blends as well) at some point in the past has a certain comforting… Read more »

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Refilled ! I have here an ” Old English ” tin, 118 x 70 mm. American Tobacco Co. On the bottom is written : NOTICE:
The manufacturer of this Tobacco has complied with all requirements of Law. Every person is cautioned under penalties
of Law not to use this package for Tobacco again.

And yes, St Bruno photos, a good idea !

Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
7 months ago

Mark,
Running this site must cost you something. If one were to suggest making a contribution, how would you advise!
S

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

For almost 15 years the Swedish club sent me four times a year their very fine magazine ” Røkringar ” for free. That was very good but also embarrassing so I liked when they began to take a fee two or three years back. I have the same feeling here, I get an enjoy and pay nothing back.

Linwood
Linwood
7 months ago

Good idea, Steven! I’d participate.

Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
7 months ago
Reply to  Linwood

Something I’ve been pondering for a while now, L.

Marlowe
Marlowe
7 months ago

I have to say Mark, This site not only serves to give me some very enjoyable reading time but on occasion has been a welcome distraction from life’s occasional cloudy days. I love history and your writing helps create a more rounded picture of culture in various time periods. This piece on boxes is something I never would have thought about but it has added another dimension to the big picture. Brilliant. I have one Peterson box which has now taken on a new level of importance. Steven, I’d love to see a photo of that St. Bruno tin posted… Read more »

Marlowe
Marlowe
7 months ago

I’ll add that I found a lovely old tin of Dunhill “My Mixture” # 965 at a shop. Certainly made before the advent of modern printing technology with flawless artwork.