317. The Fat Boy in K&P’s Collective Unconscious, 1916—2022
The great depth psychologist Carl Jung—a Peterson System smoker at one point—used the term collective unconscious to refer to ancestral memory and experience, one common to all. As many Pete Geeks know, Kapp & Peterson has always relied on the traditionally-Irish “sit by Nellie” apprenticeship of their craftsmen, which lasts between five and seven years. I have said before that I believe this type of training—no doubt practiced since the company began—confers a kind of apostolic succession on succeeding generations of artisans. I think a case can be made that this kind of training therefore creates a collective memory that is inherited by succeeding generations in their understanding of house style and engineering. Certainly there are a number of instances in company history where an idea disappears and then resurfaces years or even decades later. When Ben Ward from Australia sent me photos of an amazing 1916 Patent a few weeks ago, the thought surfaced again.
An early photo of Jung smoking his Peterson System 02 or 356*
So this morning I want to begin in 1984 (the middle), drop back to 1979, move up to the end (2022) and then circle all the way back to the very beginning (1916) for what is probably just a coincidence or may just possibly be a Jungian thread linking all three.
When Ben emailed me with photos of his amazing 1916 Patent, I had just received one of my “unicorns” or “holy grail” pipes. I first saw it in an undated black & white catalog illustration the late Chuck Wright sent me back around 2011.The photo, I eventually discovered, is from the final Associated Imports Corporation catalog, who was the K&P-owned US distributor from around 1968 until 1982. It’s a fantastic photo and was important at the time for understanding how bowls crossed from System to Classic ranges and changed pipe shape numbers—something which was very much up in the air at the time:
Note the fascinating stems as well as cross-reference pipe shape numbers. There’s two stems here we no longer see, one that looks like a WDC on steroids—the flared-shoulder seen on the 305 in the second row and the 303 in the third. Hold onto that image as I’ll circle back to it.
What I’ve been looking for since seeing this photo, however, is a 302 with the short stem (an AC or army mount / short) seen in the first row. It is positively chubby, a real Fat Boy, in its proportions. But it’s not the original-release stem as I first believed. The original release is found in the 1979 update to the 1975 Orange catalog:
Take a look at the 302 in the bottom of the first row. That’s the first official K&P ephemera photo of the 302. And if you want to see something really rare, take a look at the second row. The 2s at the top has got an F (Facing) mount coupled with the wide-flare army stem. It’s a great look, I think. The Premier sandblast (second down in the second row) and the Standard sandblast (third down, second row) have the same wide flare stem. Take a look also at the width of the tenon connection to the mortise!
A pipe’s aesthetic is comprised of multiple elements, of course, but when dealing with the System, the balance between stem and bowl is crucial. If the visual weight of the stem is insufficient to balance the bowl, the whole comes off as imbalanced. This is readily seen—in my opinion—in a number of Dublin-era and later Systems where vulcanite or acrylic stem replacements have been made altering the visual balance and making a poor show when compared to the original design.
The first version of the 302 is seen above in a recent photo from a Ukrainian eBay dealer. Ponder the aesthetic of the squat ball shape with the angles of the stem. It’s like gravity is pushing the pull down while the angular stem is thrust upward with great force. To me this is extremely masculine, martial in fact, delivering the muscularity we’re accustomed to in much of K&P design language. It’s the kind of pipe a really tough guy smokes. I suspect it will part any crowd, separate the men from the boys, keep the puppies on the porch and carries its own Lethal Weapon certificate. It’s medieval as in “Don’t make me get medieval on you.” I was the steward of two of these “first editions” for many years, a SPECIAL Standard System and the Dunmore 70 version. It was true I could go anywhere at night without fear of reprisals, but machismo like this comes with a price and eventually I had to outsource them to younger, weaker men who needed the help.
Enter the “second edition,” c. 1982. Now this is a shape I can relax with. It’s fat, it’s chubby, it’s friendly. You can tell by looking that it has jokes to tell and humorous anecdotes galore. The rustication means it’ll literally be a feel-good companion, a pipe to relax with instead of smoke on the battlefield between air strikes.
The stem, it turns out, is identical with the stem used for the “first edition” 301, with only a slight difference in the bend. It’s the “Comfort P-Lip,” in fact, something that seems to have been made only between about 1979 and 1984. I believe the 301 and the 302 are at their most appealing and visually balanced with this AC stem. The shortness of the stem combine with the width from the shoulder up and the narrowing below to achieve a unity of effect with both bowls.
