Contributed by Gene Umberger
On my way to find something else not long ago I stumbled across George O’Belmitto’s article “Wally Frank: Tobacconist to America” in The Agricultural & Mechanical Gazette (4, No. 1, p5–7), produced by Neil Murray in Michigan from 1988 to 1997.* He makes this statement: “As the effects from the war faded into the past, briar again began to find its way into the pipe factories. Now Wally Frank began to sell ‘seconds’ from Europe’s major pipe factories under his own names. For example, the ‘Scotland Yard’ was a Peterson second, the ‘M.R.C. Royale’ was a GBD second, and the ‘Thornycroft Collectors Set’ was a BBB second” (p. 6). I don’t know O’Belmitto’s source of information, but thought I’d present this case to the Pete Geek sleuths.**
Nigel Bruce as Watson, Dressed to Kill (1947)
Mark: The best answer will be awarded the newly-minted Genuine No Prize merit badge or CPG if not already earned. I will post the winner and a debriefing in next week’s post. Watson, the game is afoot.
Sifting the Evidence
Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard in The Spider Woman (1943)
(Do note the Peterson 4AB as well as the Peterson 307, minus its ferrule, in the pipe rack)
It’s worth mentioning that in my 1946 issues of Pipe Lore, there’s no ad for the Scotland Yard. The recent conclusion of the war, of course, meant that there were slim pickings for briar pipes in any event.
The first ad for the Peterson Scotland Yard appeared in the Christmas Issue of Pipe Lore: A Gentleman’s Magazine (on the front cover: “This is the Last Issue of Pipe Lore for 1947”). This is the typical larger format annual put out by Wally Frank. I suspect that 1947 might have been the first year the Peterson pipe appeared as Scotland Yard.
The Scotland Yard is listed in 1948 Pipe Smoker’s Catalog, but not in any of the Pipe Lore catalogs I have for that year.
As to prices you see in Pipe Lore, low prices and slashing prices are not uncommon. While this seems to be the first ad, notice there’s already a reduction in price from $3.50 to $1.79 in the 1947 ad. Is this simply an indication that Wally Frank simply wanted to move the remainder of the stock, or had it had been offered in the catalog earlier in that same year at full price? Or that he started off ‘claiming’ a reduction in price?
In 1949, the the Scotland Yard is listed in the Wally Frank New Complete Edition Pipe and Tobacco Catalog. Also shown above is the ad from Pipe Lore ‘Autumn is Pipe Smoking Time’ (Vol. 22, 1949, No. 2).
The Scotland Yard is next seen on the back cover of the 1950 Pipe Lore Sportsman’s Special (Vol. 23, No. 4).
In late 1949 or early 1951 the New Complete 1951 Pipe and Tobacco Catalog appeared.
The last appearance is in color, from the Special Christmas Edition Pipe Smoker’s Annual, undated, which I have tentatively dated c. 1961–1965.
“You know my methods, Watson. Apply them.”
Basil Rathbone as Holmes in Dressed to Kill (1947)
So, dear reader, what do you think? Is the Scotland Yard a genuine Peterson or is it a clone?
Just in time for this post, new Pete gear—branded silver-polishing clothes and two great Sherlockian leather accessories, the loop-style leather pipe stand now in oxblood and an octagonal humidor with a pewter handle of the famous detective. Strongly recommended! For more information, go to SPC’s Peterson Accessories page. I haven’t seen the humidor in person nor the polishing clothes, but they look great. The leather loop SH is a must-have for collectors of these pipe stands (like me).
Brian Heydn sporting Larry Gosser’s PETE GEEK T-Shirt
Pete Geek T-Shirts. There are still two XL Pete Geek T-shirts available! 100% cotton in the Gilden Dryblend. If you’re interested, they’re $28 each, including postage. PayPal only. Send query to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pete Geek Zippo. Last call for the Zippo Pete Geek commemorative lighter! Two remaining. PayPal, 44.95 US delivery or $64.95 International (FedEx). Send query to email@example.com.
