John Lennon was born on the 9th of October, 1940, just a little over eighty years ago this month. If you’re of a certain age, then “Revolution 9” from the Beatles’ White Album means something to you. If you’re not, then all I can say is that while I can’t confirm Lennon smoked a Peterson System 9 there’s no reason not to imagine he might have in an alternate universe.* When Brian sent me an Early Republic XL307 recently, it occurred to me as I compared it against the 9BC and the new POY 2020 that there’s been a fascinating revolution of bowl shape 9 in K&P’s long history. Not an evolution in the connoted sense of progressive change and not a revolution in the political sense or connotation of drastic change, but a revolution in the etymological sense of rolling back.
I believe the POY 2020 and the original 9BC bowl shapes have much more in common with the 1891 Patent 9 bowl than either has with the 9 bowl of the past 60 to 70 years. The original bowl (and pipe) shape 9 is certainly different from the currently made 9S, 307 and XL90 pipe shapes, as a glance between these images reveals:
Even making allowance for the fact that this photo of the 2020 9S pipe (as with all the stock photos at SPC) isn’t a true “flank” shot but a slant shot which pushes the bowl slightly closer to the viewer and the mouthpiece back a bit, the bowls are still visually quite different. The 2020 has little upper cheeking, which means no real curve inward toward the crown. But if you look closely, you’ll see both bowls have the thick shanks necessary to enclose the System reservoir. It is, however, closer to one of its forbears than you might suppose.
There was no change between the 1891 and 1906 shape 9, at least from the catalog illustrations we have of it. The virtue of the 1906 illustration is that it was made not from an artist’s rendering but by what I conjecture was offset lithography (and please, artists, correct me here), taking photographs and rendering them suitable to the printing press. Was it intaglio? All I know is that there is a world of difference between the two catalogs, and one feels as if one is looking at photographs of actual pipes in the 1906 catalog.
The Patent 9 as seen in the McClurg catalog for 1909-10
In the Chicago mail-order McClurg catalog for 1909-1910 there’s a really fine illustration of shape 9 that lets you see the cheeking of the bowl. The prominent “3” in a circle also provides a visual demonstration of how the “300” System numbering would develop. At this point, McClurg (at least) was using “3” for Grade 3 and “9” for bowl shape 9. Things would be shuffled around a bit before the 300 chart settled down in the mid-1940s.
With the London factory over the eel pie shop open in 1937, a new catalog of select shapes was issued, but the bowl shape remained the same. As this was the near the height of the global depression, K&P relied again on illustrations. My purpose in reviewing all these catalog illustrations is simply to reinforce visually that Charles Peterson’s original design didn’t change from 1891 to 1937.
Now for the drum roll—in the 1939 Rogers Imports catalog the 9 has changed:
1939 357 [the 9 as Standard System]
Recall the “357” of that era was renumbered pipe shape “307” within just a few years. The 1945, 1947 and 1950 catalog all utilize the identical line drawing shown below, so we may assume it didn’t change during those years. Whether or not it’s identical with the Rogers 1939 pipe is impossible to say given the limits of artistic renderings, but I’ll assume it was, as this would become the definitive bowl shape of the 9, the one we know.
Now take a look at what happens in the 1953 Rogers Imports catalog. These are artist’s renderings of course, but the differences should be apparent:
1953 9BC (first appearance) and 307 Rogers Imports Chart
I wanted more convincing to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, so I asked Pete Freek Brian (“of the 500 Petes”) if he could round up an Early Republic 307 from his collection to place side-by-side with a similar-vintage 9BC. He sent me a great specimen. It lacked a P-Lip mouthpiece, so the one in this photo approximates an arched bend seen in the1947 shape chart. You can see also that the artist who did the outline drawing for the 1945-1950 carts really nailed the bowl shape:
Early Republic Shamrock 9BC and XL307, c. 1950s
So what happened here? On the right is bowl shape 9 in pipe shape 307 as most of us have known it until the past year or so. On the left is the 9BC and the bowl (in my opinion) is the same as it appeared as a Patent. Look at the cheeking on the 1937 iteration of the Patent 9 further up the page and notice how it curves inward at the base over the front part of the stummel just like the photo of the 9BC Shamrock above. Here they are superimposed:
The angle I photographed the Shamrock 9BC and the angle the artists drew the 9s are slightly divergent but I think you can see what I’m driving at here. The question is: how did K&P end up with two 9 shapes? There are two parts to my conjectural answer. The first is to remember when the fat Patent 02 shape slimmed down to become the iconic 02BB oom paul. Earlier I suggested the 02BB’s first “B” stood for a tapered bowl and the second a tapered stem. It seems quite possible that when the fat-Patent 02 disappeared from the catalog and the skinny one appeared, there may have been a transitional period, hence the “BB” suffix.
