The oom paul or hungarian is an unusual shape in the briar chart, never occupying center stage for most pipemen, but like many character actors, enriching the unfolding action and drama of our lives. Kapp & Peterson undoubtedly has the longest and richest relationship with the shape in the history of briar pipe-making, although it has been made by many other marques as well.
In the past 35 years or so, K&P has made several full-bent pipes, including the Millennium Oom Paul, the Patent Centennial, the Sherlock Holmes Baskerville, Watson and Lestrade, the FE Founder’s Edition and its most recent Laudisi iteration as the Pub Pipe. But for me an oom paul has to be more than simply a full-bent shape, it’s also got to be a straight-sided billiard. There are some would go even further and say the bend has to be at a certain pitch. Among this lineup of full-bents, only the Millennium and FE / Pub Pipe fill the bill, and while I love the others and smoke them, what I really miss from the current production catalog is the classic slimline 02BB that quietly entered the chart around 1940.
While the origins of the shape, as with so many others, is shrouded in its share of mystery, the name derives from the belief by many that it had its origins with President S. J. “Paulus” Kruger (1825-1904) of South Africa, known as “Uncle Paul” or “Oom Paul” in Dutch (pronounced Ohm Pah-uhl, rhyming with “Ohm’s Law”). There is not only justification for the legend, but it is a well-recorded fact that Kruger not only an oom paul, but a Kapp & Peterson oom paul, as we document in the Peterson book.
In 1898, Kruger’s friends ordered a Peterson Oversized Patent O.2 for his birthday with an engraved crest of the Transvaal on the bowl. While this was merely a special order (and not a gift from K&P), it caused a political publicity storm that was in newspapers around the world, many featuring a photo of the pipe in its clamshell case with its Gratis Pipe Tool and extra stem, no less.
A duplicate of the pipe was made for K&P’s shop window in Dublin and I would imagine the original is somewhere to be found among President Kruger’s effects to this day, as important as it was (and if any Pete Freek from South Africa is reading this and has an investigative bent, we’d all love to see it).
The basic shape—a straight-sided full-bent briar—was made by companies other than K&P, of course. It seemed to be especially popular around the period of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) so that when Irish soldiers who fought with the Dutch against the British came back to Dublin, they routinely asked for it as a “dutch” billiard, a name K&P used for the Thinking Man System 04 / 309 shape throughout the 20th century.
The shape we now call the oom paul did not, however, seem to enter the world shape catalog until the 1940s and is most recognizable in the K&P charts as the “02BB” and “02.” It began as one of the ten “straight-sided billiards” seen in the 1896 catalog, which ranged in size from very small to Oversize (K&P’s word for Magnum). The 1896 original 02, with its thick, heavy shank, was in production at least through the Irish Free State era (1922-37) and featured in the 1937 catalog. Here it is in its 356 System 3 iteration from the IFS:
356 (02) System, IFS
The 02 then disappeared altogether from the known K&P catalog ephemera until it resurfaced in the Associated Imports US shape charts for 1973 and 1976 as the “XL 02”:
The 1976 Associated Imports XL range
Those unfamiliar with K&P history may not know that these were the beginning of the boom years for the company, which rightly began shortly before the 1975 Centenary celebration and continued until the great downsizing and reductions of the mid-1980s when the company lost two-thirds of its work force (which comprised its entire bowl-turning operations and then some). During those years the company, at the height of its production and engineering prowess, produced the finest body of work since the Patent era.
But between the disappearance of the 1896 02 and its brief resurfacing the slim XL02 in 1973 all we have to go on are actual documented pipes to guide us. I reached out to Brian “500s” who sent me photos of his various iterations, adding them to what I have or have seen to give us a little bit more of this fascinating shape’s history.
Rogers Imports Shamrock 02
The first documented pipe I’ve run across, which both Brian and I companion, is the Shamrock 02 seen above. This is the line produced for Rogers Imports Ltd in the US, characterized by its nickel band with the shamrock engraving. It was about the equivalent in briar quality to a System 3, usually having middling-to-fair grain and a few fills, but still widely sought after. The Rogers Shamrocks were on the US market by 1939, as the Rogers catalog from that year attests, although the 02 is not seen in the chart. It is more probable that it appeared after 1946, when production escalated almost exponentially for K&P.
