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An Introduction to the Peterson Pipe
By Jim Lilley
Thank you, Jim, for developing this wonderful article on Peterson pipes for Pipedia. --sethile 19:31, 18 October 2010 (UTC) -- Pipedia SYSOP
The Nurnberg brothers Friedrich and Heinrich Kapp, whose elegant Dublin tobacconist first opened
for business in 1865 on Grafton Street, Dublin could scarcely have dreamt that they would
participate in the birth of a legend.
Friedrich & Heinrich, who christened their shop simply 'Kapp Brothers', soon made a name for themselves making and selling quality Meerschaum and Briar Root pipes.
It was not long before Charles Peterson, a large young Latvian immigrant from Riga, walked into
Kapp Brothers Grafton Street premises with a revolutionary pipe and ambitious plans for the future.
declaring that he could make better pipes than they could. Armed with an imaginative flair for pipes
and a craftsman's background. There and then, Peterson suggested that the brothers go into
partnership with him to turn his pipe dream into the world's dream pipe. They agreed and Peterson
not only proved himself correct, but became the third partner in the fledgling firm. The company
was renamed Kapp & Peterson.
Kapp and Peterson went on to become Dublin's most fashionable and respected manufacturer and purveyors of fine smoking products. Pipe and cigar smokers would stroll down to the elegant premises for professional advice on the subtle nuances that determine a good handmade cigar or pipe. The Peterson brand was embraced by politicians, business leaders, sportsmen, artists and writers.
Thereafter not much more background information is known about Charles,how his business progressed,his family life if any,when did he retire,where and when did he die? There are few if any historical references, other than the famous quote he wrote on his favorite pipe. The original pipe is on display in the Peterson Museum in Dublin and the silver band is engraved with the message: “When stolen, please return to 55, Grafton Street. C. Peterson”. He obviously had a great sense of humor.
It was a well-used pipe, and it is obvious that Charles valued it very much. It is a large thick-walled pipe, with a bowl that tapers internally.
Charles was a big man, with proportionately large hands, so this pipe would have fitted them well.
My great friend Dave Hughes has just completed some very interesting genealogical background research
on Charles and his family. This has been most helpful, in filling in some of the historical, blank
missing pieces. Thank you for a job well done Dave,it is much appreciated.
I do however realize that this is still work in progress and that Dave will continue to research Charles Peterson's family history. We will update any information that is relevant to the project.
Dave writes:- “For the year 1901, I have found a Charles Peterson living at 126 Rock Road in Dublin. His birth place is listed as Russia. His age is listed as 47(?). He's a widower and lists his occupation as pipe maker. I'm guessing this is our Mr. Peterson. Also a woman by the name of Mary O'Regan, who is listed as married and his landlady, lives at this address. She will show up again, later.”
“Jump to 1911. I find a Charles Peterson living at 144 Leinster Road, Dublin. His age is 60 years, birth place is listed as Riga. Again his occupation is listed as pipe maker. But now he is married, it looks like to Annie Peterson, age 34. They have been married for 9 years and have two living children. I believe their children are a son, Conrad Peterson, age 7, and a daughter, Isolde Peterson, age 2 months. One other child was born to them but has died. The year of birth and death are not given. Again I find Mary O'Regan listed as living in the household, but as his sister-in-law. Her sister is married to Charles. No mention is made of her husband although she is listed as married and head of household. I also find a John Peterson, age 45, whose birth place is Riga, living with them. He is listed as a lodger and his occupation is pipe maker, and he is single. Possibly a brother to Charles, or at least a close relative. Also in the house is another Conrad Peterson, age 21, whose birth place is also Riga. He is listed as a student and a visitor in the house. A young woman by the name of Agnes Geoghean is listed as a children's nurse and Kathleen Dornt is listed a as general servant, both single and both living in the house”.
It is also interesting to note that the family members included a children's nurse and a general
servant living with them.This would appear to indicate that Charles's business was doing well
As yet we have no information on where and when Charles died. Watch this space.
