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375. Joseph Stalin’s Peterson Pipes

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.

 

[1] K&P Small P-Lip Billiard w/Oxidized Stem. Unsmoked.

Catalog description:

Smoking pipe.
Form “Dublin”
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.

 

[2] K&P Shape 14, “MADE IN IRELAND,” Unsmoked.

Catalog description:

Smoking pipe.
Alfred Dunhill Shell
Great Britain, London.
First half of the 20th century
Alfred Dunhill Firm
Briar, ebony

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.

 

[3] K&P System Meerschaum? Unsmoked.

Smoking pipe.
Form “Bent Army”
(According to classification of ‘‘Alfred Dunhill Ltd‘‘).
Hungary. 1949.
Ivory, ebony,
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!

 

[4] K&P 999 Author? Unsmoked.

Catalog description:

Smoking pipe.
Great Britain.
First half of the 20th century
Briar or polishing, ebony,
Handmade.

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdVAKdh94bg

 

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 robert.skiver@gmail.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.

 

ARTWORK APPROVED

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.

 

 

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Sébastien Canévet
Sébastien Canévet
7 months ago

Thanks for theses words, Mark. I had no idea this dictator owned also Peterson pipes.

Stan
7 months ago

Thanks for the article, Mark. I saw these pipes in museum. I suggest Stalin didn’t like P-Lip.

Nevaditude
Nevaditude
7 months ago
Reply to  Stan

I concur…more proof he was no thinking man, only evil & heartless. I like how Mark put 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?”

Indeed it is…

Last edited 7 months ago by Nevaditude
Redcoat’s Return
Redcoat’s Return
7 months ago

It was always a confusing mystery that Stalin smoked a pipe at all. All the pipe smokers I ever met…were calm….relaxed…gentle…and peaceful. Even the famous pipe smokers were goodly and wonderful people….with….the…frightening exception…of Stalin ? I suppose its a lesson to us…evil disguise itself…to appear the opposite…the wolf in the fold….but…the greater truth….is that 99.9% of pipe smokers are goodly God-fearing men (and women)…especially a Peterson pipe smoker….they outnumbered the others ones…the 0.1% ? A merry and a festive Holiday to all and I wish you a Holiday Peterson pipe present as well ?????

gwawd
gwawd
7 months ago

A pipe is just a pipe. Everyone smoked a pipe back in the olden days. Good and evil. The way of tobacco consumption doesn’t tell anything about a person.

Rob Guttridge
Rob Guttridge
7 months ago
Reply to  gwawd

Some observers back in those days noticed correlations that were important to their survival. Stable-boys wisely refused to let cigarette-smoking cowhands sleep in the stable with their horses, but found pipe smokers to be “steadier” fellows, more careful in their habits and much less prone to accidental arson. (Source: Reub Long in “The Oregon Desert”)

John Young
7 months ago

Thank you once again for an interesting Sunday morning read. I take great solace in the fact that the Petersons of Stalin remain unsmoked. The word unworthy comes to mind. Well done, comrade.

Mark Y Berman
Mark Y Berman
7 months ago

Old story about Stalin, probably not true, but symptomatic of Stalin’s era: Stalin lost his pipe. His main Internal Security Chief, Beria, was alerted and came to see Stalin. Stalin said his best pipe has disappeared. Beria said that he would immediately start an investigation. Three days later Beria comes to see Stalin, and is surprised to see him smoking the missing pipe. Beria asks him how it was that he had the missing pipe. Stalin laughed and said he had found it under his desk. Beria laughed, and said he had rounded up 500 people to question about the… Read more »

DOUG OWEN
DOUG OWEN
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Y Berman

Mark: great story, and so indicative of the evil he personified.

Paige Simns
Paige Simns
7 months ago

Well done!

J Waugh
J Waugh
7 months ago

The horror is not that he smoked these pipes but that he could enjoy a contemplative moment with one – how comfortable he was in his own skin.

Walt Moultrie
Walt Moultrie
7 months ago

Quite interesting read, I never realized that Stalin owned Petersons, regardless of whether he smoked them or not. He was inarguably a brilliant man, albeit profoundly evil. As uncomfortable a thought as it is, he would be rightly deserving of the moniker “Thinking Man.” Usama bin Ladin famously loved Toyota trucks; that is not an indictment of Toyota, more so a recognition that he was a man who lived in inhospitable environs and Toyota produces reliable vehicles. As the saying goes, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” or in this case, a pipe.

Linwood
Linwood
7 months ago

There use to be printed info out there that stated that Stalin smoked Charatan pipes. Despite his evil, to many countries, he/Russia helped to defeat the Nazis and liberated (or acquired) those countries conquered by the Nazis. Therefore, from outside of Stalin’s terrorization of millions, the Russians were thanked for their efforts. Perhaps thos pipes were sent to Stalin as gifts, that he didn’t care a hoot for.

DOUG OWEN
DOUG OWEN
7 months ago

Even though it is probably irrelevant as to what brands uncle Joe smoked (an unfortunate description of a man who was as close to personifying evil as the devil himself). it is interesting to point out that Stalin often ordered his pipes from that bastion of proletarian equality, Dunhill of London. ( yes, the comment is sarcastic as of course we know that being a champion of the common man and a devoted communist he would never buy a pipe from such a purveyor of upper class nobility as Dunhill LOL). There is evil in the world and as Joe… Read more »

Rob Guttridge
Rob Guttridge
7 months ago

Some thoughts that come to mind:
Correlation is not causation.
Guilt by association has besmirched many an innocent rose.
Folks who need to send gifts or other tribute to powerful and dangerous men are well-advised to send the very finest things they can afford, lest the recipient feel slighted and take offense.

Chris Streeper
Chris Streeper
7 months ago

Another fantastic article… which also serves to prove that, the pipe doesn’t make the man.