I was born from Scot-Irish descendants, raised in North Carolina and grew up around farming. For generations, both sides of my family worked fields of tobacco in the soils of North and South Carolina. I could tell you what it smells like inside of a tobacco barn in the summer. The smell of dried tobacco is sweet and pungent and unforgettable.
My family have always been storytellers and I was raised on tales of hard labor and sticky hands from ‘bacca.’ We’re a musical bunch too. Where three or more of our family gather, there’s usually a piano, banjo or fiddle in the midst. I’ve shelved my guitar for a fiddle these last ten years now.
My father and his father before him smoked pipes and cigars. My dad told me they rolled their own cigars from air-cured burley leaves. “They were strong,” he said and chuckled at the memory. My grandfather favored Prince Albert in his trusty Kaywoodie billiard and I remember that pipe in its pipe rack sitting high on a shelf when I was a child. When my grandfather’s health failed due to pancreatic cancer, my dad would light my grandfather’s pipe as he lay in his hospital bed. Burley blends have a special place in my rotation to this day and I think it must be in my blood.
It was my father who first passed a lit cigar to me while on a motorcycle trip through the Appalachian mountains. “Don’t tell your mother,” he said. I puffed and felt like a man as we shared a special father-to-son moment. Though I’m a descendant of farmers, I couldn’t overcome my black thumb, so I chose to focus on my creative side and pursue a career in graphic design and advertising, something I’ve practiced for the last thirty years. I’m also a freelance writer, a reporter for a local newspaper and at work on my first mystery novel.
About ten years ago I got a job working at the now defunct Pipes & Tobacco Magazine, and it was there I met Chuck Stanion, now at Smokingpipes.com. He smoked a pipe in his office while writing his stories and gave me the advice he gave everyone who inquired about wanting to smoke a pipe: “Start with a corncob,” he said. “It smokes just as well as any pipe and if you don’t like it, you’re out just a few bucks.” So I bought a corncob and an ounce of Irish Creme tobacco from my local tobacconist. I packed it but couldn’t keep it lit. Frustrated, I took it to my father and he packed it for me. He sat it down on the table and it made a ka-chunk noise: “Here,” he said. “That’s how you pack it.” I put it to my lips, memorizing what a proper tug should feel like. I lit it and it stayed lit. It was the first time I felt the pleasure of smoking a pipe and I’ve smoked one almost daily since. It was a proud moment later on when I realized I could smoke a full bowl without relighting.
Having learned pipe smoking agreed with me, I quickly upgraded to a straight no-name pipe I found on eBay. It had a large tobacco leaf carved on the bowl. I didn’t know how to clean it and ruined it when I ran it under water in my sink. I read in a vintage pipe smoking pamphlet that pipes were washable, though it didn’t say how. It never tasted right after I gave it a bath. After that tough lesson, I hunted for a curved stem pipe on eBay and came across an old dirty-looking Peterson System. I won it for 38 dollars and cleaned it up. There was a nice pipe under all that grime and I polished the band to a brilliant shine.
At that point I didn’t know anything about Peterson. But while I enjoyed the pipe’s first bowl of Irish Oak (still my favorite of Peterson blend), I decided to Google the markings on the side of the bowl. It was then I discovered I was smoking the long-discontinued Peterson 308. If I’d known what birdseye grain was at the time, I would’ve been impressed. That 308 started my Peterson collection. Not bad for my first Pete. I still enjoy that 308 Pete, and it’s a great fold-n-stuff flake pipe.
My appreciation for K & P
I have a large number of pipes from a variety of countries. I especially like freehand Danish pipes from Ben Wade, Karl Erik, W.O. Larsen, Preben Holm, and Poul Winslow, but it’s Irish pipes made in Sallynoggin that make up the bulk of my collection. When I hold a Peterson pipe I immediately recognize the quality, thought and craftsmanship that goes into it. There’s evidently a lot of pride goes into their product. Peterson offers a quality pipe that is affordable to a majority of working Americans. If you want more out of your pipe, they have higher grades available. No matter the price point, I feel the family of workers at K&P understand they’re making something that can outlast them and may be considered an heirloom to its owner. I’ve also experienced and appreciate their outstanding customer service.
Highlights of the modern collection
If I want a particular Peterson pipe, I have a knack for finding it. I’m very fortunate to have obtained the majority of what we collectors call “white whales.” One of my prized Peterson possessions is a Molly Malone sandblasted box set. The blast on those rare B-shapes are spectacular and I’ve found more often than not outshine the grain on the smooth version.
POY 2020 PSB
POY 2021 4AB POY
The birth year pipe
Some highlights among my modern day Peterson collection include a sandblasted Peterson 140th model (I call it “the boss’s pipe”), a smooth Peterson Founder’s Edition, a first generation Halloween XL02, a 2020 pipe of the Year PSB and a rusticated Basil Rathbone 4AB / POY 2021.
