Pipe smoking and the problem of evil? It’s not something we normally think of together, especially at this time of year. Unless, of course, we might be observing Advent (a Christian penitential season before the Christmas festival beginning Dec. 25th) or Hannukah (a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BCE). If we’re pipe smokers observing either season, of course, we might very well find our meditations turning to the tragedy and misery of the world. We might–if someone brings it up in a blog post–also wonder how Joseph Stalin could ever pick up (let alone smoke) a pipe without spontaneously combusting. That the Soviet dictator could own a Peterson pipe staggers the imagination. And yet he did.
From an exhibition at the Historical Museum of Moscow in 2014
In “The Peace of St. Nicotine,” a chapter from The X Pipe, I set myself the task of exploring the relationship between pipe smoking and the pursuit of contemplative peace. In doing so, it was necessary to consider the reality of evil pipe smokers. I found no historical figure who so deeply desecrated the gentle art of smoking as Joseph Stalin:
“At the starkest and almost unspeakable level are the crimes against humanity committed by Joseph Stalin during his dictatorship in Soviet Russia, who in public was nearly always photographed with a pipe. The Stalin Museum in his hometown of Gori has several of the pipes the dictator regularly smoked, while the Lenin Museum in Moscow contains over two dozen of his pipes, most given to him on his 70th birthday in 1948. His tastes in pipe tobacco were also wide-ranging, from the Russian oriental cigarettes Herzegovina Flor (he broke open two cigarettes for a bowl) to American classics like Edgeworth Sliced.”
The online Lenin Museum currently has photos of twenty-five pipes that belonged to Stalin. Clicking on the hyperlink will show you the entire group. “Most of them,” the introduction states, “were presented to the head of the Soviet state for the 70th anniversary in 1949.” The descriptions suffer from often being placed below the wrong pipe and translated into English by someone who seems to speak neither Russian or English. Among the twenty-five pipes shown, two are most certainly Petes and two more might be. None of them has been smoked.
 K&P Small P-Lip Billiard w/Oxidized Stem. Unsmoked.
Ireland, Dublin. 1940s
Briar (bird’s eye), ebony, polishing.
Gift to I. V. Stalin for the 70th anniversary of his birth from London District Committee of the Communist Party of England.
Museum’s collection contains two pipes of famous Irish firm “Peterson”. Pipes “Peterson” became world-famous thanks to Arthur Conan Doyle: the hero of his famous detectives Sherlock Holmes smoked a pipe “Peterson”. The smoking pipe is made of a perennial briar with a pattern called “curls” or ” bird’s eye”.
The mistakes in the description are so numerous that they make my head hurt. Instead I’ll just point out the bare chamber and the penciled or inked bowl shape inside it. As there is no photo of the reverse shank stamp, we don’t know whether the pipe was made in Dublin or (after 1937) in London. The light stain and bare chamber indicate a high-grade, but even turning the photo upside down I can’t figure out what the shape number might be.
 K&P Shape 14, “MADE IN IRELAND,” Unsmoked.
Alfred Dunhill Shell
Great Britain, London.
First half of the 20th century
Alfred Dunhill Firm
Gift to I. V. Stalin for the 70th anniversary of his birth. The donator is unknown, but it could be Winston Churchill – a connoisseur and owner of the world’s best smoking pipes. The Museum’s collection contains several exclusive English Dunhill pipes from the category of the most famous pipes at all times: Nice Hill (the highest quality); Shell (the sign of high-quality briar, introduced by Dunhill in 1917, DRR (direct flame); A (briar of the highest quality). These indexes on the pipes indicate the age of the material they were made of. Dunhill pipes are made of perennial briar. Briar is a dense tree-like growth between the root and trunk of a shrub of the heathy family (Erica Arborea), native to the Mediterranean. This material is heat-resistant, hard, durable, resistant to tobacco, and easy to process. In addition, the briar texture is very beautiful.
Old briar is valued: the bush must be at least 50 years old, and if its age is one hundred years, the price increases many times. In a pipe made of a hundred-year-old briar, “souring” is practically excluded; i.e. when smoking resins and other harmful residues are not absorbed by wood, and such products serve extremely long. The brand mark of Dunhill pipes is a white ivory dot on the mouthpiece.
The history of this trademark is prosaic: initially, the dot was placed on the top of the mouthpiece to avoid errors during assembly. Later, it became an inseparable part of “Dunhill” pipe – a peculiar sign of quality.