It much the same way, couldn’t it be possible that the same thing happened to the 9—the original Patent shape was phased out when the new version was phased in? The older original was given the “B” suffix because it, and not the new one, was now “skinny” or tapered. The “C” was added to indicate a shortened mouthpiece. This doesn’t account for the disappearance of the slim Patent 9 shape from the main catalog, unless Harry Rogers, who had undertaken distribution of Peterson pipes in 1937, specifically asked for it. This again seems reasonable given the other exclusive Peterson shapes Rogers would market in the US (like the 02BB).
The 1955 9B De Luxe (1955)
The 9B De Luxe—a System with the tapered stem—is seen in the 1955 catalog illustration shown above. The fact that 9BC does not appear in this otherwise comprehensive European-release catalog furthers my argument that the 9BC was being made exclusively for Rogers Imports for the US market. If that was the case, the two stamps (9 and 9BC) would be necessary in the factory, which was at this time turning all their own bowls. Add to that the fact that the 9BC had disappeared by the time Rogers Imports closed shop and Associated Imports took over in 1968.
The 1965 9S seen above is again identical to the 1937 bowl shape 9. A real-life example is also nice, especially when it’s a lovely as this one:
Smokingpipes has this photo of a hallmarked 1969 9S which is worth looking at, not only to confirm the artist’s 1965 rendition but to show you what Pete Freeks of the generation ahead of me wanted to achieve in their space-fitting De Luxe Systems—no gap! Peterson’s education piece was still strong in 1969 and Pete Freeks knew—or thought they knew—that that gap was supposed to close over time. “Proof is in the smoking,” they believed, so they did everything they could to close that gap and demonstrate their prowess as Mighty Pete Smokers.
2020 POY Natural
The last thing I want to call your attention to is the accuracy of Giocomo Perez’s interpretation of 9 shape in his POY20 [the bowl shape number of the POY 2020), contra many uninformed observations to the contrary. In some ways it shouldn’t surprise us that, being an artisan of exacting standards, when Gioco was making possible models for the 2020 POY he may have had at the back of his mind the Patent 9, which he’d seen proofs from the 1896 K&P catalog restoration I was working on at the time.
Now before you let your blood pressure rise, let me be clear that the 1937 bowl shank isn’t tapered for cheeking, while the POY is. The pinched stummel of the POY is very like that of the Patent 9. If you take a look again at the 1896, 1906 and 1909 illustrations, you can see it where the lower egg-shape of the bowl curves inward and away from the stummel. If you superimpose a flank image of the two, they’re identical in their silhouette. It’s only in the elegance of the stummel that Penzo’s homage goes beyond the 1937 9 to harken back to the 1896.
By the way, the mouthpieces of the 9BC and POY are actually the same diameter at the tenon end. What disparity there is comes further up toward the button, where the contemporary mouthpiece narrows a bit more. And, of course, the flat top in front of the 9BC’s button shelf is more rounded on the contemporary stem. As for their smoking properties—and I’ve got my POY PSB pretty-well broken in now—I’d have to say they’re neck and neck.
None of this is to imply my lack of affection for the 1939 shape 9. The man who introduced me to Peterson pipes in 1979 nearly always had one clenched between his teeth, which befit his larger-than-life personality. Like the shape 11’s change, I think the 1937 version evokes the muscular house style we expect from a Peterson pipe in much the same way as the later bowl shape 11 and the 120 dublin do. I certainly couldn’t see doing without it in the shape chart–or at least, without the version we saw from 1937 to about 2018. The newest one is not, I’m afraid, quite the same, and when you’re a Pete Geek it’s hard to buck tradition and history.
In conclusion, I can only wish that the POY, like the Founder’s Edition / D18, might some day make it into the System range. It certainly deserves such treatment and the shank is plenty thick enough (as a near-copy of the Patent 9) to accommodate the reservoir.
Thinking Man John Lennon (October 9, 1940-December 8, 1980)
with the 9S he never smoked but could have…
Banner: 2020 POY 9BC #2 / 400 courtesy Linwood Hines
Special Thanks to Brian for letting me appropriate one of his 307s
Stock Pipe Photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com
*Think you know “Revolution No. 9”? Check out Carlton Wilton’s “John Lennon’s ‘Revolution 9 [COMPLETE],” https://www.academia.edu/11789860/John_Lennons_Revolution_9_COMPLETE_