178. Companion Cases & Collections: Collectors and/or Companions?

178. Companion Cases & Collections: Collectors and/or Companions?

I want to begin with a timely greeting from Steven Hersey which he posted a few days ago in the comments, in case you didn’t see it:

Hello, all. I hope that you are able to adjust to whatever new regimes have been placed before you by your respective governments as we adapt to different life patterns. As one who works from home anyway, the isolation has not negatively affected me and I can continue the routines. But I am aware of the challenges and problems posed for others.

My pipes have been constant companions in these days and the only danger is that I’m smoking them more than ever. I have three Petersons on the go at the moment plus a couple of others (Falcons).

Thank goodness that for the last couple of years I have been able to build up a small cellar of tobacco; at times like these it is reassuring to be able to dip into the cupboard for ready supplies… I am sure that things will begin to ease at some point; I’m just mindful of those who have lost loved ones to this awful thing.

Enjoy your pipes, all. They will be reassuring presences in lonely moments.

A K&P 1908 Companion Case

I had originally thought to do an April Fool’s day post tomorrow announcing a new series of Peterson Companion sets, but “sheltering in place” has sobered all the fun out of it somehow. Nevertheless, as Steven remarks, there is something about our pipes as companions that has intrigued me for quite a spell and in fact is one of the subjects I explore in a new book I’m working on.

Nowadays we usually think of ourselves as pipe collectors, but for many reasons I think there is just as much justification to consider ourselves as companioners of our pipes and our pipes as companions in our fortunes and misfortunes. Our capitalist milieu leans inevitably toward seeing ourselves as accumulators, but I feel there is an imbalance here that isn’t genuinely expressive of many pipe smokers’ interests and feelings if not always their words.*

When I told Elke Ullmann, Peterson’s great designer of tins and boxes during the latter part of the Dublin Era (1991-2018), that I thought of myself as a “pipe companioner” last summer, she asked how many pipes I had and said, “Really? You have a relationship with each of those pipes?” Now she is a wise and remarkable lady, one to whose friendship I would aspire if I lived in Ireland, and as I’ve thought about her comment since then, I think my response now would be that I aspire to treating each of my pipes as companions, some more than others, but I inevitably fail.

1908 Patent System Companions (courtesy Secondhandsmokes)

The word companion itself is a good one, compañero literally meaning “one who breaks bread with others” and having originated in the practice of soldiers eating together as men of equal standing and in potentially equal peril.

However diminished the number of pipe smokers may be in the world, I still think of ours as the Golden Age, at least insofar as wonderful pipes and incredible tobaccos are available to anyone within reach of the internet and a credit card. But it is interesting that from the earliest days of the briar pipe, cases were commonly made available from single clam-shells to companion cases of two to six or so pipes. Kapp & Peterson, as we document in the book, had in its employ at least one case-maker until the late 1970s or early 1980s, who carved cases from soft wood, covering them in a variety of available leathers and lining them with either chamois or plush.

The shift from companion case to “collection” came about in part, I’m sure, because demand fell off and there was no no longer any need for a case-maker. When Tom Palmer, during the Dublin era, wanted to resurrect the practice, he immediately found how expensive an undertaking it was to outsource the cases (remember Peterson no longer turned any of its own bowls by 1991, apart from the few Paddy Larrigan handmades), telling me in one interview that the cases often cost as much as the pipes to make and were too often ill-fitting.

The first Antique Collection (1995)

The “Age of Collectability” had begun, however, and all the marvelous sets released during the Dublin era, ranging from two to twelve pipes, were marketed as collections. They ranged up the scale in terms of price-point and quality, from mid-range to high, but after the earliest issues in the mid-90s were released in point-of-sale collection boxes rather than cases like this one from an ebony spigot set in the 1996 catalog:

But even here in the overblown extravagance of this early set, one can see something interesting that will occur again and again in the execution of Peterson’s companion sets: the combination of a bent and a straight pipe. The first marketed example came right before the Dublin era in an iconic set released for Dublin’s millennium (988-1988):

I call attention to the set because it combines the two shapes at the foundation of the design language of Kapp & Peterson: the dublin, which predates K&P; and the straight-sided dutch, or oom paul in this case.

