For the 309th post, what more appropriate than an appreciation of the 309, one of the most quintessential Peterson shapes? Known from the beginning as bowl shape 4 in the catalog from 1896 to 2013, the 309 has had a lot of pipe shape numbers: 4S, 4B, 4AB, 79, 309, 359, 1309, POY21 and XL339. It’s probably been used in more System and Classic Range lines than any other shape given its longevity and standard size, which is the reason I chose it for the “By Any Other Name” collage on p. 243 of the Peterson book. Like other pipe makers—artisan as well as craft shop—K&P’s bowl shapes, once established, are pressed into every conceivable service in terms of mount, finish, stain and stem.
Bent Dutch Shapes 1, 3 and 4 (1906): clenching angle (top row) and horizontal rim (bottom)
Shape 4 appeared with its five siblings as part of the “Straight Bowls” group in the 1896 catalog. In addition to the six seen above, the group included two oom pauls, the Extra Large O.1 and the 6, and the dutch Extra Large O.3.* Shapes 3 – 8 bear such a strong family resemblance to the 4 that it’s often difficult to distinguish them from each other without long practice, a ruler, a copy of the 1896 catalog or all three.
(Scott Forrest Collection)
Scott Forrest, CPG shares my fascination with the dutch group and sent these photos to help get an idea of size and shape differences. In the photo above, the Extra Large oom paul at the top is the O.2 from 1904. On the second row, a 4B from 1923 (left) and 7B from 1917 (right). Third row left is a really unusual 5SC (Saddle, Short stem)from 1929. [I have to say based on this photo alone that I think I’m in love with this one. It’s even better than the 4 (egad, did I say that?)–a bit taller, certainly a heftier shank. Could it be a chubby version of the 4?] …and on the right is the 8 ½ ABC from 1912, certainly more interesting than its shape 8 sibling… in my opinion…
(Scott Forrest Collection)
In the photo above, Scott has placed a 2021 4AB POY (top right) for comparison with the 1923 4B (“notice the taller bowl on the 1923,” writes Scott), 1929 5SC and the 1911 8 ½.
While other, much larger English pipe companies were producing scores of shapes by 1896, K&P initially issued only a handful at their startup. Indeed, there were actually only 10: oom paul, dutch, billiard bent, ball bent, dublin, straight billiard, dublin heel, and three half-bents (heeled dublin, bulldog billiard). The remainder of the total number of 31 bowls had to do with size / shank variations of the bent straight, ball and billiard Systems.
K&P made these numbers seem much greater by adding nuance in the five different ways each System bowl could be mounted: A (army), AB (tapered army), B (tapered wear-gap) and S (saddle wear-gap). Shorten any of these four mounts and add a C for short (i.e., see the 7SC in the illustration above). While there would expansion and refinement in the monumental 1906 catalog, these were Charles Peterson’s catalog foundation.
The name “bent dutch” is first seen in the 1947 Distributor’s Shape Chart in reference to the Classic Range 337 and 338. In the 1981 Mark Twain brochure the name is taken up again, this time for the System 313 as “Medium Dutch Bent” and the 309 as “Large Dutch Bent.” In the 1983 Three-O-Five catalog “Bent” is understood as redundant (there being no equivalent “straight”) and is dropped for the two shapes. In 1984, redundancy returns and in 1992’s Hand Made brochure the name is used for the final time.
Detail from the 1992 Hand Made Brochure
Like a handful of other shapes, the 4 got its name during the days of European colonialism. The rhodesian received its name from Cecil Rhodes (mining magnate and politician for whom Rhodesia is named), the oom paul from Paul Kruger (President of South Africa). K&P also named another pipe from the South African conflict, the kaffir, in the 1906 catalog, known today by another name given by other companies at the time: the zulu. So what about the dutch?
The shape and the the custom: this bent dutch, carved with 1900 / BOER / 1901, is typical of the POW pastime of pipe carving during the Second Boer War.
A few years back, I asked well-known blogger Arno van Goor where the name might have come from. He wrote, “likely the name comes from the Boer Wars. The most famous pipe shape name in that regard is of course the oom paul. But there was also a similar model, which was smoked by the Boeren (Dutch speaking settlers and their descendants). Irish regiments were fighting for both the British and the Boeren, so perhaps the ‘dutch’ name stuck there.” **
These straight-sided billiards are from the Loewe’s 1910 catalog, the “Boer” the very archetype of the oom paul, a shape that maintained itself on the periphery of fashion through the 1980s. The “Glasgow” and “Clyde” document the popularity of the dutch shape at the time.