1971 4S DeLuxe Dutch Billiard
No matter what the pipe’s maker, I feel every piper should have a birth-year pipe in their collection. My Peterson birth-year pipe I keep in rotation is a Peterson Deluxe 4S hallmarked 1971. The grain is incredible. I don’t know the reason, but it has a brass “P” rather than an aluminum one stamped in the stem. I’ve never seen another just like it.
From the Banner: LEFT, top to bottom—Patent Patent 3; [No COM] 307 System 0; MADE IN IRELAND System 308 0 [MII]; IFS Prince Dublin 2 Prince, HM 1924; IFS Bulldog 981 Dublin 3; IFS Dublin 3 949. RIGHT, top to bottom—Éire [No COM] HM 1934 Dublin 0; IFS 568 small apple; MADE IN IRELAND (in a circle) rusticated 357; MADE IN IRELAND (in a circle) Sterling 999 John Bull; MADE IN IRELAND (in a circle) 312.
I collect and restore pipes and have a passion for rescuing vintage Petes. I own a collection of eleven vintage Petes I keep in a Peterson display case separate from my rotation. I have a Patent model among several Pre-Republics, but I’m particularly fond of my IFS (Irish Free State) Petersons and own five of them. I’m fascinated with Ireland’s history during its fight for independence. I cherish these pipes as part of Irish history. I consider myself not just an owner, but a steward of these very historic Irish-made pipes.
Jason’s IFS System 0 is the most interesting to me from a historical point of view. It is hallmarked for 1922, the first year of the Irish Free State (1922-37). As there are no comprehensive known catalogs from 1906 to 1937, this is the first documented System 0 I’ve seen with a sterling band (the 308 seen above dates to sometime after K&P discarded hallmarking in 1938). The 1937 catalog describes this tier with sterling, but in my research since 2011 I have never seen one that didn’t have a nickel band. The grain on his pipe certainly deserves sterling treatment! It’s only been smoked lightly, as evidenced by the light brown color of the bone tenon, which turns dark chocolate quite quickly.
The PSOI collection
I’ve been a member of the Facebook group Pipe Smokers of Ireland (PSOI) since 2019. Every year Peterson’s Director of Sales, Glen Whelan, works with the admin of our group to produce an annual custom-made pipe for our group. I’m fortunate to own most of the pipes from 2015-2021. Each of those pipes are very limited and collecting them in retrospect is very difficult. However, I’m proud to say I’m only missing two.
PSOI 2016 Easter Rising
I have some of the hardest PSOI pipes to acquire, including the 2016 special edition Easter Rising. This pipe celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Easter uprising and I’m proud to own pipe 100. I also own the 2015 sandblasted 606 Christmas pipe with the Royal Irish finish. Only 50 were made and Glen Whelan (also a PSOI member) is on record saying he regrets not buying one. It’s one of my all-time prized possessions and a great smoker. One would have an easier time fighting off a Grizzly bear with a pocket knife than wrestling one of these pipes out of the hands of a PSOI member.
PSOI 2017 Virgin 307
I also own the 2017 virgin finish 307 system pipe and only 30 or so were produced.
Migaloo the White Whale (not a K&P)
My white whale is the first PSOI pipe produced in 2014. It’s the B57, and was limited to only 15 pipes. If anyone out there has one for sale or trade, please contact me.
Pilgrimage to Peterson on Nassau Street, Dublin
In June 2019, my wife and I toured Ireland. It was a dream of mine to visit the Peterson shop in downtown Dublin and I’ve been blessed to make that trip. When I walked in I expected to see all the sliding panels behind the glass filled with pipes, but to my dismay many were missing from their racks. I believe an international pipe show was that week and someone had taken them there to sell. There were some pipes left and it was a pleasure to see many of the shapes and finishes in person.
SH Baskerville from the Nassau Street Shop
I introduced myself to longtime Peterson employee and store salesman Brian Treacey (since retired) and told him I’ve been a Peterson collector for many years. He started to say, “Do you know about our System pipe?” I felt a little dismayed and stopped his sales pitch with a polite wave of my hand. My wife burst out in laughter, jumped into our conversation and said, “Sir! He has more Peterson pipes than you have in your shop!” I did purchase a nice Sherlock Baskerville sandblast and it reminds me fondly of my trip to Dublin.
1998 SPD Shape 268
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but one day I realized I had about four SPD pipes in consecutive years. That’s when the idea first came to me to collect one model from each year. I remember saying to myself, “Jason, that’s crazy. There’s too many pipes. . .”
To Be Continued . . .
Молись за Україну
Pray for Ukraine