Pete Geek poster. The posters have arrived and the printer did an outstanding job on Brian’s artwork. There’s one poster left, $25 US or $45 International. Send query to firstname.lastname@example.org. They’ll be mailing out early in the week!
PPN2 CPG 2023 Pipe. So, the response was insane last week. There are only 4 slots left of the 90 allotted to us! I did get confirmation from K&P on one crucial design element that I really, really wanted—and they can / will do it, so I’m pumped. If you want to get in the queue, fill out the GOOGLE FORM. There will be folks who drop out for one reason or another, so if you think you’ll be interested when the time comes, feel free to fill out the form. We’ve already had enough interest to fill the minimum needed for the 9mm batch.
Chicago Pete Geek Meet. No time and place yet for our meet, but no worries. I’m sure I’ll have it for next week’s post. If you’re attending, be sure to bring some Show & Tell.
*Per Pipedia.org: Neil Murray, also known as “Professor Stanwell Briar,” was the publisher and creative force behind the Agricultural and Mechanical Gazette, a bimonthly tabloid published privately that began in November 1988 and lasted until 1997 (Vol. 9, Issue 1). Steampunk….
**As to George L. O’Belmitto, Jr., I corresponded with him many years ago. My last letter from him dated February 5, 1991. He had opened what sounded like an impressive smoke shop in Boulder, CO, in 1990. I recently tracked him down online—he died at age 36 in 1993.
I knew George fairly well both in person and through correspondence. I still have a letter from his parents informing me that he had passed away and returning a check I had sent him for a couple of pipes he’d sent me. They found the check in his personal effects after he died, and weren’t sure if he’d sent me the pipes or not. He was very overweight, and I believe he died from complications of diabetes. He was a good guy and extremely knowledgeable.
Thanks, Chris, for this insight. We lost a great pipeman.
Hi Mark, great question! To my untrained eye, these look more like a WDC Wellington to me. The shoulder on the stem, the flatter shank cap, the length of the lip, and the Imported Briar stamp all say WDC to me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Imported Briar on any Pete but it’s definitely on WDCs. A WorthPoint search of “Scotland Yard pipe” yields quite a few listings that look very much like WDC. Also, the bowl shaping doesn’t say Peterson to me. Additionally, the lack of COM makes me think not Peterson. My unofficial guess is WDC… Read more »
James, I’m in agreement with you.
Although my conclusion is less Holmesian, ie non-deductive, my gut-feeling (no doubt influenced by thousands of images I’ve seen and pipes I’ve held) is WDC for sure.
Waiting now, on tender hooks, for Mark’s reveal next week!
I also think it looks like a WDC. I’ve got a really big WDC Wellington (the bowl is almost as large as a Peterson House pipe, and it’s longer overall), and also a KB&B-made Yellowbowl that’s nearly identical to the WDC. This looks much more like those pipes than a Peterson.
I would also guess WDC. The vulcanite stem is only lightly oxidized in the “before” pictures. I don’t care what anybody says, WDC vulcanite is superior in that respect to Peterson’s. Hell, my nearly new Peterson Natural Deluxe Classic 53 has more oxidation on the bit than the old pipe shown here. It has never sat outside it’s sock and box except for the few days I let the bowl dry after smoking. I have even used Stem Oil on it after each smoke, and it has had oxidation right at the button since the very first smoke😖. All my… Read more »
“No, it’s not a Genuine Peterson, it’s a clone” Takes puff from Peterson and slips lighter back into pocket. I’m glad you’re all here for my conclusions. “That’s my deduction Watson and would be surprised if it were.” here’s why…Peterson didn’t call their pipe “patented” for nothing. The details that make a Peterson patented system is off on this pipe including the p-lip. I also doubt K&P would allow their treasured patented P-lip to be called anything but that. That would be business and branding suicide. There are other companies out there with their copy of the “dry” system pipe,… Read more »
Reminds me of the current Erin Go Bragh pipe situation (Peterson clones). I’m gong to also cast my vote that these are clones. My question is: where did Wally Frank source these pipes?