An Introduction to the modern Peterson Pipes
As an avid Peterson pipe enthusiast and collector, I am amazed at how little has been written in the
past to chronicle the Peterson pipe history and the story of it's evolution. When I first started out
with my obsessive interest in all things Peterson, I encountered major historical reference problems
and like most enthusiasts,I was hungry for further dependable and accurate information which was
just not there. Thanks to the dedication of the late Mike Leverette,a well known and respected
expert collector of Peterson pipes, an attempt to rectify this historical anomaly was initiated in the
early 2000's . Mike and some of his colleagues created the well known 'Peterson Pipe Project' web
site, which cataloged the known early years in Peterson history and in particular a marvelous
section on hallmarks and dating older pipes. Unfortunately this wonderful reference tool was never
to reach its full potential development, as Mike sadly died in 2009, following a long period of
I dedicate this compilation of modern Peterson references, respectfully to Mikes memory and hope that it is seen as being complimentary to Mike's main work.
I have adapted this section concentrating on post 1950,the made in the Irish Republic era and the
different modern Peterson grades and series,which should bring us up to the present time period.
The series groupings do not necessarily conform to those in evidence on the official Peterson web
site. I have taken a certain amount of license in putting together groupings, which I feel are more
appropriate. There are some inclusions that are a mixture of series which are either made for or are
specific to Europe and the US markets.
I have also attempted to place an approximate retail purchase price/value against various pipe groups to give a guide to the novice collectors. These prices are in US dollars and will be updated periodically. It is also worth bearing in mind that estate values would be approximately 50% of those prices quoted,proportionately higher for rarer pipes such as the earlier editions of the Mark Twain series,which are currently averaging $300-$400 for the UN-numbered editions,to over $1000 for earlier low numbered gold banded editions.
My main aim is to help to clarify an otherwise chaotic Peterson history for other enthusiasts,especially the new Peterson pipe owner or collector.
Guide Listings of the Peterson modern series
1950 onwards.- Made in the Republic of Ireland
The following lists and groupings are hopefully a tool to make it easier to come to terms with the huge array of Peterson's selection of modern pipes. I appreciate that their will no doubt be omissions from the list,however it should be considered a 'work in progress' project and further inclusions will be inserted as these become apparent.
Classic Range These are primarily the basic 'entry' level Peterson Pipes, which vary in price between $55 and $200.depending on finish i.e. smooth,sandblast,rustic and if any nickel or silverware etc.. These pipes will most certainly have some fills and slight flaws.
- Captain Pete
- Cashel,Rock of.
- Flame Grain
- Irish Made Army
- Irish Whiskey
- Kapp Royal
- K Briar
- Laxiom(UK made in 1960's)
- Racing Green
- Silver Mounted Army
System Pipes Probably the most popular and famous range in the Peterson stables. All come with the famous P-lip stem. Prices start at around $80 for the basic standard and up to $400 for the large hand made House pipes.
- Original Mark Twain
- New Mark Twain
Collections Usually these themed collections of pipes are boxed. They vary in price from the Ebony and Ivory at around $300 to $1000 for the River, 6 pipe set.
- Antique collection
- River collection
- Irish sea collection
- Mark Twain collection
- Writers collection
- Great Explorers collection
- River collection
- Castle collection
The pipes in this range are amongst the best and most select briar's that Peterson produce. They vary in price from the Rosslare Royal Irish at around $150 to the Plato Freehand at $350.
- Rosslare Royal Irish
- Royal Irish
Briar's are carefully examined for imperfections and selected briar's of exceptional grain, known as Straight Grains are carefully selected. They are hand crafted and the increasingly rare skill required to make them is unique. Craftsman shape, turn, sand and polish 150 year old roots of the Erica arborea tree. Only a very limited quantity of Straight Grains are available in any twelve month period.
Prices start at around $400 going upwards.
Deluxe Silver Mounted
Made from superior quality briar, in golden smooth polished finish with hallmarked sterling silver bands. Available in most of the classic shapes, subject to the availability of quality briar.
Prices vary but start at around $145 and up to $250.