For the first thirty years or so of my smoking life—when I was still a rookie, as friend Ralle Perrera would say—I thought only bent pipes (preferably bent Peterson pipes) were acceptable, eschewing straight pipes, especially straights with saddle bits, as gauche and morally suspect (and I still have no taste for straight saddles). If you’re a long-time Peterson smoker, this may have been your experience as well. But from the beginning of K&P it was not so. While there was no questioning the primacy of the bent System, following right behind it was its opposite, the straight System. And I think that’s the genius as well as the difficulty of most of the “companions” I have known in my life, briar and human: they can sometimes be so very opposite of my own foibles and expectations. Walt Kelly, the cartoonist who launched my career in smoke, captures the essence in this strip:

Whether it’s yin and yang, day and night, south pole / north pole, obverse / reverse or any other duality you care to name, pulling such antipodes into fruitful relationship is difficult, although as Albert says, “it’s a career with more moxie in it.” Most of the wisdom teaching in the world’s history would also say it’s necessary for the sagacity to which all true pipe smokers aspire. And that’s just where a companion set of bent and straight shapes could come in handy, as a visual aid, a concrete objective correlative, sacramental in the struggle to hold everything in balance, find the middle way, achieve a nuanced non-duality or whatever you want to call Enlightenment with a capital “E.”

With all this fuzzy thinking firmly in mind, here’s a few of my favorite Peterson companion cases, most of them imaginary:

FOUNDATIONS

Like the 1988 Millennium commemorative set, this imaginary one is comprised of two shapes at the foundation of Peterson’s design language, the dublin, with its roots in the dudheen, and the dutch billiard 309, seen clenched between the lips of the Thinking Man.

Y2K

This is actually not from my imagination but was the only POY issued as a pair back in 2000. Whenever I smoke one of these I think of the amazing accomplishments of Peterson under its former CEO Tom Palmer, who brought back the silver cap in a big way, released the remarkable B shapes catalog and increased production of spigot mounts.

 

THE EMERGENCY

If I could vote for just one more Antique Collection in Peterson’s catalog, it would be the release of these two pipes, which were available only briefly in 1942 during WWII, which the Irish referred to as “the Emergency.” Both have been featured here on the blog, the 777 dublin bulldog and the 999 author.

THE FIFTIES

In the post-WW II boom Kapp & Peterson rose to new heights, expanding its markets and manufacture as well as its engineering skill. These two shapes, at least for me, symbolize the peculiar aesthetic of the 1950s: the 02 oom paul and the 999 john bull, both seen here in Premier editions with amazing “sub-System” engineering I want to talk about in a post in the near future.

ARMY

Here’s a takeaway from this post: while K&P made non-System army mounts during the Patent era (“Patent Lip pipes”), it wasn’t until the 1975 catalog that Peterson re-established the nickel and sterling army mount as the “K&P Irish Army” for nickel mount with fishtail and as “Silver Mounted Army” with P-Lip. The former have always had the K&P over ARMY stamp while the latter have only ARMY. Pictured above: a NOS straight apple 87 (seen as early as the 1937 catalog) and the 68 brandy (introduced in 1979).

FRONTIERS

And finally, a set to celebrate two of the most original and daring POYs released by Peterson at the end of the Dublin era, the so-called “Gaslight” POY 2018 and the fat-pencil POY 2016. As you can see, they’re a match made in heaven.

So what about you? Do you see your pipes as companions or part of a collection, or both? If you had to pair your Petes, what would you choose? Bent or straight, bent and straight, System or non-System? There’s a new feature in the comments that allows you to upload photos of your choice by clicking on the camera icon at the bottom right of the dialogue box, should you so choose to honor us.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers—
for whoever smokes his pipe with me today shall be my brother.
However humble his birth, this day shall grant him nobility.
—Hank the Fifth, Act 4, Sc. 3 (Skewed Shakespeare Ed.)

INISHMORE COMPANIONS,
Aran Islands June 2019

 

*Notice Jeremy Sitts’ advocacy of collector-before-companion in his recent essay on the SPC blog .

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
38 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ralle
Ralle
5 months ago

As always… Nice.
Thank you Mark.
I hope you all readers of this blog are doing well and taking care of your loved ones.

With kind and respectful regards from Ralle Perera in Hökarängen, Sweden.

Marlowe
Marlowe
5 months ago
Reply to  Ralle

Thanks Ralle for the well wishes to all. For me, my wife and I are getting along well. We live outside of an isolated little community anyway so it’s quite easy to be “social distancing”. In addition we will now pre-order any groceries and then pick them up outside the store. I miss the face to face with my friends but this week, knowing that they haven’t been anywhere too, we may meet and chat outside on the porch with 8′ between us.

