129. The Peterson Exhibition at the 2019 Chicago Pipe Show

The Chicagoland International Pipe and Tobaccania Show launch of The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson took place last weekend, and I came home with photos of some stunning pieces from Gary Malmberg’s collection that I wanted to share with everyone. The exhibition was was featured in two cases just inside the main entrance to the Exhibition Hall.

Peterson’s Josh Burgess and Glen Whelan not only set up tables with the new 2019 POY, Rosslare and Aran Rusticated and several dozen high-grade collectibles (about which, more next time), but brought several pieces from the Peterson museum, including the very first exhibition medal won by Frederick Kapp in 1873. You can read all about this remarkable piece and how the company eventually won eleven medals for design and finish excellence during the Patent Era in the book.

I begin with a photo of the “third side” or edge because that’s what Gary and I were most excited to document, having left the factory in 2013 without looking to see if that edge was engraved—and now you can see for yourself, it was. The catalog number refers to an entry in the exhibition’s record book detailing Frederick Kapp’s extensive display (a copy of which is found in the book).

I had originally hoped to photograph every piece, but book sales, conversation with fellow Pete Freeks and time constraints put an end to that dream about 6pm Sunday evening.

Seen above is one of our favorites, a gorgeous K&P figural meerschaum cheroot holder (the cigar fits in the separate piece projecting from the figure’s bowl). It’s Queen Victoria, of course. Hallmarked for 1896, and probably the work of Charles Peterson.

While Charles Peterson didn’t sign his work like contemporary artisans do, he is photographed in the 1906 catalog in front of the meerschaum station and there would be no one else in the factory with his level of skill, having earned a journeyman wood-turner’s certificate after a long apprenticeship before coming to Ireland and then carving for Frederick Kapp for another fifteen years or so before becoming a partner in the company.

And speaking of Charles Peterson’s work, this was one of my two favorite briars: an unsmoked System 4, hallmarked for 1894, two years before the first catalog. So incredible to peer into the bowl and see the pencil-marked “4”! Gary believes the mouthpiece is an early replacement, as it lacks the graduated bore and the button doesn’t follow either the 1891 or 1894 patent. Still . . . can you imagine?

This was our other favorite meer lady, dating from the tip-end of the Patent Era in 1916.

Have you ever seen a meer colored this well? And a P-Lip amber bull dog to boot! In the book, you can read the first “Chat With A Smoker” advice (1896 / 1906) on using different types of coloring discs (which were inserted into the chamber) to achieve this kind of effect.

Of course I had to spend a little time admiring the gold band 4 (below), Peterson’s “Great Shape.” It’s hallmarked 1911. Look at the width of the tenon-end of the hand-cut vulcanite mouthpiece. Notice the crisp, flat top of the button in front of the P-Lip, the perfect Peterson “rainbow arch.” Just stunning. I don’t think any other maker from the period could do better—and of course not as well, because they didn’t have the System!

Here’s the reverse of the Frederick Kapp medal. It’s heavy. As you can see, it’s probably lead with some kind of gold paint or plate over it— at least, that’s our best guess. I’ll tell you more about the figural in the background a little later.

We devote an entire sidebar to the amazing work of art pictured above—a Kapp Bros. rose-gold meer with engraved windcap and band. Dating from c. 1885, it has the most amazing honey-colored amber I’ve ever seen. If you’ve got a copy of what one gentleman at the show so kindly called “The Peterson Bible,” flip it open to page 46 and you can rest of the story.

Seen above is another elegant meer & mounted amber Kapp Brothers billiard, this one dating from 1891-93, just at the time the company would formally change its name to Kapp (for Alfred Henry) & Peterson (who you may have heard of at one time or another). The amber stem, original to the pipe, was chewed down at the lip and then re-formed so the owner could continue smoking his beloved pipe. Engraving on the silver tells us that his military unit gave it to him upon retirement.

And here is the oldest pipe in the exhibit—this was sold by Frederick Kapp from his Soho shop in London and was most probably carved by his brother George Kapp. Frederick and George’s stories are told (of course) in the book, but after he and his brother established a joint venture in the early 1860s, they then established separate businesses. Their addresses in Soho were only about a quarter of a mile apart, but George devoted his working hours exclusively to carving meers, while Frederick ran a full retail tobacconist’s shop. In any event, Frederick’s shop was operational from 1868 to 1874, when he moved to Dublin. And the rest . . . as they say . . . is history.

I wish I’d had more time to get everything photographed—as you can see, there were dozens of pieces.

many thanks to Gary Malmberg
and to Peterson

Pete-Spotting at the 2019 Chicago Show

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