A Closer Look at the Mark Twain Original and New Pipes

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Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Mark Twain's own original pipe
Old MarkTwain 150 tobacco poster
Mark Twain Rotation Pipes, Jim Lilley collection
Mark Twain, portrait at Stormfield

By Jim Lilley

The Peterson Mark Twain Original Series Pipes What better pipe to start off with than the legendary eponymous Peterson Mark Twain, especially poignant as this is the centenary year of the great man's death.( Samuel Langhorne Clemens 1835 1910).

Here is the great man, smoking a Peterson pipe,apparently the one that is on display in the MT museum is in a very poor condition. It would seem he was not very particular about cleaning,or the regular maintenance of his pipes. As can be seen in the adjoining photo.
You will note that the original pipe is somewhat different from the modern production pipes, in that the bowl shape was more rounded and apple shaped in the original and the stem did not have the gap at the base to take up any wear.

For years Twain's original pipe rested, unnoticed in the Mark Twain museum in Hannibal Missouri. Well worn,with the bowl scraped thin by numerous years of use. It had obviously been one of Twain's favourite pipes.
Then in 1980 the museum received a call from Petersons of Dublin. An old photograph had been discovered of Mark Twain smoking what appeared to be a Peterson System Pipe. A close inspection of the hallmarked silver band confirmed that it was a Peterson from 1896.A complete set of photographs were taken and sent back to Peterson in Dublin. The hallmark dated the pipe at 1896,The shape for some unknown reason had been discontinued in the early 1900's. Twain the worldwide traveller had obviously heard of the remarkable smoking qualities of the Peterson system pipes on one of his trips abroad and had added this one to his collection it had clearly served him well. Justifiably excited by the discovery,the people at Peterson decided that any pipe that had served it's famous owner so long and well should be made available to today's pipe lovers as well. Because the pipe shape had been discontinued for so long,new measurements were needed. Exact dimensions were painstakingly recorded and at the same time aged briar blocks fine enough were carefully selected.
Peterson started production of the Mark Twain Series in 1980 with a numbered production run from 1 - 400. Then again in 1981 with a numbered production run from 1 - 1000. In 1983, Peterson started producing Mark Twains without numbers,(except the 1985 limited Gold issue),until about 1989. However, they must have had another production run later as there is evidence of Mark Twains with 1998 silver marked bands.

The pipes are typically large, full bents, with P-lip tapered stems, and a hallmarked silver collar. They are akin in quality to Deluxe System pipes, and as such, are also available in the smooth, sandblast, and rustic finishes. The Mark Twains have legendary high quality smoking, with good draw and excellent with Virginia and flake blends.
Cost / Value: $250 $ 1000 plus,depending on which series and precious metal finish. The originals are regularly available on Ebay and with offerings hotly contested at auction.

The New Mark Twain Collection-

Since the issue of the original Mark Twain series of pipes in the 1980's, Peterson's became victims of their own success and were constantly under pressure from worldwide collectors to resurrect that successful series. The original pipes gained a cult following, mainly on the back of the Mark Twain legend, plus their handsome looks and excellent smoking qualities. In recent months Peterson's has issued a twin pipe set in honour of Mark Twain and to commemorate the 100 years since the great man's passing in 1910.

The first pipe in the two pipe boxed set is a smooth bent with a Plip similar to the first issue pipe of the 80's. The second pipe in the set is a poker shape with a fishtail stem, related to the Corn cob pipe that Huckleberry Finn used to smoke. The pipes are available in four finishes, Smooth, Sandblast, Rustic and Ebony.

Samuel L Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. One of Americas most famous authors, had a very sharp wit, he was sociocritical, had a great analytical mind and was an enthusiastic pipe smoker.
Ernest Hemingway, another great author said of him: “All of American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

I have a fair size collection of the original bent Mark Twain's (13) and was particularly interested in comparing these two new pipes, in this latest collection, to be given the honour of his name.
I recently took delivery of a pair of new boxed MT smooth pipes, photo below. Having had the opportunity to put the pipes through their paces since arriving, I feel that I can now give a reasonable review and assessment of them.
On closer inspection the pipes are quite stunning to look at and in my opinion a great match of the original MT shape. Coupled with a rare choice of poker shape from Peterson, to tie in with the Hucklberry Finn storyline. The new pipe is large. I would even suggest that the new issue bent is marginally bigger than the older, original ones. The Poker too, is a large pipe. Unlike the new bent MT, the new Poker is not a system pipe.

A full bent, the classic Peterson shape, designed to hang comfortably from the mouth and a large tactile straight Poker for southern comfort! Just like a big cob. Aesthetically they are absolutely gorgeous, both have the elegant classic Peterson lines.
Plip tapered stem,with hallmarked silver collar in the bent and fishtail stem for the poker. Available in choices of smooth,sandblast and rustic finish.

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The shiny finish and colouring of the smooth has proven to be somewhat controversial with some collectors/smokers .Personally I do not entirely agree with the criticisms which have been made, in respect of this. I am willing to give it time and quite like the new finish. Of course to those who do not like the smooths, there is always an alternative choice from the other finishes that are available.

Typical Deluxe system quality, with none of the fills and spills in evidence in the lower entry Petersons. With legendary high quality smoking quality and good draw. Excellent smoking, particularly with Virginia and flake blends. Peterson at it's best. They both retail at around $350 $ 450 plus, depending on which finish.

After initial production and distribution hiccups, they are now widely available throughout Europe and North America.

If giving the new pipes a score rating, I would rate them 9.5 out of 10, nearly perfect! If customers had been given more choices , particularly in alternative smooth finishes and not had the Poker imposed along with the bent as a set, it would have been the magic 10 score. I still think that if they were good enough for old Samuel,they are sure nuff good for me,the Legend lives on.

I have enclosed photos of examples of each of the various Mark Twains.