To begin in medias res, it’s all Marc Dominguez’s fault. If he hadn’t said he had not one but two B42 / Darwin Premiers and he was bringing them to the Texas Pipe Show last October, then you wouldn’t be staring at your screen wondering whether or not to monkey around with this or skip on to something else. When I met him,Mark quite uncontrite about the whole thing, telling me I could have either one, $150. My choice. He would keep the other. What could I do? What would you have done? It was merely a matter, as Lord Nelson told Lucky Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander, of choosing the lesser of two weevils.
I also blame K&P for issuing the B42 in the Christmas 2022 copper spigot. It was a work of high art, and without it, I wouldn’t have had the original release of the Darwin on my mind when Marc mentioned his pipes.
As Truett Smith, SPC’s Merchandizing Manager, recalls, “In 2009, Peterson released the Darwin B42 shape in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The English naturalist’s seminal work was published in 1859, just 16 years before another Charles would join Fredrick Kapp in founding the longest-standing pipe manufacturer in the world: Kapp & Peterson.”
Bringing home Marc’s B42 (HM “A” for 2011), I was amazed to see it had a fishtail mouthpiece with an aluminum tenon extension. Where was I during the pipe show? Somewhere else, obviously. The fishtail, of course, is all the proof we ever need that the Evil Empire can penetrate even the hallowed halls of the Kapp & Peterson factory floor from time to time:
I shipped the pipe overseas to the Pete Geek axis mundi where it came under the skilled hands of Austin Quinlan, one of the great craftsmen in the factory. Here it is after his P-Lip tune-up:
B42 Premier, HM 2011
While I was waiting (far too impatiently) for the return of the Premier, a slightly weather-worn Darwin De Luxe (HM “G” for 2017) came up on eBay, and without quite knowing what my hands were doing, found I’d ordered it as a make-do kind of pipe while awaiting the Premier:
The DeLuxe Natural B42, HM 2017, after a bit of a clean up
At this point I should confess these are not the first B42s to grace my rotation. In point of fact, these are Nos. 4 and 5. (We’re getting close to the doleful part of this memoir and you may want to have a tissue close at hand for what follows.)
My wife and I made our first Peterson Pilgrimage in 2009, the year the Darwin was released. I have no recollection of having seen it in Grafton Street or at the factory or even thought about it. When it did finally register on Irwin’s fuzzy gray cells, I was a bit flummoxed, or to use the psychiatric term from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-T5R)—WTF??! I couldn’t figure it out, the shape seemed so… wonky (another DSM term). It reminded me of some kind of dinosaur egg. I couldn’t figure out how it could have been turned on a lathe.
Monty’s “Full Darwin” Strut card
Two years later, reading theologian Barbara Taylor Brown’s The Luminous Web and children’s author Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, I had Charles Darwin in my thoughts, and suffering acutely from PPAD, I recalled K&P’s Darwin commemorative pipe.
My journal from April 26th records: “I got interested in the Peterson Darwin System this week, and lo & behold—there aren’t any to be had! There never were a lot here in the States to begin with, although I remember a few Standards at Cupojoes last year or the year before. All the ones they got in at Smokingpipes were, inexplicably, with fishtail lips—no Standard smooths whatsoever. Two Premier / Fishtails, and three Standard Rustics / Fishtails. Yuck. Whoever heard of a System pipe with a fishtail?”
I was learning about the great Italian Peterson retailers at this time and discovered a smooth Darwin from AlPascia (which used to stock a fabulous selection of Petes):
I have always loved AlPascia’s in-depth photography because it allows you to really stop and study a pipe’s design aesthetic. The didn’t have great grain but it did have a sand pit inside the chamber and promptly burned out on me. (If you recall, I held the Guinness Book of World Records for most burnouts in the 2010s.) Do notice that even this Standard B42 bears the DARWIN stamp!
Fortunately, Angela Fortune, the Grand Lady of Peterson for so many years, rescued me with a replacement. The grain fell off the ugly tree and hit all the branches on the way down, but it was Fred Hannah’s magic briar and smoked so incredibly well that, in my uninformed way, I thought I’d trade up to a Premier if ever I found one. At the time I didn’t understand it wasn’t the chamber or the shape but the briar+engineering of the pipe+K&P’s Irish Sidhe (fairy) dust.
[Aside. I so admire Total Collectors and Total Smokers; that is, collectors who buy pipes and don’t sell them off and smokers who don’t give a fig about collecting and just smoke whatever lies at hand. I’m one of the unfortunate “in-betweeners” who trades off unwanted and/or unsmoked pipes for better pipes. It’s a liability.]
So I got the Premier Darwin. I remember distinctly standing in the parking lot at the school where I taught talking to the salesman at Cupojoes. He wasn’t impressed with the grain on the pipe and tried to dissaude me from buying it, which I thought was strange. I did buy it and it turned out to be quite pretty. Unfortunately it wasn’t the magic briar of the Standard, which I’d already sold to pay for it with. Lesson learned: If you have a magic briar, no matter how ugly, treasure it.
I have no idea what prompted K&P to issue the Darwin. Usually there’s an Irish connection in their commemoratives. As I noted in the book (p. 189), “It’s the only System shape to be named after a great historical figure; the first new System shape since Paddy Larrigan’s 304 / 306 Flat Bottoms of 1992; the largest of the System pipes (aside from the Handmade); and the only Peterson with no Irish backstory. It is perhaps also important to note that its De Luxe version sports a nostalgic tapered, or B stem.” The hand feel of this shape, I might add, is amazingly plump and full. The only other like it in my experience is the Classic Range 68.
