Alfred Dunhill Pipes Website This is a work in progress. Please feel free to contribute if you are a Dunhill expert, or knowledgeable enthusiast.
A Brief Timeline
1893: At the age of 21 Alfred Dunhill inherited a harness business and soon saw that the age of the automobile was coming and converted his father’s factory from horse-drawn carriage accessories to motor accessories. “Dunhill Motorities” was born.
1904: Alfred Dunhill invented the “Windshield Pipe”.
1906: First Dunhill tobacco shop opened on 31a Duke St.
1906-1910: Dunhill imported the bulk of his pipes from France. Unsatisfied with the quality even of the better ones he bought pipes from Charatan 1909/10 paying exorbitant prices to ensure he has some of the very best pipes for sale in England.
1910: Alfred Dunhill lured away Joel Sasieni from Charatan and opened a small pipe workshop of his own on 28 Duke St.-- two rooms upstairs for a humble beginning. The focus was to use the finest quality briar, and expert craftsmanship to make pipes that would provide a superior smoke, and last a lifetime. The cost would reflect these principals, which was against the current trend of inexpensive pipes of poor quality.
1910: The Bruyere finish is first introduced
1915: The famous white spot was introduced so customers would know which way to insert the handmade vulcanite mouthpieces on straight pipes (the spots face up).
1916: New workshop opened on No. 186 Campden Hill Road.
1917: Alfred Dunhill invented the sandblasted pipe, and first introduced the "Shell" Finish. Dunhill also developed the oil curing process at this time, which many feel contributes significantly to Dunhill's excellent smoking qualities.
1919: Dunhill and Sasieni part after serious conflicts.
1920: Dunhill stopped buying bowls turned in France in favor of those turned in London at the newly opened Dunhill bowl-turning facility.
1921: Alfred Dunhill open international stores in NYC and Paris.
1924: 260,000 pipes were sold in the Duke St. Shop.
1928: Alfred Dunhill retires
1930: The Root finish is introduced. D.R. "dead root". Denotes Dunhill straight grain pipes. The bruyere finish was used on these pipes through 1929; root finish was used thereafter. "D.R." stamped on shank.
1946: Dunhill buys Hardcastle after a ten year relationship
1953: The Tanshell finish is introduced
1959: Bill Taylor start working for Dunhill as a boy
1967: Hardcastle is merged with Parker and becomes Parker-Hardcastle, LTD
1972: The Redbark finish is introduced. (Pipedia Sysop note: Some sources indicate the Redbark was introduced in 1973 while other sources indicate the Redbark was introduced 1972 See example).
1977: Bill Taylor works as administrator and overseer in the Dunhill Factory
1980: The Cumberland finish is introduced
1984: Bill Taylor leaves Dunhill to become Bill Ashton-Taylor
1987: Redbark finish officially retired
Courtesy Smokingpipes.com, and used by permission
"The challenge of a Dunhill history is to separate myth and legend from the history. This however, may be impossible. The story of Alfred Dunhill is so tied up with myth that the myths are now part of the history. Alfred Dunhill, being aware of this phenomenon, probably perpetuated many of such myths. Nonetheless, let us try and begin at the beginning in the early 1900’s.
Alfred Dunhill inherited a harness business in 1893 at the age of 21. Alfred soon saw that the age of the automobile was coming and decided to convert his father’s factory from horse-drawn carriage accessories to motor accessories. “Dunhill Motorities” was soon born and Alfred was fast at work inventing and creating all possible accessories. In 1904 Alfred invented the “Windshield Pipe,” hoping to combat some of the difficulties a smoker would face while driving. It was this sort of innovation in response to the customer’s needs that would make Dunhill Pipes the leader in its field.
In 1906, the first pipes and tobacco shop opened on Duke St. The shop soon came to be known for its customized blends. Each customer could come and create his own recipe, noted in a little book entitled “my mixture.” This is a prime example of Dunhill’s ability to tailor itself to the customer’s needs. Alfred Dunhill however, was unsatisfied with the current quality of available pipes. The pipes coming in from France were highly varnished and consequently clogged the pores of the briar. They were simply not doing justice to his creative blending.
