Well here it is April 1st again, and as the 2017 new lines are being packed up for their journey across the pond, it’s time to light up Peterson’s switchboards with calls about the unexpected Shamrock Antique Collection.
Having taken inspiration for the 2017 Pipe of the Year from the 1906 “Jap,” Peterson jumps forty years forward to an era many aficionados love, one rich with vintage shapes, many that haven’t been in production for decades.
“The idea,” says a company representative, “grew out of a chance conversation over a pint with Finn McCool.” McCool, a lecturer in religion & culture at Queen’s University, Belfast, claims his great-grandfather (a professor at Trinity College, Dublin) not only knew Heinrich Kapp (!), but agreed to let his portrait be used for the company’s “Thinking Man” logo in exchange for a lifetime supply of Peterson Smoking Mixture and a new De Luxe System 4 every three years.
“I was telling McCool about how difficult it is to come up with ideas for new collections, and McCool began talking about Bourgeault’s work on the Christian Trinity and the ‘law of three,’* which totally went over my head until he connected it with the shamrock. I confess I didn’t follow much of what he said after that, because I just kept thinking: why not take Peterson’s historical association with the shamrock and see what we could come up with?” That turned out to be a lot.
The shamrock first appeared in Peterson’s 1896 catalog as an option on a carved bowl. In the 1906 catalog, the shamrock was stamped on an intermediate grade of briar between 1st and 2nd quality (seen above). But most pipe-smokers in the U.S. associate it with the Rogers Imports Ltd. Shamrock line of Peterson pipes, common in the 1940s and 50s and steady sellers on eBay. These featured a soldered nickel band with a shamrock appearing above or below the “faux-marks” of harp, wolf hound, and round tower. (Peterson concurrently issued its own unmounted Shamrock line at the same time, usually found outside the U.S., with the S stamp on the mouthpiece.)
The bowl shapes, of course, are the thing, and Peterson has chosen well. As those of you know who downloaded or looked at the K&P 1940 catalog (available elsewhere on the blog), the World War II era, known as “the Emergency” in Ireland, posed a number of difficulties for such a small company that depended almost entirely for its existence on exports.
By 1943, U.S. smokers could no longer even buy Peterson pipes. But just before that temporary darkness fell, Peterson in association with Rogers Imports created two unique shapes: the “Dublin Bullog,” a diamond-shank Dublin, and a marvelous author, an unbeaded fishtail XL-version of the 999 John Bull. As no documented examples of either pipe has surfaced for the Peterson book, I wonder how many were actually made, or if these shapes even reached the U.S.
For their third shape, Peterson chose one that did make to the U.S., and that has met with long-standing approval, the 02 Oom Paul. This signature shape was part of regular production through the 1970s and was featured not only in the Shamrock line, but many others as well.
These pipes won’t simply be reproductions, but as is Peterson’s custom, re-interpretations. For starters, all three will feature the P-Lip. But rather than a nickel band, Jason Hinch, Peterson’s innovative silversmith, is going for a sterling “Navy” mount with a soldered sterling shamrock on the top and a stamped set of shamrocks around the band.
With quality P-Lip ebonite stems becoming impossible for the company to source, they have turned to an artisan maker to hand-cut the 900 mouthpieces for the 300 smooth, numbered sets, quite an undertaking in itself.
As with last year’s April 1st Skellig Collection, the bowl numbers are matched, so that the same number occurs three times: 3/300 on the Dublin Bulldog, John Bull, and Oom Paul. The original shamrock stamp used on Patent-era Shamrock bowls, which still resides in the workshop, will be used as well.
The stain color will depend on the quality of the wood. The higher grade will be a Terra Cotta similar to that used on the old Sherlock Holmes pipes and the current Hand Made house pipes. A slightly lower grade of bowl will feature the oak finish also seen on current production Hand Mades. And there may even be a few natural finish (light orange) sets a well: “We’re hoping for 30 or so sets in the natural finish,” said the rep, “but that will just depend on the briar we get.”
In another nod to the past, all three shapes in the set will be fitted out with tenon extensions like those used on the De Luxe P-Lips from the 1930s – 1950s. “We’re trying out a new Teflon chimney, rather than the aluminum ones we’ve used since the early 1960s. We think these will reduce moisture problems in a manner similar to the old bone chimneys we used before the 1960s.”
There will, of course, be a presentation box, ribbon-hinged with a white silk lining over paperboard dividers not unlike the Great Explorers Collection from 2002. The cover will feature a large shamrock engraving with a decorative triquetra surrounded by curious Irish idiom, “don’t you laugh, and don’t you smile, send the gowk another mile.” **
Retail for most sets is expected to be about $550. Natural sets will run about $750. Should be appearing in the U.S. about the same time as world peace, making summer a delight for Peterson fans all over the globe.
*See Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (Shambhala, 2013).
**See Bridget Haggerty, “April Fool’s Day,” http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/AprilFools.html
Top photo, “Giant’s Causeway, 1940” courtesy Charles Mundungus
Photograph of “The Toilet Piper” courtesy Gary Malmberg