For this second part of Peterson System shapes, we’ll be looking at all the System shapes outside the 300 shape group. “300,” recall from last time, simply means the Standard System or old third grade original, Charles Peterson-designed Patent shapes, which may have different bowl numbers depending on grade or line or even production era. These shapes, being a bit off the beaten track, fall into sometimes overlapping groups. For our purposes here, we’ll look at them in three groups: House Pipes, Straight Systems, and Peculiars (all the rest).
I. House Pipes
The O1, O2 and O3 XXL Patent House Pipes. 1896 – c. 1940.
What we commonly call Peterson’s “House Pipes” were labeled “Extra Large Size” in the 1896 and 1906 catalogs, but then (to create more confusion) catalogued with “O” for oversize prefixes. These were the largest Patent System pipes made until the advent of the Hand Made System in the late 1980s. The O1 shape, incidentally, was a favorite with Charles Peterson and was in his daughter Isolde’s possession until the early 1990s, when her heirs donated it to Peterson.
In addition to the O1, there were two other Extra Large shapes illustrated in the 1896 catalog. The O2 shape is seen with the greatest frequency on the estate market, while the O3 shape is seen hardly at all. But continued in small numbers through at least the first three decades of the twentieth century.
Measurements of O2 IFS:
Length: 6.1in./ 155 mm.
Weight: 2.70 oz. / 78 g.
Bowl Height: 2.41 in. / 61.3 mm.
Chamber Depth: 2.13 in. / 54.1 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.83 in / 21 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.47 in. / 37.5 mm.
Last seen in the 1922 Temporary Illustrated Price List, numerous examples of House Pipes have been documented through the Irish Free State Era (1922-1937). The O2 is the largest of the three, the O1 slightly smaller, and the O3 the smallest.
Measurements of O3 Éire:
Length: 6.1 in. / 155 mm.
Weight: 2.45 oz / 70 g.
Bowl Height: 2.52 in / 64.1 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.95 in./49.53 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.83 in / 21 mm.
HAND-MADE. XXL Bent Billiard. c.1988-Present.
The Hand Made is the largest current production System pipe, designated XXL by Peterson. It first appears in the company’s literature on the cover of a 1991 brochure, although it was in production at least as early as 1988. Large bowls like this are always a problem to source, meaning this shape will always be made in small numbers. While the proportions of the chamber closely approximate the O1 House Pipe, the shape is slightly different, being a blending of the Patent O1 and O2. It is available in smooth finishes in Terracotta stain for the higher grade (often with a sterling cap as well) and Oak for the lower and once in a blue moon, Natural. A hand-carved rustic version was available for a while in the 1990s, and a lower-grade sandblast is also sometimes seen.
Length: 5.88 in. / 149.35 mm.
Weight: 4.20 oz. / 119.07 g.
Bowl Height: 2.51 in. / 63.75 mm.
Chamber Depth: 2.18 in. / 55.37 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.88 in. / 22.35 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.86 in. / 47.24 mm.
Despite it name and stamping, the wonderful Pub Pipe is really neither a pipe for the pub (which in Peterson’s design history would mean a flat bottom pipe like the Dunmore Systems or the 304 / 306), nor is it “hand made” in any comprehensible sense that would justify the stamp. It is, going by its size, a house pipe, being next-door neighbor to the O2 and O3. Caviling aside, this shape, the D18 Founder’s Edition and POY for 2015 should have been a System pipe from the get-go. Unless Peterson decides to continue the shape, you won’t see any of what were once considered Premier, De Luxe, Natural or Supreme grade bowls, because the Pub Pipe has been issued from bowls left after the FE, POY2015 and Mario Lubinski specials had been skimmed off the top—and it was a pretty thick top, if the 10-12 small fills on my own FE are any measure! Be all that as it may, it’s great to see a new XXL pipe from Peterson, especially one with a straight-sided (dare I say oom paul?) bowl!
Length: 5.25 in. / 133.35 mm.
Weight: 3.20 oz. / 90.72 g.
Bowl Height: 2.45 in. / 62.23 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.95 in. / 49.53 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.83 in. / 21.08 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.62 in. / 41.15 mm.
II. Straight Systems
Patent Straight Systems, 1896 – c. 1925?.
While we rarely remember them today, the straight Patent Systems were introduced simultaneously with the bent as well as with Patent cigar and cigarette “tubes” or holders, all on display in the 1896 demonstrator ad above.
The large straight Patent Systems: shapes 29, 31, 33 and 35.
Charles Peterson created four straight Patent shapes: a billiard, a dublin, a heeled dublin and a CAD or bulldog, and then made them available in two sizes: small and large. As you can see from the cutaway illustration, the chambers of these pipes were quite shallow, as the System needed reservoir space directly beneath the chamber floor.
The small straight Patent Systems: shapes 30, 32, 34 and 36.
