At almost every retailer’s internet site, pipe smokers can still read the Peterson story:
Friedrich and Heinrich Kapp, German immigrants to Ireland from Nürnberg, Germany, founded the famed Kapp Brothers store on Grafton Street, Dublin in 1865. Shortly thereafter, a Latvian immigrant, Charles Peterson, strolled into the Kapp workshop and declared that he could make better pipes than they. Armed with an imaginative flair for pipes and a craftsman’s background, Peterson not only proved himself correct, but became the third partner in the fledgling firm.
Friedrich and Heinrich have been shrouded in mystery for so long that, in anticipation of the book launch early next month at the Chicagoland Pipe Show, I obtained permission from Briar Books Press to release the following tiny excerpt concerning Henrich as well as a sidebar anecdote about he and his brother.
Heinrich Johann Sebastian Gottfried Kapp (1832–92)
Heinrich Kapp, c. 1882
. . . . So much, then, for Friedrich’s early flights of fancy, his strong interests in the women of Bavaria, and skill as a pipe-carver that led to the numerous gold medals previously enumerated. But what about his younger brother, Heinrich Johann Sebastian Gottfried Kapp, affectionately known as Zweite Banane by Friedrich and his family?
A Johann Kapp – Sobwasser Snuff Box
According to DeBaum’s genealogy, Heinrich was the younger of the Kapp twins by one minute and four seconds and was born on the first day of the month in the tiny village of Plumpsen Upper Bavaria, April 1819, to Johann and Brunhilde Kapp. Johann was a town musician who gave flugelhorn lessons in the family’s rooms over the town stable and painted female portraits (often using his wife as model) on lacquered Papier Maché snuff boxes for the celebrated Stobwasser between gigs to support his family.
From his childhood, Heinrich desired a musical life above all others, yet despite his devotion to the flugelhorn (which he played all his life), a bad fever in his teenage years left him puny, cross-eyed and deaf in one ear.
Friedrich’s flugelhorn (Peterson Museum)
Brunhilde finally dissuaded Heinrich from following in his father’s footsteps as a town musician and obtained for him an apprenticeship for him in the Nürnberg Nachttoph Guild, where he tested various juvenile chamber pots as well as packing them for export.
His work in the warehouse rapidly developed the kind of physical strength and precision necessary to pack and ship heavy wooden crates of fragile pots. What today we would call a “concrete sequential” personality type, Heinrich found this type of work also developed his actuarial skills, and within two years he was in charge of all shipping accounts.
(Courtesy Nürnberg Nachttoph Fabrik Museum)
Friedrich having meanwhile obtained his journeyman’s certificate as a carver, as seen in the previous chapter, was working at the original Pfeifen Bayern shop in Munich making traditional Bavarian wood, porcelain and meerschaum pipes as well as learning to turn silver and engrave. His work became so well known that the Pfeifen Bayern shop commissioned Prussian artist Eduard Theodor Ritter von Grützner to paint one in his series of genre-paintings of priests to hang in their shop, the priest smoking a Friedrich Kapp pipe.
Eduard von Grützner; pipe by Friedrich Kapp
After the death of their parents in a tragic fire in 1862, Friedrich and Heinrich, on the advice of the village wise woman (whose brother-in-law owned an eel pie shop in London), decided to combine their fortunes and emigrate to London to open a pipe and tobacco business. Stopping over in Ireland, they found business conditions there so favorable they decided to remain, setting up business on Grafton Street as the Kapp Brothers.
In due course, about a year or so after the shop’s opening, Heinrich, having married Bridget Larrigan, a middle-class Irish girl, found her dowry ample enough to enlarge both shop and store and take on new help.
As related at length in the next chapter, it was here that Heinrich and Friedrich met the young Charles Peterson, recently arrived from the St. Claude district of France and his sojourn with the new-fangled briar pipe makers there. Peterson, originally intending to settle in London, had been lured to Dublin after arriving in Belfast after reading about the Free Thinkers of Dublin. Seeing Friedrich carving meerschaums in the front shop window of Kapp Brothers, Charles was intrigued and went in to introduce himself.
After talking to Friedrich at length, Charles returned the next morning with recent samples from his own work. What ensued next is somewhat conjectural, although all accounts agree there was, indeed, a wager—whether in jest or earnest—for a partnership, a pint, or merely a job.
Friedrich Kapp, c. 1874
Friedrich, who loved nothing better than to spend his evenings at the theatre and opera with a lady friend, believed they would do better by catering to the wealthy merchants, sophisticated elite and fashionable middle-class dandies he routinely rubbed shoulders with.
Heinrich disagreed. After rehearsals with the Francis Street Band, he and his friends often frequented the pubs near Francis Street, which had been the home of Dublin’s clay pipe-making families for centuries. He believed the success of their business would depend on educating working-class men and providing more durable pipes for them.
Heinrich is seen back row, third from left, clutching his beloved flugelhorn
The young Peterson meanwhile had been taken on probation, as it were, carving both meers and briars for the Kapp Brothers during the day and attending Free Thinker lectures given by a professor at Trinity College most evenings. Charles thought both men were mistaken and quietly insisted that a well-engineered, rugged and good-smoking pipe would create its own success, cutting across all class lines.
