Here’s a fascinating puzzle pipe from Geoff Watson across the Pond. If you’ve got your copy of The Peterson Pipe, take a look at the three following pictures and see if you can date it, but scroll carefully—spoilers ahead!
So you’ve taken a look at the sterling stamps, the bowl stamps on both obverse and reserve and the mouthpiece, right?
The first thing, of course, is to determine the shape number—an 11 in the original Patent chart numbers, which most of us think of as the 312 System (that’s an X220 in the Classic Range).
Like most of Peterson’s other Patent shapes, the 11 has drifted a bit from its original shaping, as you can see in this photograph from an earlier post comparing a 1950s Premier 312 with a Premier made just a few years back:
Look again at look at Geoff’s bowl, this time in his restoration photo below, and you’ll see it’s unlike either one of these pipes:
At first I thought, maybe this isn’t a shape 11.But Geoff sent measurements and a photo of a sandblast 11 next to this one:
Having turned my attention in the past few months to documenting NOS (new / old stock) and older shapes—including this one—what I’m increasingly coming to believe is that English and Irish Peterson shapes are cut just a bit differently. I guess that should be no surprise, since they’re cut by different craftsfolk on different machines (even if the machine is the same, the wear on it will be different) at different times. Jeff’s pipe has a taller crown—the length from the top of the stummel to the rim of the bowl—than the later pipes. The “cheeking” (how it curves inward and outward from top to bottom) is not as pronounced as the ’50s 312 Premier, although it’s far more curvaceous than the 2010s one.
Okay, so the sterling told you the pipe was made in that thirty-year period when Peterson wasn’t hallmarking their pipes—1938-68, right? Instead we find the fancy maker’s mark in separate shields, K & P, which dates from 1908. Ah! you say, but the one illustrated in the book has points on the shields, and these are simplified, flat on top. Yup. We missed that, and I’ll have to ask Gary Malmberg whether he thinks the shields in Geoff’s pipe are a later or an earlier stamp.
And the MADE IN ENGLAND in an ellipse really said nothing more than that it was made after the London factory opened in 1937 and before it closed in the early 1960s.
So back to the bowl, as it is at the heart of the puzzle. It’s a . . . De Luxe? And this is where everyone gets stuck—unless you’re of the generation or ran in a particular Peterson circle where photocopies of the 1937 catalog were handed around.
As the Éire era (1938-48) began, Peterson had changed their System tiers from the Patent era. Back in the 1906 catalog, there were more or less just three grades of System: the First (with no mark but the Patent stamp), the Second (with a 2 in a cirlce stamp) and the Third (with a 3 in a circle stamp).* Then as now, the First (our De Luxe) and Second (our Premier) were sterling mounts, while their Third (our Standard) was a nickel mount.
Then something wild happened. Usually in the Grand Scheme of Things there seems to be a move from complexity and diversity to simplicity and uniformity—there’s a fancy word for this, but I can’t remember it. (If you know it, please tell me as it’s driving me crazy.) Not so in the Éire era: the tiers expanded to five lines, as you can see in this important page from the ’37 catalog:
So what does this page tell us? The clue is right there in the middle of the page with the classic four stem styles with the B and AB that we all wish Peterson would bring back. The De Luxe was available with a domed mount or ferrule and either an A or AB stem.
We’ve become accustomed to thinking of De Luxe Systems as always having space-fitting saddle stems—as was almost entirely the case from 1945 onwards. But things were more fluid before then, perhaps even blurring a little what we think of as the lines between “production” and “artisan” pipes, if by “artisan” is meant a very high-grade pipe made with specific customer requests in mind: in the case of an Éire De Luxe, four different hand-cut mounts: the A and AB with sterling beveled domes (ferrules), and the S and B with sterling bands.
And there is one last thing: the cone-shaped tenon extension of the stem. By rights, a DeLuxe System with a sterling mount should have a mouthpiece with a bone tenon extension. Why this one doesn’t is part of its puzzle. Was the pipe really issued this way, or is this a replacement mouthpiece? If it is a replacement, it’s from the period. Note the slightly-tapered extension (more visible in the unrestored stem photo at the top). This Patent-style extension would gradually be supplanted during the Éire era with a tubular, non-tapered extension, which I’ll talk about in a future post.
For now, we’ve got all the evidence we need to date Geoff’s pipe: it’s a De Luxe 11A, probably with a period-replacement mouthpiece, most likely from the earlier years of the Éire era, say1938-44. By the ’45 catalog, this type of mount wouldn’t even be an option.
It’s a classy pipe and a classy idea—to have that domed mount on the finest Peterson briar—isn’t it? I’m sure that’s why I lean so heavily to the Premier and STAR System grades. I just love this type of mount.
Photos & restoration by Geoff Watson