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Courtesy, Doug Valitchka
Courtesy, Doug Valitchka
Courtesy, Doug Valitchka

The story of Bertram pipes begins with a German pipemaker named Bertram Goldmann who emigrated to the United States in 1874 and settled down in Washington D.C.

In 1927 Sydney Bertram Goldman opened a new factory, the Bertram Pipe Shop. The strategically favorable situation in the political center of the USA procured many illustrious customers from politics and fine arts to the well-respected brand: Joseph Stalin, General Douglas MacArthur, Edward G. Robinson or Red Skelton just to name a few. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered his cigarette tips there. Bertram acquired the surname "The Nation’s Pipemaker".

Over three generations Bertram’s enjoyed such a good reputation in the USA that their own production wasn't able to keep up with the demand and pipes had to be bought in addition from notable suppliers. In reference to this Bertram in later years was also apostrophized "The Astley's of America".

Their pipes seem have been graded by a numbering system, i.e. 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, etc., with the higher numbers being more desirable. The grading system also indicated the price for which it was to be sold. A '10' sold for $1.00, a '20' for $2.00, and so on.

The company suffered a tragic blow at the end of the 1960s. During the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. the factory was plundered and set on fire. Though some efforts - mainly by Bertram employees - were made to restart Bertram never really recovered and the owning family decided to quit pipe production and close the shop in 1977.

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