And so, a three-way wager was struck—probably for pint and not a partnership at this early stage of the business—to determine which type of clientele would best build up the fledging Kapp Brothers.
Heinrich accordingly placed four large trays of pipes on the front counter, three made by Friedrich and one by Charles. One of Friedrich’s trays contained several ornate silver-cap meerschaums, all with engraved silver bands and amber stems. Another contained morocco-leather companion case sets, each enclosing a brace of beautiful smooth meerschaum billiards, amber stemmed. And a third contained alligator companion cases, each nestling an intricately carved female nude meerschaum “tube” (cigar holder) with amber mouthpiece and accompanied by a sterling-band oval opera pipe. Between these trays lay a tray of Charles’ briars, all with his peculiar fat shanks, curiously-shaped buttons and a sketch pinned on the tray with explanatory notes concerning their design.
Henrich went out for most of the day to attend to one business matter or another, while Charles was carving pipes in the back room, leaving Friedrich, as usual, to man the counter.
The first customer of the day, a workingman, examined all the pipes and bought none, buying only a packet of K&P’s Coronation Mixture, one of the early Irish virginia blends that achieved world-wide fame in their iterations by Gallagher’s.
Just before noon, a sophisticated young man came in and selected the morocco leather-cased companion set, leaving instructions to have an engraved silver shield with his monogram made for it.
In the mid-afternoon a wealthy lady and her daughter stepped out of their brougham and into the shop where they first looked at the amber earrings and pendants, then bought one of the ornate silver-cap meers for her husband’s birhtday, leaving instructions to have an amber engraved crest mounted on it.
Around five a man in top hat, lavender gloves, dove trousers and cutaway coat came in, placed his hat and gloves on the counter and surveyed the pipes, quietly settling on the alligator companion case with its nude cigar “tube” and opera pipe.
Then just at closing time, the story goes, an an academic walked in from Trinity College across the street, with several of his students and a few of the seminarians from St. Patrick’s College in tow. As he stooped, looking through spectacles which sat somewhat awry on his face, he saw Charles’ pipes and, picking up the sketch, began looking from it to the pipes, picking up each one in turn and finally selecting a simple straight-sided bent billiard that would in the years after the coming Boer Wars be known as a “bent dutch.”
The professor pulled a small coin purse from his coat pocket, made his purchase, and in his wake, each of the twelve students who had accompanied him made theirs. Charles’ tray was empty.
When Heinrich returned, Friedrich called Charles to the sales floor. When Friedrich recapped the day’s business ending with the curiously tall, stoop-shouldered professor and his gaggle of students, Charles, who the day before had (unbeknownst to either of the Kapp brothers) enjoined the professor to come by the shop and see his new invention, smiled slightly, his eyes growing even brighter than usual. “The thinking man,” he is reported to have said, “smokes a Peterson pipe.”
Sidebar: Men of Faith
Two of the great things Friedrich and Heinrich shared—aside from their love of pipes, tobaccos, and enthusiasm for their new employee and future partner Charles Peterson—was their faith and their love of a good pint. One of the stories handed down by their children has to do with the letters they wrote Pope Pius IX (pontificate 1846-1878).
The story goes that the brothers would occasionally meet at the pub across from Trinity College to visit with the young seminarians of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to smoke, drink and talk theology. And one night, the students began discussing the ethics of smoking while praying. Finally, the young men turned to their mentors in the art of smoking, Heinrich and Friedrich.
One said, “What do ya think, Freddy, is it all right to smoke and pray at the same time?” Friedrich took a long draw on his briar and said, “I don’t rightly know, Liam, but I’d think not.” Heinrich took exception to this and said, “Well of course it is! As if the Lord wouldn’t have enjoyed a good pipe if He’d had one on hand. Don’t be forgettin’ the marriage feast at Cana where the Lord turned the water into wine.”
At the end of the evening, the seminarians had convinced the brothers to separately write Pope Pius IX and ask him.
Friedrich wrote to the Pope and asked, “Is it permissible to smoke while praying?” And in good time the Pope replied, “When in prayer your focus should be on God, and smoking would distract you from that. So, no, I do not recommend smoking during prayer.”
In his letter, Heinrich asked the Pope, “Is it permissible to pray while smoking?” And the Pope wrote back to him, saying, “The Apostle enjoins us to ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer’ (Rom. XII.12). So yes, it is permissible to pray while smoking.”
At the next meeting with the seminarians, the two brothers produced their letters, and each declared himself satisfied: Friedrich would never again smoke while praying, while Heinrich would always keep a pipe and tobacco on his altar at home to remind him to pray while smoking.
The young Peterson is reported to have smiled and said, “the question you ask determines the answer you receive.”
APRIL FOOL’S DAY 2019
this one for Jonathan Guss
Seen at top:
“Cover Concept A,” dated January 28, 2013
“HK, Zweite Banane” copyright 2019 by Charles Mundungus from
Error Cascade and Peterson’s Alternate Realities