The Killarney line, in quality under the De Luxe and First Quality, also appeared in the 1939 Rogers shape chart. One mystery about the 02 slim oom paul is the addition of the “BB” designation, which you can see on the Killarney:
My theory, which I’ve set forth elsewhere on this blog, is that the first “B” has to do with the taper in the mouthpiece and the second “B” with the tapered or slimmed-down bowl. The only living person who might conceivably know the answer to this, Paddy Larrigan, doesn’t often read these pages as he’s now in his upper 90s, but if by chance he does—or if dear reader you know the answer, we’d all like to hear from you. “BB” also makes sense if we recall that 02B was a common bowl designation in the Patent and IFS eras.
There is another curiosity to consider: was there an 02BB in the Patent era? I say this because of the classic caricature of Charles Peterson from 1910 that used to hang in the old Peterson museum in Sallynoggin:
Because the artist got Mr. Peterson’s haircut right (which we know from a cabinet photograph taken of him and his nephew Alfred Kapp and seen in the Peterson book), it seems fairly reasonable to suppose the pipe might also be something like what he was smoking. That it was a saddle stem seems certain, as even a non-pipe-smoker would’ve got that detail right. It also looks like it was a space-fitting stem, although the drawing is off. But there is a world of difference between the fat-bottom 02 seen in the 1896 and 1906 catalogs and the pipe Peterson is smoking here, the bowl of which is a dead ringer for the 02BB and 02 slimline oom paul.
Rogers Imports Auld Erin 02
While I don’t have an Auld Erin in my rotation, I’ve always thought this was a fantastic line name, one I wish K&P would resurrect. It was made especially for Rogers Imports and first appeared in their 1953 catalog with black rustication and a fishtail mouthpiece for $2.50. It didn’t have a natural-finish crown as this one does, but the natural smooth rim was an inspired moment in the restorationist’s vision and would make a great addition to the rusticated K&P lineup, which got off to a fabulous start with a small batch of gnarly Rosslares 2019 and good-looking Arans but failed to fulfill that early promise in the Donegals, SH and Pub Pipe rustications since. One thing pipe smokers everywhere rejoice in is craggy, rough surfaces, something only Castello among contemporary factory pipe-makers seems to truly understand.
The Premier as a Classic Range line was launched, like the Killarney and Auld Erin, in the 1953 Rogers Imports catalog. The briar wasn’t as well-grained as either the Dublin & London or the De Luxe, but still without fills or flaws and featured the amazing “sub-System” engineering (a deep reservoir and a bone tenon extension) for the driest imaginable smoke.
Most Pete Freeks don’t know that the Premier & De Luxe bents were
fully-functioning System pipes, with bone tenon extensions,
graduated bore P-Lip mouthpieces and reservoirs.
I call them “Sub-Systems” in the book merely to distinguish them
from the System line’s use of army mounts.
De Luxe 02BB
This photo of a De Luxe 02BB snagged off the internet isn’t a very good one, but you can make out the incredible birds eye and see what was so incredible about the line.
I’ll conclude this brief tour with a European-market Shamrock which is actually the earliest documented 02 slimline oom paul I’ve seen. The line was launched in the 1945 catalog as a “product line” (read: entry or gateway), in smooth or sandblast, with a white “S” painted on the fishtail mouthpiece. Both that catalog and its sequel in 1950 list it available in 30 shapes which comprise “full range,” although it doesn’t appear in either one, nor in the 1955 European Dublin & London catalog. This one, with its strange sandblast pattern, was seemingly made from a piece of strawberry wood, according to one pipe maker.
Scene in Ballina, Ireland, November 7th, 2020
K&P’s early history was characterized by a quiet support of Irish Home Rule, the Easter Rising and Irish women’s rights. I wouldn’t be surprised that if Charles and Annie Peterson had been living today, they would be celebrating with their friends in Ballina, the Irish hometown of President-elect Joe Biden. According to the NYT, “His great-great-great grandfather Edward Blewitt was born in Ballina and emigrated to Scranton, Pa., just after the great Irish famine of 1845 to 1849.”