Samuel Cheshire
Samuel Cheshire
5 months ago

Awesome read. I regularly think about my pipe being more companion than tool. I can go weeks without smoking but I most definitely have a pipe with me every day. If I don’t I’m uncomfortable. This is the reason it’s hard for me to sell my pipes. Much easier for me to trade or gift them to people. I couldn’t sell a companion but I’m okay with sending them on a journey on which they can be a companion to someone else. I hope everyone is doing well at home. May youe homes be blessed with sweet sent and heavenly… Read more »

Richard Roberts
Richard Roberts
5 months ago

Greetings Mr Cheshire. My name is Richard and I fully agree with your idea. I am advised not to smoke my pipe as much as I would wish, for reasons of health, but, like you, I feel , somehow, uncomfortable if I do not have the wherewithal to have a pipe if I should choose to do so. ..My wife thinks that I am … let us say, eccentric, but I find my hand going to my pocket if I do not remember to carry my pipe. Others mayfind companionship in books or through their mobile telephones, or perhaps by… Read more »

Al Jones
Al Jones
5 months ago

Great article! Love the imagined companion sets. I was completely unfamiliar with the 999 Author……thanks, another Peterson to add to my Grail list!

Al Jones
Al Jones
5 months ago
Reply to  Al Jones

Is anyone else having difficulty logging into Word Press today? I tried to change my pass-word, and it won’t accept anything new.

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
5 months ago

Do I see myself as a collector ? No, I am a consumer, a happy one. Not one of these Americans : ” Buy a Peterson and write a novel……….. or just write the novel”.
I have many pipes in my stock, but only few from the stone age. I try to keep the makers alive by buying new.
I hope that everyone feels as good as I do these days.

John Schantz
John Schantz
5 months ago

Well, I am definitely a collector, but I do have a few pipes I companion more often. Those being two that I made myself. That being said, I do like straight pipes better.

John
John
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Thank you Mark.

I do agree with Samuel about being able to give away a pipe rather than sell it.
With this Covid-19 and possibly losing my job, maybe it will force me into being a pipe carver….one never knows🤔

John Schantz
John Schantz
5 months ago

I have this pipe that I made, it has a visual as being “sorta” bent, although it is a straight pipe. I have not smoked it yet, so I don’t know if is a companion yet.

John Schantz
John Schantz
5 months ago

Ok, so back to a favorite pairing. It may not be exactly what you were shooting for as far as two favorite pipes to pair together from my vast collection, but these two hit the nail on the head in all respects for me. Let’s just say Peterson got it perfectly right for me with this pairing. I love short, stocky nose-warmers, smooth finishes, and a flash of Sterling Silver. If these were silver rim-caps, or even better, silver wind-caps…even more to love. Step up another notch and make the stems out of Ebonite red/black Cumberland and we have the… Read more »

Samuel Cheshire
Samuel Cheshire
5 months ago
Reply to  John Schantz

I’m still looking for a short Peterson like those. They disappear so quickly.

Richard Roberts
Richard Roberts
5 months ago
Reply to  John Schantz

Hip Hoorah for you Mr Schantz! I have long thought that the standard and quality of the packing and presentation of the Pipes needed a smartening up. As admirers, or even collectors, of Peterson pipes we know that the box, sock and requisite paperwork add a cachet to the pipe. it is time to improve the socks (some having lately been cheap and tawdry) the boxes (have we all entirely lost the art of attractive packaging?) and the paperwork. Thank you for pointing up the issue..

John
John
5 months ago

I have noticed the cheesy pipe socks, no paperwork etc. There is a quality/price point where better boxes and socks come with the higher end pipes. Still, at least the socks could be all of the same quality. I say this as a collector, I’m sure lots of pipe-men could care less about such trivial items if they could get the pipe for a few bucks less.

