194. 500 and Counting: Brian’s Passion for Petes

Brian has been corresponding with me recently, and as he’s the first Pete Freek I’ve known who has more than 500 Petersons in his collection, I asked him if he’d mind sharing how it came about. He was a bit reluctant at first, but I assured him there are folks all across the globe who would enjoy hearing his story and seeing some of his favorite pipes.

A Trio of Amber Spigots

I grew up in Kentucky and you could say tobacco is in my history.  My grandfather grew tobacco. My mother was one of nine children and I think seven of them grew tobacco!  My father was a metal worker and so was I, but I might as well have been on a farm since it was growing everywhere you looked. I remember going in the old tobacco barns on my grandfather’s and uncle’s farms and just smelling the tobacco. Every toy gun I ever owned as a kid was a tobacco stick!

Oom pauls and 02s

Most of my family smoked in one way or another—a pipe, cigars or cigarettes. I remember the first time I was offered tobacco. I was six and a fellow classmate pulled out a tin of Kodiak dip and offered me a pinch. I couldn’t be a lameo, so I kept it in my mouth as long as I could before spitting it out.  I started smoking cigarettes at about thirteen, I guess. It was just part of life back then. No one much questioned it.

A Dublin & London triple companion case

When I couldn’t go to the store as a kid, I’d give my cousin the money at the Sunday morning church service and he’d bring my smokes back at the evening service. I remember the day my mother found my dip and cigarettes and turned them over to my dad, no doubt giving him orders to punish me. I thought I was in for it. My dad was 20 years’ older than my mother so he wasn’t one to get real mad, but when he was mad, look out. I figured this was going to be one of those times. I heard him coming from his bedroom, every footstep. I looked up and he said, “Here’s your stuff.” What a load off! My mom was still pissed, but I was allowed to do it from then on.

Five from the IFS or Éire eras (top to bottom): shapes 950, 1048, 3034, 3262, 3266

I went on to cigars in my twenties, not every day but every now and then. Then about six or seven years ago I really started to get into cigars and was in love with them for a couple of years, building a huge collection. But I didn’t like how the cigar industry makes it almost impossible to get their cigars: they tell you just enough to get you wanting them, but good luck getting what you want. Then a certain cigar manufacturer said certain cigars would never make the market except for what they had already made, because of new FDA guidelines. I left no stone unturned and managed to get boxes of all of them. Then to my amazement, after a short time they started to release these cigars, and at a lot less than I had paid!

A Large Tankard / D19 Silver Blast Spigot

It was about that time I bought my first pipe. The industries and the hobbies are so different.  You don’t seem to have the same kind of cut-throats in the pipe world.  I bought a couple of pipes and went through what everyone goes through learning how to pack and clean them. Then I ran across a couple of guys restoring estate pipes and that caught my interest.

A 1911 Peterson Patent Gourd Calabash

I really don’t remember my first Peterson, because at that time I was in love with all pipes and went along buying and restoring them. Some I smoked and some I didn’t. My collection had grown to such an extent that I decided something had to give. I’d been getting more and more interested in Peterson so I began selling off the rest of my collection to concentrate on it. I counted them up the other day and I’ve got 511 now, with more on the way.

Companion cases, amber stems from Patent era

Peterson just has a history, doesn’t it? The only other brand that even compares is Dunhill. Me, my father, his father and even my great grandfather could all have walked into a store and bought a brand new Peterson. That really keeps the fire lit for me.

A Point of Sale box of 312 Standard Systems, c. 1950-60

In my rotation—not my collection—I smoke a Mark Twain, a 301, 309, 312, 314, 317, XL12 (Baskerville), XL17 (Watson), and a POY 2004. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the 309 or Mark Twain.

Patent Shapes, with the XXL House Pipe 01 from the Irish Free State era in lower right

As a collector, I’m always looking for shapes I don’t have. I’d like to pick up all the original 1996 Antique Collection in individual cases, as well as the Writers, Castles, Rivers Collections and a few others. I figure I’m only renting them, anyway, and someday they’ll be in the custody of another Pete Freek.

Cumberland Spigots like this were made from 1990 Patent Commemorative oom paul bowls

I worked in the metal fabrication industry for over ten years. I started out by laying everything out by hand, which is a lost art, but my favorite way to do it. Then I started running lasers and then I ended up running turret presses, stamp presses and break presses before becoming plant foreman. As time went on and my mother began to get old, I began to take care of her. She passed away last September, and it’s just one of those things that about three weeks later I had an accident and had to have my right arm amputated just below the elbow, making it hard some days just to do what most people take for granted.

A Point of Sale Demonstrator strutcard with 314 demonstrator and holder for POS brochures,
issued c. 1984

But I’ll say this: if it wasn’t for my Peterson hobby I don’t know if I would be here now. When things get bad or depressing, I turn to the hobby. Even if it’s just a half an hour looking at Petes on eBay, it can change how I’m feeling. These days, it sometimes it feels like the only normal that’s left!

Amen to that, Brian! There’s something about pipes, tobaccos and pipe-smoking that I seem to need now more than ever. Sometimes I wish I could “share the calm” with everyone who’s stressed out here in the US about politics, pandemics, racial relations and global warming. I don’t think they’d listen, but wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone could just slow down a bit, be kind and smoke their pipe?

The “Gate” Peterson pipe rack from the 1955 Dublin & London catalog

With many thanks to Brian
for sharing his collection and his life.
Photos courtesy Brian


*See “Tobacco Sticks Explained.”


… and just one more, this a 2 pipe brass and walnut rack from Peterson that I’ve never seen before:





Continue Reading 194. 500 and Counting: Brian’s Passion for Petes