Alfred opened a small factory of his own in 1910. He set down two principles that would guide the production of Dunhill Pipes. First, pipes would be made of only the finest quality briar, with exacting care by expert craftsmen. Secondly, the pipes would be priced accordingly; the customer would recognize the value of a superior product. This ran counter to the current trend of inexpensive pipes of poor quality that one simply discarded after a short while.
The Dunhill pipe was made to last a lifetime and always with an eye to utility. It must smoke well and continue to do so with age. To this end, Alfred invented the aluminum ‘inner tube’ to keep the innards of the pipe clean. When the pipe became dirty the tube could simply and easily be replaced. Note, of course, that this innovation predated the widespread use of pipe cleaners.
In 1915, the famous white spot was introduced for very practical concerns. With straight pipes, customers had trouble knowing which way to insert the handmade vulcanite mouthpieces. So Alfred Dunhill ordered white spots to be placed on the upper side of the stem. This very practical solution would become a definitive trademark of Dunhill pipes. The “white spot” soon became known as a symbol of quality.
Alfred Dunhill wanted his pipes to be known around the world. WWI provided him the perfect opportunity to promote his product on an international scale. When an order was placed by an officer serving in Northern France, Alfred would send additional pipes with a note asking that they be distributed among his fellow officers. The pipes were sold not only to British officers but to Americans, French, Belgians and Canadians. By the end of the war the Dunhill Pipe, with its “white spot”, was known the world over.
Alfred Dunhill’s most revolutionary innovation was the Shell pipe in 1917. How this technique of sandblasting came about is somewhat of a mystery. The story often told is that Alfred Dunhill went down into his basement in the wintertime to make a couple pipes and accidentally left one, a half finished piece, by the heating boiler. He returned sometime next summer, having suddenly thought of the pipe, only to find some of the grain had ‘shrunk’, leaving a relief pattern. Obviously, this is apocryphal, probably resulting from the ‘shrunken’ look that sandblasts (especially the gnarly ones of that era) frequently have. Some say the name “Shell” came from the shriveled look the pipe took on after the sandblasting process. Alfred realized Algerian briar, then considered inferior, could be used in this new process. The softer wood could be ‘blasted away’, leaving behind only the harder briar and the beautiful natural pattern of the wood. Originally, the Shell pipes were not stamped because the sandblasting technique, not yet being refined, made recognizing the standard shape much more difficult. Though the Shell finish certainly did not arise from accidentally forgotten pipes in the cellar, it was definitely an important innovation on Dunhill’s part.
Another new technique ended up ensuring the quality of Dunhill pipes. Before the sandblasting process, Dunhill would have the Algerian briarwood bowls immersed in olive oil for several weeks. Afterwards, they were left to dry, with the excess oil being occasionally wiped off. This method was originally developed for aesthetic reasons, but it turned out that the oil caused impurities to be forced out of the wood, resulting in a faster curing process. A further consequence of this process was the briar became incredibly durable, making the occurrence of burnouts much less frequent.
Alfred Dunhill went on to open international stores in NYC in 1921 and a store in Paris followed shortly afterwards. The 1920’s and 30’s were successful years for Dunhill. By 1924, 260,000 pipes were sold a year through the Dunhill shop on Duke St. Just two decades old, Dunhill Limited was becoming famous for supplying the most elite clientele in the world. Dunhill developed ties with the royalty, supplying George VI with tobacco through the thirties. Later during WWII, the company kept Winston Churchill constantly supplied with the cigars that would become such an essential part of the famous British icon.
The company expanded, offering specially designed pipes during the 1920’s that would be marked OD for ‘own design.’ This concern for marking and always having patent numbers on pipes is what allows for much of the dating process today. The stamping during the twenties was inconsistent and some of the early shell pieces lack marking altogether. In the 1930’s there was the desire to standardize. A shape chart was developed that used numbers and letters to signify a specific shape. Each new pipe would be stamped to identify its size and shape.
