212. Greta Garbo and the Short Smoke: Peterson’s JUNIOR Line
Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit!—Happy New Year! I hope you’ve had an evening or two for a quiet smoke during the holidays, time to reflect on blessings and the good in your life. Certainly this blog and the joy of Peterson has been one of mine, especially as I’ve made new friendships and continued old ones with all who comments and email back and forth. Whatever the new year brings, a quiet pipe and some good tobacco will only make it better.
Since visiting the Peterson Museum in 2013, I have been compiling a list of famous Peterson pipe smokers, or at least people of renown who have been photographed smoking a K&P pipe. While the museum was in a state best described as fascinating chaos (“fractal?”), there were photos of several people hanging on the walls or hidden away in drawers, many without identification of where they came from but some with letters of appreciation by the one photographed.
For this first installment of “Famous Peterson Smokers,” I turn to silent and early sound film star Greta Garbo (1905-1990), the Swedish-American actress and star of Flesh and the Devil (1927), The Kiss (1929), Grand Hotel (1932), Camille (1936) and Ninotchka (1939)—which are just a few of my favorites. Her performances were as mysterious as she, and yet when she retired at age 35, she left a persona that has endured as one of the great female film stars of the classic age of Hollywood film.
“On one of her many transatlantic crossings,”
the caption reads.*
I first saw Garbo (mistaking her for a young Dietrich) with what I knew was a Peterson at the museum, in a photograph cut from a page in a book, mounted and framed. Two years before that, I had read an appreciation of her by Eric Squires, which begins with this great paragraph:
“‘I have been smoking since I was a small boy,’ Greta Garbo was known to quip. It was a rather unusual statement coming from a Hollywood starlet, yet it was also a sentiment very true to her nature. She was indeed a prolific smoker; cigarettes, cigars, and, yes, even pipes too. And she was as well what could only be described as ‘enigmatically contrary.’ The silver screen beauty often dressed in clothes which, in her day, were considered ‘mannish,’ and making such pronouncements as, ‘I am a lonely man circling the earth,’ was one of the intensely private vixen’s preferred ways of breaking silent moments in conversation.”
Long-time readers will know that I have been trying to place Garbo’s Peterson pipe for a while now. When I posted about this before, in a consideration of the 400 shape group, there were several difficulties in identifying the pipe: the angle of the photo, the relative size of the pipe to Garbo’s face, and the extreme length of the shank in proportion to the bowl height, which just didn’t seem to fit any K&P shape I could find. I’m not sure I’ve solved it yet, but since I’m at least certain it is a K&P, I’ll proceed with my newest hypothesis.
It happened a few months ago, when I came across a “Junior” Classic Range line, LONDON MADE over ENGLAND black sandblast version of the pipe seen in the banner. The shank and mouthpiece with low-rise bowl just clicked with Garbo’s pipe. Eureka! Maybe.
Garbo was 5 foot 6 1/2, and at 125 lbs., was lean and willowy. As she was known to be a pipe smoker (at least during her years in Hollywood), it seems reasonable to date the “Transatlantic” photo prior to 1935, when she retired into seclusion. Trouble is, there isn’t a Junior shape chart back that far.
Here’s Garbo, cradling a pipe under her fingers, with co-star and only known romantic interest,
John Gilbert. You can see she’s painting her eyebrows and wearing her hair the same way
she is in the transatlantic photo.
The JUNIOR shapes seem to have been sold only in European markets, and were also known sometimes called the “Lightweight.” There are two shape charts of the line, neither of which does her pipe much justice. Here’s the 1947 chart:
Here’s the 1955 chart from the European “Dublin & London” catalog:
As you can see, the Junior line is included on the same page with two other “Lightweights,” the Belgique and the Calabash. The Bulldog in the 1955 illustration seems to be different than the one in the 1947 chart, at least insofar as its stem is concerned. The 1947 calls it a “Bulldog Taper,” and if the scale grids are accurate, the taper version is about a half-inch longer, giving the pipe a leaner, different character.
The Junior and Lightweight lines, according to Harry Kapp in the quotation from the last post, were produced in part with the ladies in mind, but I’ll say more about that in a moment. I have only run across three of these pipes, this one, a straight billiard and a bent billiard (so if you have one, do post a photo of it in the comments section).
This is a still from Wild Orchids (1929). Worth seeing just for this scene.
What is so unique about the Junior Bulldog for me is the extraordinarily long tapered diamond shank, enhanced by the low rise of the bowl. And yet, with a chamber of 17mm wide by 24 mm deep, it offers an easy half-hour’s smoke. And this brings me to the relevance of not just this bulldog, but the entire Junior line in today’s hobby.
I have been struck by the number of cigarette smokers there are in the pipe-smoking community. Not just those who originally smoked cigarettes and then turned to the pipe as an alternative, but those who still smoke a few cigarettes a day. If you ask them, they will often reply that this is a way for them to enjoy a bit of tobacco when there isn’t time for a pipe. They often smoke RYOs (roll-your-own) with quality tobacco. And perhaps they’d just as soon get that nicotine hit in their bloodstream as not. There is also a niche of the hobby that smokes smaller-bowled pipes almost exclusively (there’s a whole crew of this kind of piper at Smokingpipes.com, for example). Adam Davidson’s (of SPC) artisan pipes, like this Lorraine with its 18 by 35 chamber, are usually small:
Davidson’s SPC 20th Anniversary Blast Lorraine,
with Boxwood adornment from Peterson of Dublin (photo courtesy SPC)
There is, then, more than a niche in the hobby for truly good smoking pipes that deliver a quality short smoke. While the Junior line is no longer available apart from its rare appearances on the estate market, if you’re someone who routinely turns to cigarettes during the day or finds daily opportunities for shorter, rather than longer, smokes, K&P’s current catalog includes the Specialty Quartet (Belgique and Calabash, Tankard and Barrel), the Classic Lines 65 and 69 bent billiards and the System 313, 314 and 317.
For myself, I wouldn’t mind having a straight Junior bulldog taper, nickel or sterling band, like the one Garbo smoked. You know—for those occasions when I vant to be alone.
K&P “Peterson” Junior Bulldog
Length: 5.25 in / 133.5 mm
Weight: 0.70 oz / 21 gr
Bowl Height: 1.25 in / 31.7 mm
Chamber Depth: 0.67 in / 17 mm
Chamber Diameter: 0.95 in / 24 mm
Outside Diameter: 1.22 in / 31 mm
Stem: Vulcanite Fishtail
Shape: Squat Bulldog
COM Stamp: LONDON MADE over ENGLAND
Date: c. 1937-62
*If you’re a Garbo fan, please let me know if you can identify the book the photo was taken from!
 And if you know of any famous Peterson smokers, do let me know in the comments section below or directly by email.