This very pristine and new-looking MADE IN ENGLAND dutch billiard System  359 arrived at just the right moment in the spring of 2018, when I was scrambling to find appropriate illustrations for the introduction to The Peterson Pipe. At the time I was in a rush to get everything off to Briar Books Press, but I did document the pipe and some of its surprises, which I hope you’ll enjoy. If you’ve got your book handy, take a look at the banner photo and see if you can date the pipe on your own. Spoilers ahead!
Dating the Pipe
1937 is the earliest this 359 can have been made, simply because that’s the year the London factory opened. The catalog that was issued in that year shows the first part of the double-tiered taxonomy used to grade and number System pipes at that time:
According to the catalog, in 1937 Systems you should be able to find bowls stamped De Luxe, 0, 2 and 3. What happened to “1,” you ask? There never was a “1” stamp, a bit of information found in the 1906 catalog. Still, that’s five grades of briar all told.
Now here’s the next bit of confusion—and if you have your Peterson book handy, there’s a cross-reference numbering chart on p. 268 that helps. The bowls not only were graded by quality, but were also given three separate numbering systems. The Patent numbers (this bowl would have been the “Thinking Man” 4 shape) were given to De Luxe, First Quality (with no number stamp on the bowl) and “0” grade. These pipes, as the chart above shows, could be fitted with any of the four types of mouthpiece.
The “2nd Grade” bowls (our Premier) were given the numbers Peterson currently employs for Standard and Premier. All clear so far?
The “3rd Grade” were stamped with their own numbers. I don’t know if all the London-made Systems were stamped on the back of the stummel at the edge of the mortise, but the handful I’ve seen are.
As Todd Becker’s Rogers Imports catalog shows, the three-tiered numbering for System pipes was still in place in 1939.
By 1940, the five-tiered grading had been collapsed to just three, as you can see in the catalog page reproduced above: “De Luxe,” “System” and “0.” Not only that, but the three bowl numbering systems had been reduced to the now-familiar two, one for De Luxe and one for “System” [our Premier] and “0” [our Standard].
So: it is quite reasonable to conclude that this particular pipe was made between 1937 and 1945.
As you can see, the nickel cap has been turned down to meet the bowl—a practice I’ve always admired, but one which Peterson abandoned sometime in the Dublin era (1991-2018), doubtless to economize.
While nickel plate—which has always adorned the Standard System—can oxidize over time, it occurs so slowly that one doesn’t usually have a chance to observe tarnish spots like these. I’ve read that a half-and-half vinegar / water solution can be used to remove them. But I also wanted to bring up the shine just a bit, so I used Fabulustre first (which didn’t remove the tarnish), then a cautious application of white compound, which removed the tarnish as well as gave it a bit of polish. As Al Jones has cautioned me, less is more, so be careful and go lightly, or you might remove the plating.
When we wrote The Peterson Pipe, we thought all pre-1963 nickel ferrules were hand-soldered, mainly because we’d both documented a few and because all sterling ferrules were and still are, for that matter. But as you can see here, this is a pressed cap. There is no silver-solder line:
Here’s where I got my first surprise. I thought this was a NOS, new/old stock pipe. But look what I found in the chamber:
I wish Mike McNeil had been here. It would have been fun to see him geek out over it, speculate on the types of tobaccos it contains, then probably smoke it. As it could be over 70 years old, I’d love to hear what he’d make of it. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t think of doing this myself back when I took these photographs.
Mortise & Reservoir
The next “reveal” has to do with the mortise and reservoir. I’ve been studying this aspect of K&P engineering carefully since the book came out and am now convinced we’ve seen a degradation in System drilling. I’ve talked about this to Peterson to make them aware of my opinion, but for now, just take a look at the heart of this c. 1940 System, which is quite a bit different from what you’ll see in System pipes from the last 40 years or so:
I want to direct your eye to the three concentric circles made by drilling with three different bits. The widest, topmost drilling, ends well above the air hole into the chamber. This was morse-tapered to accommodate the stem, and on this bowl is wider than on iterations of it produced in the 1980s and later.
The second drilling, made to pull air flow out of the air hole then down to the bottom of the mouthpiece and up into the graduated bore of the stem, extends several millimeters below the airhole. Notice the “tear away” around the air hole! (Some things never change on Peterson production pipes, right?)
“But that’s not all, folks!” There’s a third drilling, narrower than the second, which reaches down deep into the heel of the stummel. This is the reservoir proper, the rationale behind Peterson’s System design language, and something that’s certainly missing in current production Systems.
I want to come back in a few weeks and look at the integrated tenon extension on this mouthpiece in an attempt to document the history of K&P’s tenon engineering in De Luxe, Premier and Standard Systems. For now, it’s interesting to speculate about this pipe—who bought it, why it seems to have been smoked only once and how it survived looking “as new” for over 70 years. Fascinating also that a lowly “3” Made in England System would make it not only to the US, but then into the Peterson book and now reveal a few of its hidden charms.
Here’s what it looks like after a very light buff:
If you’re interested in adding this pipe to your rotation, it is available on ebay here, along with a few other “catch-and-release” Sweet Petes that need good homes.
And now a little Sherlock Holmes . . .
THE COMPLETE 18 PIPE SET is available:
My friend Todd Becker of deadmanpipes has a special offer, not through eBay, for all the Pete Freeks that read this blog that I just had to document, because things like this just don’t come around in the Pete World very often.
2. Return Of Wood Display Rack (Brand New)
3. The Original Rustic P-Lip (Unsmoked)
4. The Baskerville Rustic P-Lip (Lightly smoked, p-lip is ramped)
5. The Baker Street Smooth P-Lip (Lightly smoked, p-lip is ramped)
6. The Deerstalker Red Smooth F/T (Unsmoked)
7. The Squire Smooth F/T (Unsmoked)
8. The Professor Rustic F/T (Lightly smoked)
9. The Watson Rustic F/T (Lightly smoked)
10. The Rathbone Rustic F/T (Lightly smoked)
11. The Hudson Rustic F/T (Lightly smoked)
12. The Mycroft Rustic F/T (Smoked once)
13. The Lestrade Rustic F/T (Lightly smoked)
14. The Milverton Rustic F/T (Lightly smoked)
15. The Strand Rustic F/T (Lightly smoked)
16. The Hansom Rustic F/T (Lightly smoked)
17. The Gregson Rustic F/T (Unsmoked)
18. The Hopkins Smooth P-Lip (Lightly smoked, rim has scratch, p-lip is ramped)
19. The Silvius Blast P-Lip (Smoked once, p-lip is ramped)
20. The Moran Smooth P-Lip (Smoked once, p-lip is ramped)
21. Sterling Silver Tamper (Brand New)
22. All Original Boxes with Socks