Supreme Gold & Silver Mounted
Exceptionally rich in grain, these pipes are made from the finest briar and are almost as rare as straight grains. Each pipe has a highly polished natural finish and is fitted with a slender gold or silver band. With Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece. Available in classic shapes subject to the availability of quality briar.
Prices can vary between $330 and $850.
Silver Caps & Lids
The union of top grade mellowed briar and hallmarked silver combine to make this truly beautiful series. Using the highest grade bowls, the silver work is done by hand and fits the cap to each individual pipe. Available in most classic shapes with a Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece. Peterson also offer Silver Caps with a unique hallmarked silver hinged lid which is custom made to fit each individual pipe.
Prices start around $300 and on up to $450.
The Peterson Spigot is characterised by a sterling silver covering on the tapered end of the mouthpiece which compliments the sterling silver band of the pipe. The Spigot style evolved from the practice of soldiers in earlier centuries who repaired broken pipes by sliding a used cartridge case over the shank and reinserting the mouthpiece. In this unique spigot finished pipe, Peterson craftsmanship perfect the union of finest quality briar and precious metals. The silver or gold is spun to shape and then fitted to the pipe.
Prices start at around $200 and rise to $800.
'Original collection' - The most successful series of pipes introduced by Peterson. First produced in 1987 to honour the most famous character in fiction, Sherlock Holmes. A 7 day set made from specially selected briar-wood in shapes most favoured by Holmes. Available in smooth, ebony, rustic and some sandblast. All extra large bowls. Sterling silver band. Peterson lip and fishtail mouthpiece.
'Return of collection' - Based on the success of the first series and made from specially selected briarwood in the time honoured Peterson tradition. All seven pipes are mounted with a hallmarked sterling silver band. Available with Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece.
Sherlock Holmes Meerschaum collection- Same seven shapes as the original collection.
Individual briar pipes start at around $200,with complete sets and rack at around $1500.
Individual meerschaum's start around $300 and complete sets plus rack at around $2000.
Belgique and Calabash - Two petite and lightweight Peterson shapes crafted with all the care and know how of century old pipe makers. From finest quality briar in red polish and rustic finishes with fishtail mouthpieces only.
Prices around $60 to $85.
Tankard & Barrel - Two attractively shaped pipes finished in red polish or rustic. A quality briar fitted with a nickel mount. Available with Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece.
Prices start from $45.
Churchwarden - One of the earliest pipe shapes and still remains popular. The overall length of the mouthpiece ensures a pleasant cool smoke, particularly suitable for an evenings relaxation. The Dublin, Billiard and Prince shapes come in smooth or rustic finish are available with long slender fishtail mouthpiece only.
Prices starting at $90.
Commemorative and Limited editions
Millennium - Dublin one of Europe's oldest capital cities celebrated its Millennium in the year 1988 and in honour, Petersons made a special tribute to the occasion, by creating prestige souvenir pipes known as "Peterson Dublin Millennium".These pipes are available in both an Oom Paul and a Dublin shape.
Prices are around $190 per pipe.
New Mark Twain – 2 pipe set in honour of the great Mark Twain. The bent one is a replica of the
original 80's bent Mark Twain shape,which was produced for the American market only and
attained cult status. The second pipe in the set is a poker shape, related to the Corn cob pipe that
Huckleberry Finn used to smoke. The bent pipe is only available with the Peterson lip and the
straight Poker is only available with a fishtail mouthpiece – they are sold as a boxed set. Finish in
choices of Smooth,Rustic,Sandblast and Ebony.
Price estimated to be around $350 - $450 for the set,depending on finish.
Charles Peterson 140 Anniversary – in 2005 Peterson celebrated it's 140th anniversary. To mark
the occasion, they decided to produce an exact copy of Charles Peterson´s favourite pipe. The
original of this pipe is kept in the Peterson museum in Dublin and the silver band is engraved with
the massage;"When stolen, please return to 55. Grafton Street" and is signed by Charles Peterson.
Prices start around $280.
Pipes of the year - Each year Peterson's design and produce a select number of pipes in limited
numbers. These products are particularly directed at the pipe connoisseur who can recognise the
characteristics of the product which is unique in its material, workmanship and styling.