World War II presented some problems for Dunhill. The Dunhill shop on Jermyn St. was destroyed during the Blitz and had to be relocated. The supply of briar became more tenuous. Italian briar was restricted by the Italian government to be used only by Italian carvers. The Algerian briar became more difficult to acquire. The war also left Europe in a shambles. Depressed financially, there was no place in Europe for high-end luxury goods. Consequently the American market grew and American taste determined the direction of Dunhill pipe making. Large pipes and traditional shapes were in demand and so Dunhill created a new line of pipes called the “800” OD series, recycling the old OD stamp....
....Dunhill has always been creative in its designs and finishes. It is however, Dunhill’s principle of absolute quality achieved through unrelenting quality control that has set Dunhill apart from the rest. Dunhill pipes regardless of shape, size, and finish must always smoke well. This principle laid down in the early days of the company continues today. At the Dunhill factory, just outside of London, pipes are made by 15 full-time expert craftsmen who boast a cumulative work experience of 260 years. Knowing a high quality product must begin with the best possible material, the briar used by Dunhill is from carefully selected burls from bushes a hundred years old. Even with selecting only the highest quality briar with the finest grain, once the briar bowls begin to be carved certain flaws are exposed and many bowls have to be discarded. At every stage of the process there are a mandatory quality checks that ensure a Dunhill pipe will smoke well from the first to last bowl of tobacco, regardless of age. Each step in the six-week process is done by hand. Over 90 different steps are required in a process that has changed very little since the days of Alfred Dunhill almost a century ago.
Dunhill Pipes are now prized collector pieces and the most famous pipes in the world. Alfred envisioned the Dunhill Pipe to be something special, a pipe to be coveted for its quality, sophistication and refinement. Alfred Dunhill’s vision continues today. To Smoke a Dunhill is to experience this tradition, a tradition of excellence that is perhaps the greatest in the world of pipes."
Courtesy Smokingpipes.com, and used by permission
"Before the 1950s, there were three possible finishes for Dunhill pipes. The Bruyere was a smooth finish with a deep red stain, obtained through two coats, a brown understain followed by a deep red. The Shell finish was the original sandblast with a near-black stain (though the degree to which it is truly black has varied over the years). Lastly, the Root finish was smooth also but with a light brown finish. Early Dunhill used different briars with different stains, resulting in more distinct and identifiable creations.... Over the years, to these traditional styles were added four new finishes: Cumberland, Dress, Chestnut and Amber Root, plus some now defunct finishes, such as County, Russet and Red Bark."
The orignal finish produced, and a big part of developing and marketing the brand. It was the only finish from 1910 until 1917. A dark redish brown stain. Bruyere pipes were usually made using Calabrian briar, a very dense and hardy briar that has a mediocre grain but does very well with the deep red stain.
A deep craggy sandblast with a black stain finish. Duhill pantended the sandblast finish in 1917 (Patent No. 1484/17). See The Art of Sandblasting, and by R.D. Field, for in depth look at Dunhill's revolutionary new finish. The deepest and craggiest finishes were from Algerian briar, which is softer and yields more to the blasting. These are found in circa 1920's, 1940's, and 1960's Shells. The pipes were double blasted until the 1960's, and then the double blast technique resumed in the 1980's calling it the "Deep Shell" finish. During the 1960’s and 70’s Dunhill could not acquire the Algerian briar. Consequently, the company’s sandblast pipes were much shallower and less distinct. Once again Dunhill showed itself to be innovative, inventing the “double blast” technique to bring about a deeper blast even with harder briar.
Ring Grain (RG)
Introduced in 1996, the "Ring Grain" (RG) was created by blasting a straight grain bowl. In 1990 the name was changed to the "Shilling Grain". It is an interesting variation on the original sandblasts which were mostly cross-grain sandblasts. The straighter grain plays a much more prominent role, giving the pipe a very distinct look and feel.
. Intorduced in 1931 and highly prized because the grain is more pronounced in this finish. The Root Briar finish required a perfectly clean bowl with excellent graining. Therefore, it is the most expensive of the Dunhill pipes. Corsican briar was most often used for the Root finish, since it was generally more finely grained. This is a rare finish, due to the scarcity of briar suitable to achieve it. These pipes are normally only available at Company stores, or Principle Pipe Dealers.