Shape 14 is first seen on p. 4 of the 1937 catalog, where the number was used for both the Kapet entry-level line and the DeLuxe. This, obviously, was the DeLuxe! My surmise is that this beauty was kept in its chamois-lined pipe sock in its pipe box until it went on display in the museum.
 K&P System Meerschaum? Unsmoked.
Form “Bent Army”
(According to classification of ‘‘Alfred Dunhill Ltd‘‘).
Silver, turning, carving, polishing
Gift to I. V. Stalin for the 70th anniversary of his birth from the Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers’ Party.
Collection of the Museum of V.I. Lenin contains six Hungarian smoking pipes. They are all handmade. Jewelry techniques (processing of ivory, amber and silver) were often used.
Is this a Pete or a Hungarian System clone? The oxidation on the ferrule indicates it is sterling and the stem bend is typical of K&P at this time but the shoulders of the army mount stem are subtly wrong. The P-Lip also looks like a Pete. There’s no bowl stamp, but I’ve never seen a System meerschaum this old, so I don’t know whether there were stamps or not. There’s also no hallmarks or stamps on the ferrule. All in all, it looks very much like a pipe that would’ve been sold in the London of George Orwell’s 1984. A total cluster-cuss!
 K&P 999 Author? Unsmoked.
First half of the 20th century
Briar or polishing, ebony,
This shape also seems just slightly off–like a nightmare from C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. While I’m 99% sure this is the K&P 999 Author shape seen in the 1942 George Yale catalog (see Post #114), again there’s no shank stamp! And while it’s got a perfect P-Lip, the bowl rises just a bit higher than the 999 Authors I’ve companioned or seen. It could be this was simply the way the shape was turned in the London K&P factory or that it was made by K&P as a one-off for the London District Committee.
I don’t know what brands of pipes Stalin actually smoked and don’t really care. Kapp & Peterson’s early history teaches us that to associate a pipe with the politics, morality, or religion of a person or culture is risky at best–as when a System O.2 was purchased as a birthday gift for President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal. The media coverage rocketed the fledgling K&P to international notice but also caused British and anti-Irish critics (often the same people) to falsely accuse K&P with the politics of Kruger, which caused the company no end of trouble in the press. So I get it.
And yet. . . . isn’t it strangely wonderful to pause and reflect that, as far as we know, Joseph Stalin didn’t smoke a Peterson?
Exhibition photos and catalog descriptions
courtesy the Central Museum of V.I. Lenin
Babi Yar (Babyn Yar) is a ravine in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and the site of genocidal massacres carried out by Nazi Germany’s forces during its campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. The first and best documented of the mass shootings took place on 29–30 September 1941, killing some 33,771 Jews, although some 100,00 Jews, Roma and disabled persons would eventually be murdered there. The local population was complicit in the killings, by all accounts, yet the Soviets remained silent about it after the war.
At the site, a Menorah-shaped monument to the Jews murdered at Babi Yar by the Nazis and ignored by the Soviets opened on September 29, 1991. Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his 13th symphony in the early 1960s to help break the silence concerning the atrocity, crafting his libretto from the poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
Мне кажется сейчас – я иудей.
Вот я бреду по древнему Египту.
А вот я, на кресте распятый, гибну,
и до сих пор на мне – следы гвоздей.
I feel myself a Jew.
Here I tread across old Egypt.
Here I die, nailed to the cross.
And even now I bear the scars of it.
A BRILLIANT PETE HOMAGE BY PHIL RIVARA
John M. Young, CPG, recently commissioned artisan Phil Rivara to create a Patent-era “Jap” homage, incorporating a straight System well and brass band. Phil’s pipes are sold at several internet websites as well as by the artisan himself through Instagram and Facebook. You can get a good look at it by clicking on Phil’s YouTube
Catch & Release
Lee Skiver, CPG, has a gorgeous unsmoked POY 2022 he’d like to see placed among the Pete Geeks. “It’s a complete and unsmoked POY 2022 Rusticated (174/925),” he told me, “with box, sock, “chat” brochure and even the stock tag from SPC. $250 shipped to continental US. Anyone interested can reach out to me at email@example.com.
Mark: I companion the Rua version of this 14B Patent homage and can tell you it’s not only gorgeous and great in hand but smokes as well (and maybe better) than the 1980s Mark Twain homage.
Deneen’s final digital artwork for the Pete Geek Mug medallion
Last chance to order a Pete Geek mug!
The order will be submitted Tuesday December 12th, 11am CST.
If you want to order or adjust your order, fill out the Google Form HERE.