I agree with other commenters that it reminds me of a Wellington. It’s an interesting bowl shape, I’m undecided as to whether I like it or not… Regardless, thank you for yet another intriguing article. I appreciate all the work that went in to sourcing and sharing those old catalogues! Regards, Dan
I cannot credit the late Mr. O’Belmitto’s assertion that the “Scotland Yard” by Wally Frank was produced by Peterson. I expect it was made in New York or New Jersey, by the same US craftsmen who produced the essentially identical WDC Wellington and Kaywoodie Chesterfield pipes. The most telling clue indicating US production is the “imported briar” stamp on the shank. Also, the stem shape (“hunting style stag bit”) is not one that Peterson used until decades later, when it acquired the Laxey company. I find the topic interesting, and thank Mark (and Mr. Umberger) for proposing the question.
The pipe is a Peterson clone. Frank certainly tried to make it appear to be a Peterson product by the wording in the ad and this maybe where the idea that they were Peterson seconds began. The advertising copy states that the pipe is “the most popular style curved stem pipe ever made. It has been a favorite for over fifty years.” The copy then goes to explain the reason for it being so popular is the moisture reservoir. A pipe with an over fifty year history in 1947 would put its beginning somewhere prior to 1897, placing it in… Read more »
Clearly a knock off by W. Frank who was famous for this kind of advertising hype, “made famous for renowned detectives of Scotland Yard”, puuleese. Wellington size bowl, plip wrong size, larger collar on the stem than Peterson ever would have done and finally “imported briar”, always a “give away”. Always hated the Wellington they were obviously a cheap knockoff of the real deal. Plus the ones I always saw were heavily lacquered bowls, odious,
I disagree with the “cheap knockoff” description of WDC pipes. I have several (not Wellingtons) that make lots of my Peterson’s look like firewood. Not just in grain, but drilling, sterling silver bands, finish, and vulcanite quality. Now, that being said, the WDC well drilling and P-Lips are definite knockoffs. My early WDC’s with the P-Lip shape bit are indistinguishable from a Peterson. The later ones, suck as the Wellington’s P-Lip clones are not even close, most miss the major point of the P-Lip witch has the airway direct the smoke stream straight out rather than up.
Hi John, the “cheap knockoff” reference by me was a criticism only of the Wellington, not the entire Demuth line which actually had a very good reputation in the pipe industry for years.
This is true, there is at least one other series that is junk. It has “painted on” grain. I can’t recall the line name at the moment. I made the mistake of wiping an old cruddy one down with Everclear….poof….and I was left with a bland, no grain, uninteresting piece of wood underneath. I won’t buy anymore WDC’s in that line…they are easy to spot, once you know what to look for.
Dang auto correct… how about which instead of witch…and such instead of suck (that one could have been me on this tiny keypad).
Just a couple more thoughts, notice nowhere in the advertisements is it claimed that the pipes were actually made in Europe and to add insult to injury apparently one of the hypes in a couple of the ads says, “do not mistake these pipes for smaller imitations” possibly a reference the truly holy grail of Peterson systems which were and are available in a large variety of sizes from the tiny 313 to the large Darwin. Again the audacity of using such advertising hype is palpably over the top. The reference to Scotland Yard detectives would have been an insult… Read more »
3 for 2,49 Where can I buy these ?
Good question Martin, what you have to do is find a “wayback machine”, travel back to 1947 and visit one of Wally Frank’s stores in New York city, problem is back in those days the average yearly income for American working people was about 3 thousand bucks a year, It is all relative my friend. In 1974 the pipe shop I worked at in Portland, Oregon was charging about $1.25 for most of our tinned pip)e tobacco and that was the good stuff (Dunhill blends, Balkan Sobranie, Macbaren etc.
Brian Heyden: if you are out there, I was quite impressed with the photo of you and your pipe rack, However my eye immediately gravitated to that beautiful painting above the pipe rack. Can you give us a bit of information on it? Thanks, Doug Owen.