Straight grained pipes were formerly graded A through H, but are now graded with one to six stars, with the letters G and H still used for the very finest pieces.
Introduced in 1952. The Tanshell is a light tan sandblast. Sardinian briar was used for this sandblast. There is a distinct contrast in the sandblasts using Sardinian as opposed to Algerian briar. The Sardinian is much denser and much harder. The resulting pattern, when blasted, is far more even and regular both in terms of the surface texture and the finish.
Introduced in 1972, the Redbark is a reddish stained sandblast, and is the most famous of Dunhill’s retired finishes. Originally, the stain was a medium red. A couple years later the stain was changed to a brighter red, almost pinkish in color. The almost pink color caused pipe sales to plummet. In 1976, the stain was changed back to the original darker medium red finish. The Redbark finish was officially retired in 1987. The County and Russet finishes have also been retired.
Introduced in 1973, the Dress is a black smooth finish designed to look elegant with a tux or other formal ware--refined and sophisticated. A smooth jet-black stain with black bit gives this line of pipes the distinctive elegance that has come to be associated with the Dunhill name.
Introduced in 1979. Cumberland is another sandblast with a brown stain and a brindle stem (the material is more commonly called ‘cumberland’ these days, thanks to Dunhill’s influence and the success of the finish over the past quarter-century). Originally, the Cumberland always featured a smooth brown rim, but in the current production the rim is sometimes smooth, sometimes sandblasted. Occasionally, a straight grain blast is finished with a Cumberland stain and a “Shilling Grain,” similar to the “Ring Grain,” resulting in a new variation on the traditional sandblast. The Shilling series is named for the British coin: the sandblast looks like a stack of shillings. Named after the warehouse on Cumberland Road. The old pipes that inspired this finish were found there.
Introduced in 1983 to commemorate the closing of the Cumberland Road warehouse. The same stain and stem material as used on the Cumberland, but on a smooth bowl.
Introduced in 1986. A tan sandblast with a Cumberland mouthpiece. It has since been discontinued.
A limited reissue of 150 pieces was made available in 2006.
Introduced in December of 1988. A medium reddish brown stain and smooth finish that has since been retired.
Introduced in 1995. A warm yellow orange stain, reminicent of the original Root Briar finish. Cumberland stems were used, although recently, Amber Root pipes have appeared with black stems. This is also a limited production pipe that is found in mainly Company stores and Principle Pipe Dealers.
Straight grained pipes are made available in this finish under the name Amberflame, and are graded from one to three flames.
A selection of "Smokers" (pictured left)
Top Row 1998 Amber Root 4 1993 Shell 5108 1984 Cumberland 3103 1972 Bruyere 57 Date Obscured. Shell Pat. Weak Bottom Row 1979 Red Bark 31031 1999 Shell 4103 1958 ES Tanshell No Date ES Shell Pat.No.1341418/20 Date Obscured Bruyere EC 4A 1957 Root 713
More "Smokers" (pictured right)
Top Row 1963 Root 40 1937 Root Pat.1343253/20 472 1971 Bruyere EO 4A 1988 Russet 5112 Middle Row 1990 Tanshell 4103 1992 Shell 5124 1956 Shell 252 1964 Shell 6 LBS 1979 Cumberland 41022 1988 Russet 4114 Bottom Left Date? Root 48 4A
1990 Shell 5601 Church Warden 1964 Shell 519 Feather Bone 1935 Shell Feather Bone 1986 4107 Dress 1967 Shell Cavalier on left
A Tail of Two Briars
Abstract: R.D. Fields writes, "As a pipe collector, a pipe hobbyist, and as a Dunhill principal pipe dealer, I hear comments over and over again about the comparative merits of the older pipes versus the newer models. Most discussion centers on the quality of the briar and the sweetness of the smoke. I hear comments such as "I love my old Dunhill pipes, but these new ones ... I don't know."
People I consider to be very knowledgeable on the subject of 20th Century briar swear that, by far, the sweetest smoke comes from those Dunhill pipes bearing a patent number (pre-1955); they will not even smoke those made after 1968, believed to be of substandard quality.
