135. John Peterson’s 1896 Cased Patent Meerschaum: A Thumbnail Provenance
If you’ve been reading Peterson Pipe Notes for a while then you’ve come across the word provenance, which “The Google” defines as “a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.” The word is useful to Peterson aficionados because much of what we enjoy about the marque is the long history of its pipes, and whatever we can recover of a particular pipe’s provenance is always a joy.
Every pipe has a story I like to say, and I’m quite pleased, through the agency of Sandra Bondarevka and Ambassador Jānis Sīlis, to be able to tell a little of the journey of an 1896 cased Patent meerschaum made by Charles Peterson’s brother John.
On May 25th at the Latvian Embassy in Dublin, John Peterson’s pipe was brought from Cesis, Latvia to celebrate the publication of Sandra Bondarevska’s new Latvian-language biography Petersoni Īrijā (Peterson in Ireland).
According to my co-author Gary Malmberg’s research for The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson, John was fifteen years younger than Charles. As you can see in the detail from the cabinet photo below, however, he bears a striking resemblance to his older brother. Charles is seated on the left, John in the middle, and Annie (Charle’s wife) is lighting the “horse pipe.”
In the 1911 Census Report, John is listed as living with Charles and Annie Peterson as part of their extended family. Like his brother, he is registered as a “Free Thinker.” John had been working for K&P for some little while by then, the records indicate, and was greatly loved by all at Kapps.
On his premature death the following year at the age of 46, the company’s Employees Club described him in The Irish Times as “one of its oldest and most valued members—one who never spared himself to further its interests, and whose regretted demise brings a sense of personal loss to each one of us” (qtd. in Peterson Pipe 78-79).
John carved this pipe himself, according to his biographer Sandra Bondarevska (seen above). The rose gold ferrule is hallmarked for 1896, which seems to be borne out by the button on the house-pipe length amber stem seen in the top photo. The vulcanite stem, interestingly enough, bears the distinct button of the 3rd and final Patent.
The shape was apparently a favorite of both Charles and John—the O1 (“O” for Oversized)—and is found on the first first page of Patent shapes in the 1906 catalog. Charles had a briar version engraved with the legend “When stolen, please return to 55, Grafton Street. C. Peterson” (see The Peterson Pipe p. 189), which was kept by his daughter Soldie and her heirs the Brady family until 2001 or so, when it was given to Peterson. Pete Freeks will remember the limited edition 140th Anniversary replica made of it in 2005.
A comparison of the 140th anniversary stummel with that of John’s pipe seen at the top of the post, as facilitated by the Gratis Pipe Tool, offers additional evidence that John’s pipe was indeed the O1.
John’s companion case, according to the 1906 catalog, was lined in chamois and covered either morocco or “russian” leather. These cases were made by hand at the factory and could be quite elaborate, as seen in this illustration from the 1906 catalog, which includes two meer Systems and one briar as well as a bent amber cigar “tube” or holder:
Sandra’s surmise is that the pipe came to Latvia through the agency of John and brother Charles, who journeyed there for their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. As their parents were married in 1846, their anniversary would have been the year the pipe was hallmarked. This in turn suggests to my mind that John made the pipe for his father, which is why it remained in Latvia when John returned to Dublin.
However the pipe came to remain at “Klijeni,” the Peterson country farm near the village of Zlenieki, it was handed down from one generation to the next until 1949, more than fifty years later, when Latvia was occupied by the Soviets. On March 25th of that year the Peterson family was deported to the forced labor camps of the Siberian gulag. They took the pipe with them.
In 1958, the four Peterson children were released and allowed to return home. Their mother Vera, however, was forced to remain in Siberia another 10 years, returning home with John Peterson’s cased meerschaum in 1968.
After Vera’s death, the pipe was given to her son Janis, who had been deported to Siberia with her and his siblings when he was five or six. It was through his agency that the family heirloom was brought to Dublin for the book launch of Peterson in Ireland, and has now been safely returned to Janis in Cesis.
For us, most of the story of John Peterson’s pipe lies shrouded in the silence of the years of exile and the question mark of how the Peterson family managed to survive. It’s not surprising that the amber house pipe stem is broken and the companion case unhinged. I find myself astonished that the pipe survived at all. The meerschaum bowl, however, tells a story without words in its scratches and dents, in the yellow, amber and red hues of being smoked countless times. And we know a little about that story because it’s a story our own pipes tell us every time we pick one of them up— a story of comfort, quiet and home.
Photographs from book launch courtesy
Sandra Bondarevska and Jānis Sīlis, Ambassador of Latvia to Ireland,
and Baltic-ireland.ie, http://baltic-ireland.ie/2019/05/44109/ .
Photo of 140th Anniversary pipe by Chas Mundungus
PSA: Peterson Tobaccos Disappearing?
If you’re a fan of any of the old Peterson tobaccos,
you may wish to stock up where you can find them.
STG, who acquired the line, has no plans at this time to continue with
any of the long-standing Peterson tins.
For friends across the pond, Black Swan Shoppe
still has a good supply of nearly every tin.
UPDATE 7/1/19 @3:05PM CDT:
I emailed Pylorns (James Foster) who was at the IPCPR trade show over the weekend in Las Vegas. Here was his reply: “Ok straight from the horses mouth – Brian Levine is still there [IPCPR] today so I had him run by STG. 14 Peterson blends just shipped and did not fill all the back orders. By the end of July they will be caught up.” And here’s, presumably, the 14 tobaccos, per Pappy in the comments section below:
Peterson 3P’s Plug Tobacco 50g
Peterson Balkan Delight Tobacco 50g
Peterson Connoisseurs Choice Tobacco 50g
Peterson De Luxe Mix Tobacco 50g
Peterson Hyde Park Tobacco 50g
Peterson Irish Dew Tobacco 5 x 40g
Peterson Irish Flake Tobacco 50g
Peterson Irish Oak Tobacco 50g
Peterson Irish Whiskey Tobacco 50g
Peterson Old Dublin Tobacco 50g
Peterson Sherlock Holmes Tobacco 50g
Peterson Sunset Breeze Tobacco 50g
Peterson Sweet Killarney Tobacco 50g
Peterson University Flake Tobacco 50g
[Notice that the three Founder’s Edition tobaccos are missing and, I believe, some of the recent 40gr pouch blends.]