There’s also an irony about the pipe in a footnote which I deleted from the book before publication: “We can be grateful that Peterson obviously didn’t know about the racist remark Darwin made regarding the Irish on p. 174 of Volume 1 (chapter 5) of Descent of Man (London: John Murray, 1871), because the pipe is a wonderful addition to the System lineup.” You can look the remark up for yourself. In the meantime, we can be grateful that even though Darwin thought poorly of the Irish, the Irish didn’t reciprocate his feeling.
And that brings us back to the present. Since acquiring the new B42s, I’ve become intrigued about the changes the shape has undergone. This happens more frequently than we all suppose, of course, but there are definitely at least two B42 bowls, and maybe three. But before opening that barrel of monkeys, let’s be clear about the shape. This is one of those eureka moments that occasionally happens to me. I’d just received a lovely 1978 sterling army and as often pipes do, it settled on my desk in front of my keyboard. Looking at it day after day the voltage began to increase until the light bulb finally came on:
In its 2009 release, the Darwin / B42 bowl is taken from the classic Peterson apple. Bent and super-sized. As you may quibble with me, let me present the the expert opinion of SPC’s Truett Smith: “The B42 is a robust bent Apple, displaying an Author-like substance through the shank and transition that exemplifies Peterson’s signature aesthetic — a perfect homage, to both Charles Darwin and Charles Peterson himself” (emphasis added).
John’s DARWIN Natural
Tony Whelan, K&P’s factory manager at the time, told me the 2009 Darwin bore two stamps: the DARWIN on the obverse and B42 on the reverse. Prof. John Schantz sent me a detail photo of the DARWIN stamp which I pass along for purposes of documentation. I don’t know how long K&P stamped their DARWINS. I don’t believe they still use it, but I could be mistaken.
Two Premiers, one from 2011 (left) and the other from 2012 (right).
Note the very different stem bends!
The Premiers from the early years sometimes had a chin-hanger bend, like the 2011 Premier on the left in the photo above, but more often had a reasonable bend like the 2012 Premier seen on the right. The grain was often incredible and quite a few DARWIN Naturals and De Luxe Naturals were released.
Here’s another evolutionary conundrum for you. I won’t generalize from such insufficient data, but neither my Natural Deluxe B42 nor John’s Natural Darwin B42 has a reservoir. There is, instead, the type of mortise that allows the aluminum tenon extension ample space to operate.
Two Views of the B42: John’s Darwin Natural (left) and my Deluxe Natural (right)
This type of mortise design was typical on Classic Range Sub-Systems with their single or double step-down tenons (whether of bone or molded). It’s also seen to brilliant effect on the P-Lip Celebration pipe from 1998 (seen on p. 188 in the book). By brilliant I meant that, like the P-Lip X61, the Deluxe Darwin is a superb smoking instrument and so are those early Petes with similar tenon / mortise constructions.
I’m interested in knowing whether any Pete Geeks companion a Deluxe Darwin / B42 and if so, whether their pipes have reservoirs or not. Jonathan Fields, factory manager at K&P, tells me that “any Darwin that is a System should have a reservoir,” but whether that includes every B42 System ever made or only those currently made, I don’t know. The “no reservoir” conundrum leads me to the final chapter of this overlong tale: the three versions of the Darwin / B42.
B42a. The first version or “B42a” hereafter, appeared in 2009 as the DARWIN and—if I have the story from Tony Whelan, Jr. correct—and the B42 Deluxe stamp was also used simultaneously. Whether this is so or not I’d need someone to document with a hallmarked pipe.
To call it a bent apple sits quite well with me, given the design connection to K&P’s great apple shapes of the past (if not the present). How better to build on Peterson design language than take a classic Peterson bowl and give it a bend, as it were? I don’t know who else produces what actually resembles a really good apple—Former comes quite close, but who else? Not Dunhill, and certainly not American artisan pipes that commonly go by that name.
B42b. The B42b seems to have been launched in late 2019 or early 2020. In any event, it first caught my eye in the launch of the Standard System Dark in March 2020:
Standard System Dark B42b, w/ acrylic P-Lip
Mark Hunt CPG (“Nevatitude”) sent me photos of his B42b, which from the stain preceded the “Dark System”:
Mark Hunt’s B42b
The B42b is something of a hybrid. Not quite an apple, but not quite a brandy, either. Still, of course, massive and strong in good Peterson fashion. possessing blocky, hard-chinned, pugilistic look to them which I quite like. (“What happens in Pete Club stays in Pete Club.”)
I am not sure whether this 2021 Halloween System B42 is from the same bag of stummels or not. I suspect so, but this was a sample pipe and I didn’t take a true flank photograph:
B42b, Halloween System 2021
B42c. The current Darwin, which I’m calling the B42c for now, is a stout brandy, no doubt about it. In April of 2020 the Dark Smooth Deluxe, which may be the first appearance of the new shape. If I’d seen this one, I’m sure my trigger finger would’ve hit the BUY NOW button before my brain had a chance to think about it, as this is the type of Peterson grain that has always appealed to me:
B42c DeLuxe Dark, 2020
The “brandy lines” are easiest to see in the 2022 Christmas Spigot pictured at the top of the post but are readily seen in both the De Luxe Dark above and the wonderful Supreme blast below, which was released not many months ago (if this is your pipe, give me a shout out, because we talked about it when you got it!):
Like the earlier B42s, the B42c is a great handful, occupying the same space but in a different form and simply a fantastic, muscular example of the System. Charles Peterson would have been proud of it, I’m sure. Whether or not there are only two versions of the B42—the apple and the brandy—or a middle hybrid, I leave up to you. As my friend Stubbs told me, “It’s not just monkey business, it’s messing with pipes, you know. And that’s always a win-win scenario.”
Many thanks to
Prof. John Schantz, CPG,
Mark Hunt, CPG,
Jonathan Fields at K&P
Austin Quinlan at K&P
Select photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com