When Irish servicemen came back from the Boer Wars, they didn’t have to look far to find the shapes they’d smoked while away—just up on Grafton Street. You can imagine the conversation between the shop-keeper and the soldier: “I want one that looks like this,” he says, pointing at a pipe in the case, “a bent dutch!” The Peterson shop-keeper knowingly nodded his head, remembering for future reference that customers knew shapes 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 by a name. As the old Irish servicemen died off, they passed along their name for the shape to the next generation, but as the years went by it must have become more and more difficult for anyone to recall why they called it what they did even though the shape name was used in the factory for decades afterwards.
Kapp & Peterson weren’t the only company to made a dutch, and probably weren’t even the first. But as with the oom paul, they deserve to be recognized as the most important company to make the shape by virtue of having it in production longer than any other and to have made it uniquely theirs by using it for their Thinking Man icon.
While no longer in production, the shape is common enough that it is still found in abundance on eBay, usually the 309 but sometimes the 4s and for quite reasonable prices. While a number of folks came out for the special POY 2021 4AB, I suspect many were attracted by not by the bowl shape so much as the retro-looking tapered stem and the pipe’s association with Basil Rathbone. K&P even made a non-System version during the Irish Free State version, the 936. Remarkably, there’s one “in the wild” you can see on eBay at the time of this posting:
While K&P has no immediate plans to reintroduce the shape to the catalog, I was told they would like to do so at some point in the future. In the meantime, what makes it so remarkable—at least for me—is the elegant simplicity of its shape (“an easy lathe-turned pipe” as a pipe smoker once described it to me) that says PETERSON SYSTEM in caps, combined with a chamber suitable for all tobaccos but absolutely perfect for virginia and va/pers. I theorize this is because it’s a bit of a “short stack,” as the ratio of height to width is 2.14 to 1. The chambers I’ve documented all run between 17 and 18.2 mm wide and 40 to 41.5 deep, and as many virginia smokers attest, this slightly narrower gauge helps the virginia’s flavor along. Not to belabor a point (okay, I’m flogging the dead horse here), there’s the connection not merely to Basil Rathbone and Sherlock Holmes and the Thinking Man but to the original Patent design of Charles Peterson himself.
A GALLERY OF FAVORITES
The more you know about K&P’s history the better able you are to look for the highpoints and rarities of any particular shape. One of my most cherished memories of our first pilgrimage to K&P was listening to the older craftsman list all the remarkable pipes in their collective memory. In fact, it was their enthusiasm that formed the basis my understanding of what had to be in the Peterson book. While I still have some 309s and 4s I’d love to find (an ebony 309, for example), here’s an annotated look at some of my favorites.
1894 Unsmoked (from Gary Malmberg’s 2018 Exhibition at the Chicago Pipe Show)
Co-author Gary Malmberg brought this to our Chicago Pipe Show display in 2018. Inside the chamber, in pencil, was the number “4.” This would be the practice—penciling shape numbers inside the chamber—until sometime in the Irish Free State era, which ran from 1922 to 1937. Gary and I argued back and forth over the stem—was it original? Was it a replacement? He believed it was simply a stop-gap. If so, I countered, the cylindrical button and airway made it nearly contemporaneous with the pipe itself.
1906 Irish Carving Shamrocks
The 1906 catalog used shape 4 to illustrate the Irish Carving Shamrocks. What amazes me is that it looks so much like the 309 I first knew in the 1980s. This illustration, like that of the 8B Shamrocks in the 1896 catalog, is important because it shows the icons of Harp, Wolf Dog and Shamrock were in Charles Peterson’s mind as part of his understanding of K&P from the beginning.
1911 4A Gold Band (Patent)
It’s easy to forget that K&P adorned their very highest grades of briar with the domed ferrule for many decades, moving to using the wear-gap for the DeLuxe only much later in their history. This is one I wish I could’ve taken home from the show. For whatever reason, I don’t find myself stewarding early Petes very often, but looking back, I do wish I’d made an offer to Gary Malmberg for this one. It was simply unbelievable.
1309 System 0 Made in England, c. 1946
The London-made Petes have always fascinated me. With a factory one-fifth the size of its Dublin counterpart, under the direction of Lesley Starr his crew of 12 Londoners performed wonders from late 1937 until the factory closed in 1963. The 1309 was made for export to Genin, Trudeau & Cie, the Canadian mail-order company who were K&P’s sole distributor in Canada from c. 1900 through the 1950s. The numbers and nickel-mount marks make me think this one was made c. the Early Republic era, 1949-1957 or so. This was a peculiar stem bend that I’ve only seen in K&P ephemera from the late 1940s through the 1950s.
