310. A Short History of the Peterson Calabash Briar With A Nod to Mr. Holmes

Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh!
A Happy Samhain / Halloween to all!

Paul Combs, CPG, sends everyone his greetings with this wonderful pumpkin with the Irish Trinity Knot which he carved. Below it, his 1898 shape 4 with the House Pipe stem!


Most of us think of the K&P shape 5b and its big brother the XL5b (or XL11 in the SH line) as the beginning and end of Kapp & Peterson’s calabash briar catalog. The shape was designed by Paddy Larrigan, Peterson’s master craftsman, around 1984 to replace his c. 1979 bent dublin System and Classic Range shape 5a (a true bent dublin), which didn’t carry enough weight in the System shank version for a proper reservoir. As good a pipe as the 5a is, the 5b has gone on to become a standard in the System and Classic ranges.

The XL305 with its first-iteration wide-shoulder stem, c. 1985 I like the the way the shoulders of the stem are scaled to the shank, just a bit larger in diameter in fact.

If you’ve companioned the 5, XL5, XL305 or XL315 (its US designation for many years) or XL11, you know why it’s so popular: the flared rim makes it extraordinarily easy to grasp. Unlike so many shapes which are visually pleasing but difficult to hold, this one’s a joy.

The SH XL11 first appeared as a solo commemorative in 1987 with a saddle stem, giving it a bit more of the calabash look. The saddle stem had disappeared by the mid-1990s.

Looking for another hit like the Mark Twain commemorative, someone at K&P noticed that 1987 was the centenary of Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, the first Holmes novel. The light bulb went off. That’s one way to tell the story. Another way might be that when Larrigan redesigned shape 5 in 1984 the company was already thinking about using the 5b calabash shape for the upcoming special release.

Like the MT and the 4AB, it turns out the SH Original has a predecessor in the catalog. Whether or not Paddy Larrigan was aware of it or not is anyone’s guess, although numbering among his contemporaries at the factory were a number of other highly-skilled craftsmen. It may be that one of them or Larrigan himself remembered the old 3312, a shape I’d never seen before its appearance at Clayton’s Pipe Shop not long ago.

3312: Bent dublin? Swan neck dublin? Calabash? Gorgeous.

We were fortunate that fellow Pete Geek Lance Dahl acquired the pipe so that we could learn a bit more about it. Lance told me he would call the shape ia bent dublin or swan neck dublin. Whatever we call it, it’s one of those shapes that is fairly jaw-dropping, not least because it’s so very rarely seen in contemporary shapes.

The 3000 shape group, at least based on what we know at present, seems to date to the Irish Free State era (1922-1937) or perhaps from the end of the Patent to the middle of the IFS. The earliest illustrations I’ve seen appear in the Phillip Weiss & Söhne trifold brochure from the mid-1920s, represented by a number of small, intricate paneled shapes (some of these can be seen in post #250). The group isn’t seen at all in the 1937 catalog, although there were three or four 3000s in the 1939 Rogers Imports catalog and one or two in the the 1941 and 1942 George Yale catalogs.

But what matters this morning is the incredible 3312. Lance’s pipe has the Rogers Import shamrock stamp above the nickel-mount marks, placing it as we’d think in the mid-1930s.

Lance also took some of the measurements of the pipe, which help us grasp its scale much better than by visuals alone.

The mortise-tenon work is extremely good. Notice the beveling chamfers on the tenon and mortise faces, as well as the articulated step-down of the tenon extension. You know this is a well-engineered pipe.

For its day, the 3312 with its 19.65 diameter chamber would have been considered among the larger shapes.

Select Measurements & Other Details

Era: Irish Free State, c. 1925-1930
Length: 130.72 mm / 5.14 in
Bowl Height: 48.04 mm / 1.89 in
Chamber Diameter: 19.65 mm / .77 in
Outside Diameter: 33.86 mm / 1.33 in
Stem Material: P-Lip Vulcanite
Shape: Calabash or Swan Neck Bent Dublin


Behind the 3312 there is one more briar calabash in K&P’s catalog, which might even be the same shape. It’s found in the 1910-11 Hudson’s Bay catalog. Here’s a detail with several Petes that deserve a closer look:

Hudson’s Bay Co., 1910-1911

This is one of the earliest non-K&P charts to have surfaced. The drawings seem to have been done in-house. Hudson’s Bay Company, like Genin, Trudeau & Cie, was one of the Amazons of its day, originally established in 1652 and still in operation today. While primarily a department store by 1910, the company also did a brisk mail-order business.

The copy-writer obviously lost a line or two somewhere, but take a look at the T1503 and T1512 (above). The copy for the T1503 reads “The Calabash Style Briar Pipe, Peterson patent, sterling mount, push stem, smart appearance. Price . . . $1.25.” The T1512 reads “The Africana Favorite, Calabash style briar pipe, sterling mounted with amber screw stem, in case. Price . . . $5.25.” The T1512 is obviously the closest-looking to the 3312. It’s hard to tell whether these are the same bowls from a pen-and-ink drawing like this. I suspect they are, but who knows? More interesting to me is whether this shape is what would later be numbered the 3312. Again, I think it certainly could be, but that’ just my guess.

William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes (1916, Essanay films)

If K&P is looking for a new SH shape, they need look no longer. Their past has caught up with them. Again.


Many thanks to Lance Dahl for sharing the amazing 3312 with us
Photos courtesy Lance Dahl, Clayton’s Pipe Shop, Smokingpipes.com & Chas. Mundungus






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