A happy Independence Day to everyone in the US today
and all who celebrate with us in Ireland and around the world.
There is a special relationship between the Irish and the Americans that goes to the heart of the human desire for self-determination and governance. Ireland’s population hovers around 5 million and those who claim Irish descent in America number about 32 million, almost 10% of our population. Is it any wonder that US pipe-smokers have a special regard for Kapp & Peterson?
K&P business ledgers from the early decades of the 20th century show a number of prominent American accounts, names still recognized today (including Sutliff in San Francisco and Iwan Ries in NYC). But it wasn’t until Harry Rogers and Harry Kapp struck up a distribution partnership in the mid-1930s that a symbiotic relationship began that would continue to this day. Rogers wanted to market each K&P line uniquely, not only releasing them with unique pipe boxes but creating market-exclusive American shapes like the 9BC, 777 and others. Over the decades, K&P would release other shapes for their American smokers, including the Iwan Ries exclusive lines of the 1970s, the Mark Twain commemorative from the 1980s and even a July 4th annual commemorative from 1998-2004.
For this 4th of July holiday, Kapp & Peterson celebrates their long relationship with American pipemen with a limited edition cutty commemorating the only Irish-American and Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence: Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
This is the first commemorative released in the Laudisi era and was given a tremendous welcome. There were 245 pipes, one for each year since the signing of the Declaration. Sykes Wilford at Laudisi commented at the forum on PipesMagazine that “This was a small-run US exclusive. Pipes went to about twenty different retailers, but all in the US—which is why they were not on Peterson.ie.” K&P has a long history of such market-exclusive pipes, which is why it’s a good idea to keep tabs on a few international Peterson dealers, the Italian and German in particular.
The Carroll of Carrolton was released at Smokingpipes.com at approximately 2pm Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, June 24th, and all of their stock was gone before noon the following day. While I’m usually at my computer working, I was away from my desk when the email came. I saw the release about 20 minutes after the email came in, by which time the naturals had disappeared! Every Terracotta I put in my basket was gone before I could check out. It was a bit of a feeding frenzy. I have spot-checked a few internet businesses, but haven’t had any luck finding more, although there is one at the time of this posting on eBay.
An Early Republic era Belgique
The pipe utilizes the Belgique Specialty bowl, introduced back in 1945, although you might not know it at first glance, so gracefully does it conjoin with the acrylic stem, which was created especially for this occasion. Notice the graceful fishtail, always welcome on pipes at 6 inches or longer. It’s got a lovely wide sterling band, with the classic fishtail P Peterson’s over DUBLIN stamp on the obverse shank and the number of the pipe on the reverse.
The pipe comes with the high-grade leather pipe sock K&P introduced not long ago, but without any other ephemera. I betray my age when I say I miss the old elaborate pipe boxes, but I suppose they are no longer economically viable as most pipes these days are sold on-line rather than in pipe shops.
Sykes commented that “the primary architects for the Carroll of Carrollton project” were Josh Burgess and himself— “which would surprise exactly no one who knows us.” Josh holds a Ph.D. in American history, specializing in the 18th century (I think), while Sykes did his undergrad in history, his father being a history professor. Covid being what it has been, Josh has been working in the US for a while, so that he and Sykes were able to make a wonderful episode of All Pipes Considered about the pipe, which you can see here.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
What is so appealing about Charles Carroll of Carrollton for me is the learning curve he undertook in his long, growing advocacy of religious and political tolerance. Growing up extremely wealthy (and a slave holder), this wasn’t an easy task for him I suspect. Like most businessmen, he was reluctant to commit to anything that might impact his purse. But he did. In various biographical accounts, you’ll find him admonished by his father while at school in Paris for failing to dress with the conspicuous opulence of the French court, going toe-to-toe with other wealthy American businessmen, committing not only to debates in the public forum but to actively committing both his fortune and his life.
From their All Pipes Considered video, Sykes and Josh tell us more:
Josh: Carroll’s one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and not as well known as many of the others outside of Maryland, but he was a notable figure and a prominent Irish American. Carroll was born in 1737 during a really interesting time in the life of the Colonies. He was born into a prosperous and prominent family in Maryland, his grandfather having emigrated from Ireland to the United States. He grew up both Irish Catholic and American. And over his young life, Carroll became a prominent figure in Maryland and started to distinguish himself in the 1760s as a political figure. Carroll eventually became opposed to British policies in the Colonies and became an outspoken critic of the Empire. He started getting involved in this Revolutionary cause in the late ’60s and early 1770s.
The Burning of the Peggy Stewart
We all know the famous story of the Boston Tea Party, and Carroll actually participated in his own Maryland version of that. During the Annapolis Tea Party, Carroll and some of his Revolutionary colleagues went out into the harbor and burned a ship called the Peggy Stewart. Carroll quickly became a Revolutionary figure, and he spent a lot of time writing newspaper articles, giving speeches, and promoting the Revolutionary cause. In 1776, having been elected a delegate to the Continental Congress, Carroll was on his way to Philadelphia for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but—travel being what it was in the 18th century—he arrived too late to vote for it, but just in time to sign it. So Charles Carroll distinguishes himself as the only Irish Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.
So Carroll was a natural choice for us when we were thinking about how to commemorate this special relationship between Ireland and the US, between Peterson and Laudisi—its American distributor—and also the enthusiastic group of Peterson collectors and pipe smokers here in the United States. It was natural for us to settle on a character like Carroll who had been so prominent in the starting of that relationship.
Sykes: The series is built around pipes of that era and the Declaration of Independence. So there are 245 pipes in this series. It’s limited to 245 in five finishes, and that’s one per year since the signing of the Declaration. After much discussion, we opted for a very Peterson version of the clay tavern pipe—complete with a sort of semi-churchwarden stem, a small, Belge-shaped bowl, and, of course, because it’s Peterson, we had to put some silver on it. So it’s evocative of the era, of course, but not actually period-appropriate, because briar was not used for pipes for another hundred years.
Josh: It does have a traditional feel to it, alluding to the pipes that men would have smoked in taverns. There’s another Carroll connection here, as he was a prominent landowner in Maryland and grew tobacco. So the shape is evocative, not only of the pipe-smoking culture of the era, but also of Carroll himself as a tobacco planter.
After the War of Independence, Carroll would help develop Maryland’s first constitution and its Declaration of Rights, holding office first as a state then as a US senator. He would be the lasting living signer of the Declaration of Independence, dying at the age of 95 in 1832.
Approximate Measurements and Other Details
Length: 6.22 in./157.99 mm.
Weight: 0.70 oz./19.84 g.
Bowl Height: 1.36 in./34.54 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.14 in./28.96 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.63 in./16.00 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.03 in./26.16 mm.
Shape: Belgique (introduced c. 1945)
Stem: Fishtail Acrylic
Finishes: Natural (10), with the remain 235 in Terracotta, Heritage, Sandblast and Rustic
Thanks to Andy Wike, Josh Burgess & Sykes Wilford
Stock photos courtesy Laudisi Enterprises
Detail from the Rogers leaflet courtesy K&P