DeLuxe 4B (Early Republic)
This is a striking, rarely-encountered version of the 4. I suspect it may not appeal to many with its long, heavy tapered wear-gap. It came up on SPC many years ago. The bone tenon extension confirmed its pre-1960 date as its image in the c. 1955 Dublin & London catalog has a purple DELETED rubber stamp strikeout. It’s curious to me that this type of stem, so very much a part of Peterson design language, should drop out of fashion in the 1950s and then reappear in the late 1970s and early 1980s on the X220, XL339 and perhaps other bent shapes as well.
309 Rustic (Early Republic)
I fell in love with this gnarly old boy the moment I saw him and did my best to restore his stem. At the time, I believed using CY glue to fill gaps in button divots was an acceptable practice. After doing so and trying to smoke it, I changed my mind. The glue changes color quickly and clenching it is like clenching glass, as it’s much harder than acrylic. So the stem restoration was a failure. I had another, later stem which I pressed into service and this pipe and I have been extremely close ever since.
DeLuxe 4s Rusticated (Early Republic)
I can’t remember where I found this, but I had never seen a rusticated DeLuxe System before, let alone one in shape 4. It’s a fabulous smoker. The original impressed Ps that I have seen from the 1950s and 60s have all been brass. As there are now a number of Pete Geeks specializing in earlier pipes, if you have seen one in aluminum that can be documented before this, do let me know in the comments.
Dunmore Premier Unmounted 73, Smooth and Rustic (Late Republic)
The Dunmore Premier Systems were K&P’s attempt to go “mod” in the 1970s. The traditional tenon-mortise fit wasn’t really a problem for System smoking as the company had been making “Sub-Systems” bent pipes with reservoirs for decades at that point. The partially-flattened shank was the problem. For some shapes the flattening decreased the available space for the reservoir, resulting in a System that couldn’t function properly (like the 5 bent dublin). Even for the 73 (shape 4) shown here the well was a bit inadequate. Nevertheless, as examples of Paddy Larrigan’s design work and with their wide-shouldered army mounts, they’re an essential part of Shape 4’s story. The 73 smooth surfaces on eBay at least annually, although I’ve only seen the rustic twice.
Centenary 4S, HM 1975, (Late Republic)
There are several Pete Geeks who collect Centenary pipes, and with good reason: these pipes are high grades made at the pinnacle of K&P’s engineering prowess in 1975. Despite losing its pater familias Harry Kapp a few years previous, the company was still expanding, still improving and raising the bar for itself. All the Centenary pipes feature this striking contrast stain with an intense black underneath showing an explosion of extraordinary grain and the distinctive warm walnut on top, a combination never used apart from the Centenary. Most Centenaries were numbered according to the number of quality bowls on hand, some less than 10, some more than 80. Only twelve shape 4 pipes were made, numbered 0 through 11.
This pipe, stamped 0/11, was on the site of “Briar Blues” Mike Glukler, back when he did business that way. As I was born on the 11th of the month, I took it for a sign that the pipe was meant for me. While I photographed it with a wear-gap, it actually has none. Mike didn’t know what to do with it because of the closed gap and was only asking $100. It turns out the mortise chamfering was done by a professional, obviously for one of the Pete Geeks of old who believed that, over time, the gap should really disappear. (It actually doesn’t, but that’s a whole ’nuther story.) It is one of my Top 5 smoking Petes. The tenon extension, remarkably, doesn’t dip down into the reservoir, which I was afraid it might. But I have wondered if that extra length isn’t one of the reasons the pipe smokes so well.
Luciano Lama XL339 & 4S Book Set, HM 1984 (Late Republic)
Italian trade union spokesman and politician Luciano Lama (1921-1996) was a hugely influential labor spokesperson and politician in Italy. He fought against the Nazis during WWII and was later General Secretary of Italian General Confederation of Labor (1970-86). He was certainly the most important politician to smoke a Peterson, ever. Lama was rarely seen in public without a 4S clenched between his teeth.
In 1984, Lubinski.it had Paddy Larrigan & Co. at K&P make a few super high-grade Book-Case sets to honor Lama featuring a 4S and an XL339 Briar band. In 2010 one of these was available online in Italy. If I remember, it was $800. Too much for me at the time, but I did get these photos. The grain on these pipes is absolutely unreal.