In my limited experience of this type of System, it smokes extremely dry—drier than the bent System—and is susceptible to ghosting, requiring a little extra diligence in cleaning. But my real complaint against it is actually something many pipe smokers today would adore: its small chamber. I am constantly surprised to learn how many celebrity smokers in our hobby—names and faces you’d recognize—prefer what to me are very small-chambered pipes.
Shape 31 Straight Billiard. Small. 1945-2018.
Shape 31 first appeared in the 1945 catalog and was the only straight System in continuous production until it was dropped from the catalog in 2018. The 31 is very close to shape 30 in the 1896 catalog and was the smallest of the four billiard-shaped Patent Systems. The difference between the 30 and the 31 lies in the thickness of the shank, the 30 being slightly thicker and having a full-length aluminum (or bone in pre-1960 models) tenon extension. You’ll think it extraordinary of such a luddite as myself, but if Peterson ever decided to reinstate a straight System, this isn’t one I’d vote for. The 120, 87,
Length: 5.87 in./149.10 mm.
Weight: 1.20 oz./34.02 g.
Bowl Height: 1.61 in./40.89 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.09 in./27.69 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.70 in./17.78 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.23 in./31.24 mm.
Shape 120 and 87 Straight Patents. c. 1950s / c. 1976.
The next production straights to appear were the 120 dublin and 86 apple. They were produced for a short period at some point in the first decade of the Early Republic era, as can be seen in the 120 dublin above, with its nickel-mount marks. They were re-released in 1976, as attested by an Associated Imports brochure released that year.
Detail from the 1976 Associated Imports Peterson point-of-sale brochure
Sometimes you’ll hear speculation that these pipes function like reverse calabashes. I smoke a Radice Aero Billiard from time to time, but the straight System doesn’t seem to reach that pinnacle to me, and in any case function rather differently.
1890 – 1990 Commemorative Straight Patent. 1990.
The 1890-1990 Patent System commemoratives continue to cause head-scratching among collectors. Just last week a very knowledgeable collector reached out to me wondering if this was truly a vintage Patent. And it has fooled Pete Nuts as well—one in fact who used to write about Peterson for Pipedia.
Part of the problem over the years may have been Peterson’s shop ad, which as you can see is long on glam and short on showing what these pipes look like. The straight commemorative is the largest straight Patent System Peterson ever made, yet its chamber is still only 33mm deep.
Length: 5.82 in./147.83 mm.
Weight: 2.00 oz./56.70 g.
Bowl Height: 2.15 in./54.61 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.29 in./32.77 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.72 in./18.29 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.47 in./37.34 mm.
Length: 5.25 in./133 mm.
Weight: 2.00 oz. / 57 gr.
Bowl Height: 1.95 in./ 49.6 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.44 in./36.5 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.81 in./20.7 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.57 in. / 40 mm.
This is one of the most interesting parts of Peterson’s System catalog, since none of the shapes really seems to fit in any of the standard categories. For lack of a better word, we’ll just call it the “peculiars.”
Freehand (aka Plato, Bark-Top or Plateau). 1975-Present.
Despite (now retired) Peterson factory director’s Tony Whelan Jr.’s assertion that the Freehand is not bored for a System, several did appear on the market in the past 12 years with System bores, and the addition of the P-Lip push-stem qualifies such pipes for entry in the catalog of System pipes. Paddy Larrigan told us in the summer of 2013 that he was the designer of the Freehand, called a “Plato” in the United States (a word-play on plateau, given the System is “the Thinking Man’s” pipe). In Europe it has always been known as the “Bark-Top,” at least until its re-release by Conor Palmer in 2017 as the “Plateau” (albeit without the System reservoir).
As the only Peterson pipe made from plateau briar (rather than ebauchon) and given the nature of the design, no two are alike. There are some amazing variations on the theme, most being extremely large, in the XXL category.
The pipe is remarkable in having never been featured in a Peterson catalog or brochure until 2017 and is produced in even smaller numbers than the Hand Made, often going a few years without any pieces at all. The last production models of the highest grade featured a light orange stain, and lesser models featured a darker stain.
Most Freehands have a rough plateau-finish on both bowl top and the end of the shank, although some have been issued with a sterling ferrule and traditional tenon and mortise. The stem on these latter pipes would appear to be at such an angle and too narrow to support the System reservoir.
Until my body chemistry changed a few years ago and I lost my taste for lat-bombs and strong English and orientals on a regular basis, I couldn’t live without my Plato as its cavernous chamber would allow me to literally cloud my study in a 2 1/2 to 3 hour smoke. Strong recommended for those so inclined!
Mark Twain System. 1981, 1985, 2010-Present.
The Mark Twain commemorative is based on the 14B Patent System owned by Samuel Clemens and donated by his daughter to the Mark Twain Boyhood Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. We treat it extensively in the Peterson book, and justifiably so, because it was hands-down their most famous commemorative. The bowl height of the recreation doesn’t match the loftier, truly ball-shaped original, but in other respects it is a good reproduction.. I would suggest that if you’re looking for one, try the estate market, as the 2010 issues were not, in my opinion, of the same quality, at least aside from the ebony finish, which was top shelf.