DOUG OWEN
DOUG OWEN
5 months ago

What a fine way to view one’s pipes, as companions. I still buy a new addition to my group of companions once in awhile but as Steven points out one feels a greater sense of companionship with some than others. I still treasure a Sasieni four dot Appleby that was gifted to me back in the 1970’s but the Sasieni sales rep for our territory in Portland Oregon where I worked at the Tinderbox store. We had gained a reputation for selling a truckload of Sasieni pipes, at the time we marketed them as a pipe that was comparable to… Read more »

Douglas Owen
Douglas Owen
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Yeah, the Sasieni/ Dunhill rivalry heated up to white hot after they parted company. The legend goes that after Sasini left Dunhill and started creating his line early on he marked his mouthpieces with one blue spot. Well you can guess that Al Dunhill was not happy with that so he had his attorneys send a ” nastygram” to Sasieni threatening a lawsuit for trademark infringement so Sasieni proceeded to do away with the one spot and replaced it with four blue dots signalling to Al that Sasieni pipes were 4 times superior to Dunhills. I.e a big “F You”.… Read more »

Douglas Owen
Douglas Owen
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

My first job behind a tobacco shop counter was at Arthur Leonards in portland, Oregon. I was hired to help during the Christmas rush in 1972. It was a disaster. I had no retail experience and no knowledge of the business except that I smoked cob and could only afford Borkum Riff. I only lasted 2 weeks before everybody, including me, realized it was not going to work. In 1974 I took a part time job at the Tinderbox on the west side of Portland while I was in graduate school. By then I had realized that that first failure… Read more »

Richard Roberts
Richard Roberts
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Like you,.although not with your breadth of experience, I have had some of my pipes for 40 years and more.. All of them, in one sense, are my companions, but I find that I favour some above others so that that may be the sense in which we are discussing the affection/feeling/companionship in which we hold our pipes. I have good smokers that I would be sorry to lose, but do not often smoke. Also. I have those that I select each week such as those that are what we are discussing; my ‘companions’. What is it that makes for… Read more »

Linwood
Linwood
5 months ago

Since I’ve given up on Peterson again making an ODA size straight squat bulldog (hint, hint – Uncle Pete did you see this?), I would ask for a companion set of either the 777 (another hint!) or a very conically shaped bowl Dublin, either of course of appropriate length (the hints just keep flowing), and for a bent the XL339 (see! another hint). They would be contained in a leather carrying case, of course stained similarly to the stain of the beautifully grained cross-cut briar! And, yes, they would be stamped III – not in honour of my patronage, but… Read more »

Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
5 months ago

Super article, handsome pipes, gorgeous pairings. I think my own pairing would have to be the 313 and 314 systems. Lovely, simple shapes, decent size and comfortable either to clench or grip. The classic system look appeals very much with the black stem, sliver nickel band and brown stain; the 314 has a beautiful patina from over thirty years of use. I am flattered by my original post being used here; thank you. Companion is the word; they have sustained me during many a tricky or difficult time. Always there, always to hand, always reliable in offering comfort and a… Read more »

Lowell Nussey
Lowell Nussey
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven Hersey

Now that you mention it, I do think of my pipes as companions. While they don’t remember family and friends that are gone, they do remind me of them. I have a medico pipe that I bought at a drugstore that’s been with me for over 50 years. Occasionally I smoke it just to let it know that I haven’t forgotten about it and my youth.

Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
5 months ago
Reply to  Lowell Nussey

Lowell, that Medico is indeed a companion! A half century of acquaintance is an excellent thing. Well done!

Marlowe
Marlowe
5 months ago

I really enjoyed this post. I think I began as a collector, starting when I claimed my late father’s pipes (mostly Brighams) and then trying to accumulate only Brighams made in Canada. Along the way I started buying other pipes that caught my eye and then got onto Nording’s Hunting pipes which appealed to my hunting nature. There were certain pipes however that no matter how incredible their workmanship or appearance, just never became a companion. I had, up until last week a gorgeous Nording Hunting Pipe – the Elk (2007)…never smoked it…never became a friend. Some of my companions… Read more »

Marlowe
Marlowe
5 months ago
Reply to  Marlowe

I will add that I cheated once on my Canadian made only Brigham’s rule. The Sportsman 336 pictured is actually made in in Italy. It it my only non Canadian made Brigham. I loved the shape so much though I had to have it. It smokes very nicely and accompanies me often on a walk. Bellissimo!

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
5 months ago

Well, some years ago I b ought one of these Shamrocks with nickel band, P lip, 13 fills and used. The biggest fill had fallen out and no grain on one side of bowl. I looked at it for some years. Then I gave it a new fill and cleaned it up. In fact it is a good smoker – medium billiard without shapenr..- and I smoke it from time to time. Apart from the new fill the others and the bowl have taken a good color.. I my unsmoked stock I have seven Peterson straight grains : 15, 221,… Read more »