Supreme Gold Mount 4s Paisley, HM 1979 (Late Republic)
It was quite by accident that I came across this Supreme Paisley 4S while trawling the Italian web sites a few years ago. The owner of the shop said it had just been calmly sitting there since 1979, waiting for me. I believed him. I also believe in Santa Claus and that tireless Irish Elves work year-around in their Deargrange Workshop to make sure Pete Geeks all over the globe have a good Christmas, not to mention the other 364 days of the year.
XL339 Straight Grain (Late Republic)
This pipe came to me through the Pete Geek community when a friend of a friend said, “I think Mark would be interested in that pipe!” It’s always a jolt of joy when things like this happen, whether to myself or another. I enjoy keeping on the lookout for a particular pipe or shape for someone and if spotting it, being able to forward that information.
Dublin with Briar Circle System 4S, HM 1985 (Late Republic)
The special high-grade Dublin with a Briar Circle (1984-98) was a Paddy Larrigan design, as he individually drilled the briar and placed the acrylic center with its aluminum P in the briar, then drilled the stem and placed the whole unit in it. I haven’t seen more than a dozen Briar Circle Systems. If someone gets hold of one and doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’ll ripple the acrylic by buffing the stem at too high a speed.
Connemara Premier 309 Pebble Rustic, HM 1987 (Late Republic)
Here’s another rarity, the amazing Connemara System, a Premier grade that was issued from c. 1987 to c. 1998 and features Pebble Grain rustication. I don’t remember if the original stem was missing or just a wreck, I’m just glade to have had a replacement on hand. Among the various System lines, I’ve always thought of the Connemara as the finest rusticated System K&P has ever produced. While I love the current technique, I would love to see this type of rustication return.
Premier 309 NAP, HM 2010 (Dublin)
When we did the NAP project a few years ago, I knew I wanted a 309 with the NAP stem. Premiers are always the rarest kind of System, and this one must have been from the final batch of Premiers in 2010. It was one of 17 NAP mouthpieces Silver Gray made for the vetting group. She chose the rod for this one herself.
Derry Rustic XL339 (Dublin)
When the Derry Rustics first appeared in 2016, most Pete Geeks knew they were something very special. This release was created to utilize the final bowls from many of the B shapes. I hunted for a long time for the XL339 and when I found it was elated. Being an army mount fishtail, I had difficulties smoking it, being a chuffer and a virginia smoker. In a moment of low funds, I let it go to make room for other pipes. How I regret that now! Since that time I’ve learned how to chamfer a tenon and learned the art of a slow cadence, a crucial skill for virginia smokers like myself. While I might not pick it up frequently, I’m sure I would smoke it just for its rarity and as the Last Great standard release in the history of 4 Shape.
POY 2021 4AB Rustic (Laudisi)
Like the NAP, the 4AB was a cherished dream of mine for good many years. There were even a few like myself who modified existing tapered stems to create a home made 4AB for themselves. No need to extol its virtues, as those who companion this pipe will readily tell you that the drilling is flawless, the P-Lip button perfect and the slightly-longer stem seeming to make everything just a little bit cooler. I chose the Rustic to show here because this is the first and only time shape 4 will be dressed in the Bros. Blaszczak rustication technique. The pipe seems made for it.
“Like the 309” was the last song Johnny Cash wrote before his death. It was apparently inspired by Red Sovine’s “Phantom 309” about a truck driver . . . It’s unfortunate that we don’t bury folks in the US much anymore but cremate them, because if burying was still the custom, I’d ask to be buried with a 309 in my shirt pocket. As it is, maybe somebody can at least dump a few ashes from a good virginia tobacco in with mine.
Most folks don’t know Johnny took up a pipe the last few years of his life, nor are they aware of the original lyrics from his song, which were changed before he recorded it:
It should be a while before I see Doctor Death
So, it would sure would be nice if I could get my breath
Well, I’m not the cryin’, nor the whinin’ kind
So jes’ let me smoke my good ol’ 309, yeah my 309, yeah my 309,
Put me in a box with my 309 . . .
*By the way, if you’re wondering why I never capitalize pipe names like “oom paul” or “rhodesian,” it’s because these are common and not proper nouns. The same rule applies to tobaccos, as a matter of fact. While Virginia is a proper noun, naming a place, virginia is actually the correct usage for a type of tobacco.
** Email 5/22/16.
In the Rear View Mirror
Stephano Zerbi, CPG, kindly forwarded me this lovely photo of his X220 Supreme Gold Mount, HM 1977: