250. Peterson’s Panel Pipes: A Brief Visual History

250. Peterson’s Panel Pipes: A Brief Visual History

In the small batch of vintage Petes I acquired not too long ago was the Kapruf 572 seen in the banner, one of K&P’s panel shapes from the first half of the 20th century. I had seen Andy Camire’s fabulous 444 Square Panel at the 2019 Chicago show but never thought to see another in real life. The Panel group all seem to be Group 1 to 3 in size, smaller than many pipe smokers turn to these days, but—and I speculate—probably suitable to the shorter and more frequent smokes that were once typical of many men’s days in the office.

Detail from the 1925 Phillip Weiss & Söhne trifold

The first group of K&P panels appeared in the 1925 Phillip Weiss & Söhne K&P trifold preserved in the Peterson archive. It consists of five stunningly faceted shapes. These are all from the mysterious IFS period (1922-38) when bowl number stamping was just beginning to appear. There is little in the way of catalog ephemera from this period, making shape identification sometimes difficult. But these five shapes—the 3071 octagon, 3079 faceted hexagon, 3070 prince hexagon, 3088 hexagon and 3085 hexagon—announced in no uncertain terms that K&P wasn’t going to be left behind as fashions in shapes and sizes shifted.

It is impossible to do more than speculate about the drastic aesthetic shift on display here. K&P didn’t abandon their earlier design language of course, but these five shapes mark the inclusion of a something new. Is it a shift from masculine to feminine? Muscular to lithe? It seems like part of the broader Art Deco sensibility of the 1920s, especially when set against the Art Nouveau of the previous 40 years. I’m not sure the last set of terms is applicable, but perhaps someone with knowledge in design history can enlighten us.  I’m also curious to know whether there was a sense of gender association behind the marketing of these shapes: were they targeted specifically for women? For cosmopolitan (metrosexual?) men? Or for anyone looking for something fresh, elegant and a bit smaller?

Andy Camire’s 444 Square Panel

The next panel appears in the 1937 catalog, seen above from Andy Camire’s collection, which was the 2020 in 1st Quality and “K” and 444 in Kapet & DeLuxe Classic. It’s probably a group 3 (Andy can tell us if he reads this post) and has a bit more heft than the 572 in the banner photo and the quintet of shapes from 1925. The 444 is the sole panel in the catalog, probably a place marker, as this catalog was not intended to illustrate every shape in production but only the representative and most popular ones. This shape is still in the Dunhill catalog and unlike the faceted panels of the 1920s, it has a perennial masculine style that seems iconic of the 1940s. If I were to make a movie of one of Raymond Chandler’s novels, this would be my choice for his hard-boiled detective Phillip Marlowe.

Detail from the 1940 catalog brochure

The 1940 Emergency (WWII) brochure features two panels, the 570 and 596, part of the same 500 group as the 572 Kapruf in the banner. I heightened the contrast just a bit to allow you to see that the 570 is indeed a panel, in fact is the 3070 from 1925. The 596, my favorite of all the K&P panels, is similar in its bowl to 1925’s 3085, but as you can see its diamond shank carries more muscle, as does the the 570 in comparison with the 3070. I have come to believe in the past few years that the K&P catalog shows many signs of evolutionary development. This is one of the cases in point.

Detail from the 1947 Distributor’s Shape Chart

Neither the 1945 nor 1950 catalogs illustrate any panels, but stepping back to the 1947 distributor’s complete shape chart there are three: the 596, 593 and at last, the 572. Examining rare Petes like this one first-hand really helps in understanding them, especially in something like the panel group, which are simply never seen.

The first thing that becomes obvious holding the pipe in hand is that, despite its length, it is a small pipe:

Kapruf 572

Length: 5.5 in / 140 mm
Weight: 0.75 oz / 21 gr
Bowl Height: 1.22 in / 31.1 mm
Chamber Depth: 1.00 in /  25.5 mm
Chamber Diameter: 0.65 in / 16.6 mm
Outside Diameter: 1.32 in / 33.6 mm
Stem: Vulcanite
P-Lip: Yes

It also becomes apparent that after initial lathe work, all the panels would have to be completed by hand. I had thought the lines on this Kapruf were symmetrical, but look at the detail from the bottom of the bowl:

When I first held the pipe, I thought it was a simple hexagon. But as you look more at it, you can see various sets of facets. The top set of six are not as “cheeked” (curvy) as the bottom set. Whether the bowl received sandblast treatment because the lines weren’t quite perfect or because of fills we’ll never know, but it is interesting to speculate how much time was spend on this pipe: turning at the lathe, “papering” (sanding) to achieve the facets (and I presume by hand), and then blasting. In restoring the pipe, I didn’t re-dye it. It was so dirty that there was no real color on it, but underneath was that classic K&P burgundy. And if this were the only example of a panel you’d ever seen, then all my earlier antipodean quibbles just seem silly. The Kapruf displays a kind of gemstone, nondual earthiness that says more about the elements than it does about fashion or design.

One more example of the importance of photographs and in-hand experience: compare the 596 as a line drawing from the 1947 chart with the photograph from the 1940 brochure. For enthusiasts, a flank-shot photo is the next best thing to holding the pipe. The LONDON MADE stamp, incidentally, tells us the pipe was made before the London factory closed in 1963, helping us to date it between c. 1947 and the late 1950s (which we already kind of knew from the catalog, didn’t we?).

The last appearance of K&P’s original panel group—the 596, 593 and 572 again—would be in the 1955 London & Dublin catalog. The purple DISCONTINUED rubber stamping indicates that it was probably a few years after 1955 when these shapes actually became unavailable. The 572, seen in smooth in the illustration from 1955, has a longer shank than the Kapruf version. It’s also easier to see the facets in the smooth version.

I doubt we’ll ever know how most Peterson pipe shapes have come about, who designed them and various other particulars concerning their origins. It’s true that we know Charles Peterson himself designed the original 1891 System shapes and doubtless most of those found in the 1906 catalog as well. But apart from them, a few of Paddy Larrigan’s and several of Sherlock Holmes pipes, the designers behind the K&P catalog are unknown. So whether the good people at K&P actually looked over their shoulder some sixty years after the demise of the original panels or found their inspiration elsewhere, between 2007 and 2011 they released three additional panels:

 

POY 2007 Panel Billiard Faux Spigot / B27

The 2007 POY / B27 was an octagonal panel with the faux-spigot treatment, and as you can see it was an exceptional piece, especially when the grain pops as it does in this example.

 

2009 Lismore Castle (Castles Collection) / B39

Just two years later K&P released the Castles Collection sextet. The most striking of all the pieces in it—for me—was the Lismore Castle. A quaint hexagonal panel with stack proportions and a soldered sterling crown, it epitomized the Dublin era’s aesthetic and remains one of the most unusual shapes in the catalog.

POY 2011 Panel Brandy Faux Spigot / B54

The last of the Dublin era’s panels was released in 2011 as the POY / B54. It takes the ideas of the 3085 and 572 and literally turns them on their head in a large, XL hexagonal panel given faux spigot treatment.

 

Photos courtesy the Peterson archive, Smokingpipes.com
and Chas Mundungus

I have listed the 572 Kapruf from the banner
as well as a POY Founder’s Edition and “Bing” Long Billiard 445 on eBay this week.

 

1 That’s why I was eager to interview Giacomo Penzo, Peterson’s pipe specialist, on the recreation of the historic Peterson 4AB, the pipe of Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, for the new edition of The Pipes of Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, which will debut with the 2021 POY in the fairly near future.

 

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Paul Schmolke
Paul Schmolke
1 month ago

Phenomenal artistry, especially with the later editions. The finishes are spectacular on all of them. I’ll sit back and enjoy my Modern day Arans and spend the overage on good tobacco.

Alvin Jones
Alvin Jones
1 month ago

The handwork required to create those panels is incredible. Is there any reference point to what prices they were bringing in that era, compared to the rest of the Peterson line?

Andy Camire
Andy Camire
1 month ago

Thanks for all of that information on the very early panel shapes Mark. In all of my years attending pipe shows I’ve only come across 2 of the four square shapes. And never any of the other rare hexagon or multi panel pipes. They are rare indeed and I feel that there are collectors out there with some fine examples but just don’t bring them out to share. The dimensions of the panel in my collection that you have pictured are as follows. Length is approximately 5 1/2 inches, bowl height 1 7/8 inches and inside diameter of the tobacco… Read more »

Bob Cuccaro/TLIP
Bob Cuccaro/TLIP
1 month ago

Wow! I love the 596 too!!! If I wasn’t so
swamped I would be on sites looking for estates 🙂 . I am fortunate to have the 3 paneled pipes mentioned and can say they all are great smokers. The Lismore looks heavy but is actually pretty easy to clench. Great job again Mark!

James Augustino
James Augustino
1 month ago

Thanks for the info Mark, on the up and coming Pete’s, I was having a slow day, with the weather here , meaning temperature fluxuations and stormy outlook, My temperature just went in one direction . All perked up and ready for the hunt. Love the Panels, especially your friends panel from the show one good looking panel there, with wonderful grain and color, The article before this one I haven’t finished yet I’ve been savoring it bit by bit, The smaller group panels remind me of a D.R. Graybow that i have that belonged to my grandfather. Looking back… Read more »

James Augustino
James Augustino
1 month ago

Did I say Panels enough times! Yes I do love them in just the right size, Group 4 preferably.

James Augustino
James Augustino
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Thanks , I’ve been eying one, and wondering if I would be able to smoke that much in one sitting, I love the rusticated one with the silver cap. I’ve never had a silver capped pipe I love the shape and the rugged utility with the silver, whoops, maybe I should have kept that to myself, I may have to pull the trigger, Ill check that EU site out KY sales tax is a bummer,. but they let me put pipes on hold while I consider.

James Augustino
James Augustino
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Mark I just clicked your link, I see what you mean the PSB is just classically GONE, and no wonder cause its how it should be with an awesome Pipe like that, good news like the song goes there’s always tomorrow.

James Augustino
James Augustino
1 month ago

I’m downloading a picture of that bad boy, for future reference, LOL.

James Augustino
James Augustino
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

I’m sorry for so many reply’s but I just had to say, if only a tapered stem,,, right but that is trivial on that one for sure.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

The 572 is gorgeous, but I’d give a lot for smooth 3079. It reminds me of a set of goblets my grandparents had when I was young, which I failed to inherit. I can imagine happily smoking that pipe with just a touch of mist in my eyes. Thank you, Mark, for another wonderful article.

Scott Forrest
Scott Forrest
1 month ago

Great, now I have to start looking for old paneled Petes 🙂