Length: 6.00 in. / 152.4 mm.
Weight: 2.40 oz. / 69 g.
Bowl Height: 1.92 in. / 48.74 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.41 in. / 35.92 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.80 in. / 20.30 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.56 in. / 39.77 mm.
XL [Mark Twain] Rustic System. 1981-c. 1986.
There’s always something new to learn about Peterson, and at the Chicagoland Pipe Show in May I met a dealer in the tent on swap-and-sell Saturday with four or five NIB vintage XL Rustic Systems. His price was quite reasonable, and as I stood there staring at one, the lightbulb finally came on—this was the Mark Twain System! A gritty rustic, nickel-ferrule mounted version, anyhow. As you can see, it was made with that fabulous c. 1979-86 wide-shouldered P-Lip mouthpiece. It’s actually easier to see its conformity to the original 14s in this bevel-mount version than it was in the space-fitting tapered original.
Length: 6.1 in. / 157 mm.
Weight: 2.35 oz. / 67 g.
Bowl Height: 1.92 in. / 48.9 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.39 in. / 35.54 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.80 in. / 20.50 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.58 in. / 40.1 mm.
The Sherlock Holmes Systems: Original and Baskerville. 1990.
The two Sherlock Holmes Systems, the Original (XL11) and bedazzling Baskerville (XL12) are quite scarce, appearing only in 1990 (as far as I’ve been able to ascertain), sandwiched between the 1987 release of the Sherlock Holmes Collection and the 1991 release of the Return of Sherlock Holmes Collection. The were sterling-mounted and included the aluminum tenon extension, which has made them great smokers.
In the case of The Original, the conversion was simple, as it was a high-grade or De Luxe System XL05 bowl given a sterling ferrule and B or tapered P-Lip mouthpiece. The Baskerville, on the other hand, had to be bored for a reservoir, but was so striking with its new domed sterling mount and B mouthpiece that it was used in Peterson’s point-of-sale leaflet advertising the new pipes. This tapered P-Lip, by the way, is perhaps the most striking of any since the Patent era.
It’s a pity that Peterson never thought to continue with the SH System line, as there are at least three other shapes in the series of 14 that 2ould easily accommodate the System reservoir: the Watson (XL17), a hybrid rhodesian oom paul; the Lestrade (XL23), a full-bent apple; and the Hopkins (XL27), a phantasmagorical cherrywood.
Commemorative Patent System 1890-1990. Bent. Oom Paul. XXL. 1990.
This is the other half of the duo of commemoratives released in 1990 to celebrate Charles Peterson’s first System patent, for which he applied on August 8th, 1890. He was awarded patent number 12393 for Ireland and Great Britain—which is stamped on the sterling band of these commemorative pipes—on June 16th, 1891—something, as I said earlier, that routinely confounds those uninitiated in the world of Peterson. These were new (and quite daring) System shapes, not antique reproductions, as is often erroneously maintained. I have lost my set of measurements for this pipe, but it is the tallest chambered of all the oom pauls—I’m thinking 55mm or so. In any event, when you hear collectors talk about “functional art,” this pipe oozes it. Not for the feint of heart.
Darwin / B42 XL Apple. 2009-Present.
According to Tony Whelan Jr., retired factory manager at Peterson, the Darwin Commemorative issued in 2009 was a System design from the start, making it the first new System shape to appear since 1978. It was also issued in the De Luxe and Premier System grades stamped B42, as well as in a variety of finishes, and has since appeared in the Classic Range as well. It edges out the 307 as the largest of the regular production System shapes in weight and chamber capacity.
If you’re desirous of obtaining one, look carefully at current releases from the large e-tailers, as many of these bowls do not look to me like they’re cut the same as the first issue. It’s a real shame, but in the recent past B42 bowls have seemingly not been provided by the same outsourcer and lack the quirky strangeness of the original—the new shaping has become blocky and the cheeking all but disappeared. If you dig around a bit, especially in small and overseas online retailers, you can probably find the Real Deal. You’ll be glad you did—it’s one of the great Peterson originals.
Length: 6.01 in. / 152.65 mm.
Weight: 2.70 oz. / 76.54 g.
Bowl Height: 2.12 in. / 53.85 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.72 in. / 43.69 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.83 in. / 21.08 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.88 in. / 47.75 mm.
 In a letter to Linwood Hines dated December 15, 1988, Tony Dempsey writes, “We don’t have any specific information on Peterson Hand Made Pipes. We only make them occasionally, when a customer like Hollco -Rohr requests them. It is very time-consuming work and there is a very high rejection level. The shapes we make are usually governed by the size of the wood available.”
 Email from Tony Whelan, Jr., to Mark Irwin, March 25, 2014.
 For the full story of this most famous of all System pipes, see chapter 10 of The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp and Peterson.