Prices start at around $200.
4th July - Made for the US market to celebrate Independence Day.
Expect to pay around $100.
Saint Patrick's day - Each year Peterson launches a range of pipes to celebrate Ireland’s national
holiday when everyone in the world wishes to be Irish. Most years they gone with a very Irish
colour – a shade of green.
Prices start around $80.
Ebony and Ivory - Ebony & Ivory 2-pipe set. One Bent meerschaum pipe and one straight ebony
finished briar pipe in special presentation box, both with fishtail stems.
Fathers day - A classic pipe with a Walnut finish with matching ring. Available in selected classic
shapes with fishtail mouthpiece only.
Price around $100
Christmas Pipe – Commissioned by the American e-tailer 'Cup O' Joes', Peterson's first ever
Christmas pipe! Like the Peterson Year Pipe, a special limited edition, featuring a smooth finish,
fishtail mouthpiece, and a Sterling Silver Band with a Christmas tree stamped on it. The bowl was
stamped with the Peterson logo and "Christmas 2009".
Price around $150.
The new 2010 Christmas pipes are now available in the Classic shapes and can be sourced world wide, from approved Peterson distributors.
Why choose a Peterson Pipe?
Why choose a Peterson Pipe,what is so special about them when compared to other well known brands?
As a long time smoker of Peterson pipes I have found them totally dependable as basic smoking
I am willing to concede that we are all different in our tastes and choices,mine possibly being an extreme viewpoint of the Peterson brand. However in defence, my knowledge is based on years of ownership and experience of the myriad selection of pipes that Peterson have produced and are still producing.
I have had an extensive collection of other brands,including artisan pipes, in my collections over the years, with which to draw these comparisons. However for me Peterson pipes have a special place and attraction. Their historical elegance coupled to Celtic charisma and eccentricity adds to a massive world wide following and popularity. As well as being excellent everyday smoking pipes,they are also very collectable. Particularly the Patents, Pre-Republics and original Mark Twain's, all of which command reasonably consistent, estate prices at auction.
In my opinion Peterson pipes embody what is meant by "a good pipe." Their design, materials, history, and elegance convey a certain mystique that eclipses other brands. It's difficult to understand, but by smoking, or collecting Peterson pipes, a person can identify with times past, a time when quality and craftsmanship, were the norm and not the exception. From my years of ownership,here are some other good solid reasons to choose a Peterson pipe. :-
- Historical provenance over 145 years and are eminently collectible.
- Classical,simple elegant shapes.
- Aesthetically pleasing and very tactile in the hand.
- Value for money. Prices are competitive throughout their range.
- Extensive choice of styles and shapes
- Excellent consistent build and smoking qualities.
- Strong world wide community of followers.
- Excellent resale values.
- Quality customer care and support.
- System pipes eccentric quirky design and following.
- Highly regarded attractive silver-work.
- Innovation: they regularly come up with new series and design.
As I have stated previously, the huge World-wide number of contented Peterson pipe smokers is evidence enough and must be considered a great endorsement of the brand.
I often cringe at some of the negative comments made on popular pipe forums, in regard to the quality and finish of Peterson pipes. Inevitably it is the old story of a lack of knowledge of ownership of the extensive and varied choices in the range of pipes presented by Peterson. Often the negative comments are based on the writers limited experience of owning a basic entry level pipe. Thereafter they condemn all Peterson pipes, based on that poor experience.
I am privileged in that I have a good variety of both entry and higher grade Peterson Pipes within my collection. In my humble opinion, Peterson have been consistent throughout their production of higher end pipes, in replicating a tradition of Celtic quality, at very reasonable prices.
To be Continued
Peterson Patent Era Pipes
Peterson Pre Republic Pipes
Peterson English made Pipes
Peterson System Pipes
- See Also: The Peterson Pipe Collector
- See also A Conversation With Tom Palmer of Peterson of Dublin
- For detail information on the history of Peterson, and an excellent dating guide see A Peterson Dating Guide; A Rule of Thumb by Mike Leverette.
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