The used pipe trade has followed the same trend - patent number Dunhills are commanding a higher price than those made from 1955-1968, and a still higher price than those made after 1968.
Due to the mystique surrounding the older Dunhill pipe, there is, indeed, a need to explore any factual basis behind the "myth". This, reader, is the purpose of this article." Read A Tail of Two Briars, by R.D. Fields
John C. Loring Articles
John Loring, now a "broken pipe" was a leading authority on Dunhill pipes. His excellent book, "The Dunhill Briar Pipe - the patent years and after" , is an essential addition to any Dunhill collectors library. Mr. Loring also wrote several important articles, which he has graciously contributed to Pipedia, and will be added here:
Dunhill's guarantee is generally credited as the impetus for implementing the date codes, as well as establishing its reputation. Dunhill expert, John C. Loring has written an excellent article on the establishment and refinement of the THE DUNHILL WHITE SPOT GUARANTEE.
Musing On Bits: "Dunhill’s ‘push’ bit while not invented by Dunhill may well have been an important reason for its early success."
More excellent Loring articles coming soon! For now they are still available on the author's website.
Some Dunhill "gimmicks" <gallery> Image:Dun_kPdW.jpg|The World's smallest smokeable pipe Image:Dun_kPdW2.jpg|... a Bent-Rhodesian! Image:Dun_Space.jpg|Space Shuttle Image:Dun_Dom.jpg|Cologne Cathedral </gallery>
Old Dunhill Tobacco Brochure, courtesy of John A. Gioannetti <gallery> Image:Dunhill_Tobacco_Brochure1.jpg| Image:Dunhill_Tobacco_Brochure2.jpg| Image:Dunhill_Tobacco_Brochure3.jpg| Image:Dunhill_Tobacco_Brochure4.jpg| </gallery>
The Bent-Rhodesian in Root finish was made in 1984 and of course it shows the white dot on the Vulcanite stem. It's 7 millimeters (!) long und weighs 0.005 Gramm (!) but theoretically it is absolutely functional. On display in Dunhill's London showroom. - Space Shuttle was inspired by the space shuttles riding atop a Boing 747 enroute back to Florida from Edwards air base. - Cologne Cathedral was a special order made for Cologne pipe-trader Peter Heinrichs in 2005. It is a rare Dunhill Freehand Straight Grain 4 stars pipe in oversize (XL). The lid is worked – like the Cologne cathedral itself – out of 925 sterling silver. The smoke can escape through several holes in the lid as well as through the head portal of the cathedral. The pipe is therefore fully operable, but will hardly ever be smoked. The pipe (value: Euro 10,000) was blessed by the Cologne Cardinal Meißner (!!!) and received a display place in the Cologne City Museum.
G.L. Pease has a nice collection of Dunhills: The Mystery of the White Spot - Pipes from Dunhill (on Pipedia). On Greg's Website
John C. Loring has perhaps the most complete collection of Dunhills in the US, which is expertly categorized, dated, and notated: The John C. Loring Collection
Derek Green has a nice collection, many of which appear in this article: The Derek Green Collection.
Richard Block has a fine collection, including many rare pieces, which may be viewed at: http://web.mac.com/richard_block/iWeb/Site%203/Das%20Wunderkammer.html
If you know of good Duhill collections on the web, please add links to them here.
A Dunhill Pipe Dating Guide
Dunhill is the only factory made pipe that can be accurately dated. This contributes to it's popularity with collectors, but it can be difficult to accurately date any given pipe. We have imported R.D. Fields A Dunhill Pipe Dating Guide to Pipedia, by permission of the author. This guide is very helpful, but there are discrepancies in both the literature regarding the nomenclature, and anomalies in the nomenclature itself. We highly recommend the book by Dunhill expert, John C. Loring called, "The Dunhill Briar Pipe - 'the patent years and after'. It is available from the author. Loring also publishes corrections and additions on his website, which are extremely helpful.
Alfred Dunhill Manufacturing Limited, 32 St Andrews Road, London E17 6BQ; Telephone: +44 (0)20 8498 4000; Fax: +44 (020) 8498 4077; Email: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Official site: http://www.whitespot.co.uk/