Just as silence is crucial in music, the slender tenon-mortise connection enhances the overall chubbiness of the XL302. The chubby groove is amazing.
Now fast forward to the debut of the Spigot System in 2018 with its abbreviated BC spigot (that is, tapered and short). As I’ve said before, I really like both stummels currently available on the 302, the ball version seen below in the original 2018 System Spigot release (left) and a the Fat Boy version from 2022 (right):
The current Fat Boy is so close to the 1979 and 1984 stummels that I really can’t tell them apart aside from a slight flattening of the newer one (which may be just me). Whether the two versions happen by accident in sanding at the factory or these are in fact two different bowls, I couldn’t tell you, but if I had to take one with me to Pipeman’s Nirvana it would be the Fat Boy.
A Terracotta 302 Spigot System, HM 2022
In 2013 when we were at the old factory in Dun Laoghaire, I spent several idyllic days photographing all the incredible pipes still more-or-less on display in what might be called (a trifle euphemistically) their museum room. One of them was an amazing unsmoked 1916 squat tomato Deluxe System with a red amber P-Lip:
HM 1916 Red Amber Deluxe System
This is such a timeless shape that if you’d seen just the bowl in an SPC email update you wouldn’t give it a second thought—oh that’s one of those ungodly-priced artisan pipes. Not realizing it was a Pete.
Obviously a non-catalog shape, these days we’d call it a squat tomato, the red stem only underscoring the fact. Visually it has massive weight. Just what we expect from Kapp & Peterson. In actuality it’s not much bigger than the SH or Pub pipes.
I thought this was merely a one-off design, which Charles Peterson seemed to toss off when he wasn’t shopping for briar in France or visiting his suppliers and distributors in Austria and Germany.
Then Ben Ward from Down Under contacted me about an estate Patent he’d just received from Davide Bollito at Bollitopipe.it. Had I ever seen anything like it? he asked. Just its twin brother I replied. Both bear the 1916 hallmark. Different stain, different mount, same shape.
Davide told Ben the pipe came from a collector in Turin who had several Petersons, but didn’t learn where the collector found it. The leather bag, for a high-grade, dates to the Dublin era given its logo and the “established 1865” subtitle which was adopted during Tom Palmer’s tenure as CEO.
The bone tenon extension dates it, as we like to say, probably before 1963 (although some have turned up after that date as several PGs can tell you). The pipe’s been smoked, as is obvious from the tenon. The workmanship on the stem is incredible, as you can see from the bevel in the tenon as it transitions to the stem. I’m thinking this was a space-wearing stem, or as K&P now terms it, a “wear-gap,” but it’s quite small.
Measurements & Other Details
Length: 150 mm / 5.85 in
Height: 47 mm / 1.84 in
Ext. Diameter: 61 mm / 2.37 in
Chamber Diameter: 21 mm / .82 in
Chamber Depth: 37 mm / 1.44 in
Weight: 104 gr / 3.64 oz
Stem: Vulcanite P-Lip with bone tenon extension
Era: Patent (HM 1916)
Looking at the 1916 Tomato Brothers, the 1982 rusticated Fat Boy and the 2022 Spigot Fat Boy, c. 1984 second edition, I have to wonder: is this a case of Jung’s collective unconscious at work in K&P’s factory? Is there in fact some subterranean, intangible and wholly inexplicable connection linking these shapes, subtly but surely shaping the design language of our favorite pipes?**
With many thanks to Ben Ward for sharing his own 1916 Fat Boy,
to Davide Bollito of Bollitopipe.it
to Kapp & Peterson and to Smokingpipes.com
Dedicated to one of my heroes,
Our Gang’s Norman “Chubby” Chaney (1914-1936)
And if that isn’t enough . . .
A 2022 9mm Derry Rustic Fat Boy (German Market)
* This photo appears to be a poor scan from a book or newspaper in a short blog post on Jung’s enjoyment of pipes and tobacco. If anyone can cite the book or newspaper or provide a higher-resolution source for this photo, please let me know. See also Chuck Stanion’s article on Jung at The Daily Blog.
** Or am I even further off my rocker than usual? Don’t answer that.