Dr. Grabow

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Dr. Paul E. Grabow was a general physician in Chicago, located at 2348 N. Seminary Ave. Some doors north at No. 2400 was the drug store owned by Mr. Brown, a personal friend of Dr. Grabow. Grabow and Brown, both fond of fly-fishing, would often sit together in the early evening hours in a back room of the drug shop talking to one another and enjoying their pipes. Before long, they were joined by Mr. Linkman, owner of M. Linkman & Co., a large pipe factory located one block west on W. Fullerton Ave., at the corner of Racine Ave. These three gentlemen shared common interests and became fast friends.

The Louis B. Linkman pipe factory, built 1922, from circa 1937 catalog, courtesy Doug Valitchka
Dr. Paul Grabow, courtesy Doug Valitchka

During one of their evening get-togethers in 1930, Linkman mentioned he would introduce a new type of pipe soon that exhibited what he felt were fine improvements that greatly improved the pipe smoking experience. He was still looking for a good name and believed his pipes would sell better if they bore the name of a physician. (1) Linkman asked his friend Dr. Grabow if he would permit him to use his name. The good doctor felt flattered by the idea a pipe should be designated for him and consented. A formal agreement was not made, nor were there any contracts signed or royalties paid to Dr. Grabow for the use of his name; it was, according to one of Dr. Paul Grabow's sons, Milford, a "friendly understanding" and Linkman expressed his thanks by sending Dr. Grabow numerous pipes throughout Dr. Grabow's lifetime. (see The Legend of Dr. Grabow). Also interesting of note are the various instances where Dr. Paul Grabow stated that he developed, or helped develop, the Dr. Grabow brand of pipes. This was a tactic used to convince people that a pipe developed, endorsed, and used by a medical physician would be 'more healthful' than a pipe that was not developed by someone in the medical community.

Dr. Paul E. Grabow passed away in 1965 at 97. The pipes that bear his name became one of the most popular, and one of the most well-known, pipe brands in North America.

War times
Ad 1946
War Add, courtesy Doug Valitchka
Courtesy Doug Valitchka
Courtesy Doug Valitchka

The production of the pipes started in 1930/31. In 1937 Linkman began calling his pipes “Pre-Smoked”. An ad dating from 1946 celebrates it as "America's Most Wanted Pipes" and the text announced that each Dr. Grabow was broken in on the Linkman's Automatic Smoking Machine with fine Edgeworth tobacco, reducing the need for the new owner to spend time breaking in his pipe. In 1949 the official name read Dr. Grabow Pipe Company Inc. with seat at W. Fullerton Avenue 1150, Chicago 14, Illinois. (Thus the Linkman factory.) Series: Special, De Luxe, Supreme, Tru’ Grain, Select Grain.

In 1952, the 80 year old Linkman retired as president of M. Linkman & Co. and until 1955 the company was purchased and owned by Henry Leonard & Thomas Inc., P.O. box 375, Greensboro, North Carolina. Five series were offered: Dr. Grabow Standard, De Luxe, Supreme, Tru’ Grain, Select.

1969 it was Dr. Grabow Pre Smoked Pipes, P.O. box 21888, Greensboro, NC 27420. The program had been enlarged: Lark, Duke, Grand Duke, Riviera, Crown Duke, Savoy, Royal Duke, Viking, Regal, Silver Duke, Golden Duke, Starfire, Viscount, Commodore, Eldorado. (Prices margin in the given order 1.50 - 10.00 $.)

In 1969, United States Tobacco acquired Henry, Leonard & Thomas Inc., which manufactured Dr. Grabow Pre-Smoked pipes.(2)

On Jan. 26th 2006 Nick Bumbacco, president of Lane Limited in Tucker, Georgia, announced the sale of the Sparta, North Carolina Dr. Grabow pipe factory - International Pipes & Accessories LLC. Lane Limited (a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc.) said it wanted to concentrate on its core business as manufacturers and distributors of tobacco goods as a reason for the $ 4.3 million deal, which also included Dr. Grabow Pipe Filters and Dill's Pipe Cleaners.

As of April 2011, Dr. Grabow offered the Big Pipe, Cardinal, Duke, Freehand, Golden Duke, Grand Duke, Lark, Omega, Riviera, Royal Duke, Royalton, and Savoy tobacco pipes. These pipes are offered in both a smooth and rustic finish. Here are pictures of the different Dr Grabow tobacco pipes. (3)

(1) It was a very common use to name pipes "Doctor X's" throughout the 1920's and 1930's worldwide! Uncounted "systems" and filter types were invented suggesting to smoke not only very pleasantly but even more in a very sophisticated i.e. healthy way. (At least some hindered the pipe from gargling...) As many others did also Linkman / Grabow went as far as assuring the pipe had been developed by the Doctor himself.

Dr. Grabow pipes are commonly available at Drugstores such as CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid, and forego any expensive and/or fancy packaging; pipes are sold in a plastic blister pack. Pipes can also be purchased directly from the manufacturer, and customers are invited to take a tour of their factory in Sparta, Ashe County, North Carolina, and purchase pipes directly from the factory. The Sparta, North Carolina factory produces over 200,000 - 350,000 pipes annually, making it the largest manufacturer of pipes under one roof, and it employs 62 people as Sparta's single largest employer.

Ajustomatic Patent Drawing

Circa 1971 Christmas Add for Colored Viscounts, courtesy Doug Valitchka

Metal Pipes

Viking, courtesy Doug Valitchka

Dr. Grabbow Viking and Viking 2 pipes are aluminum pipes with wood bowls. The Viking pipes are similar in design to the Falcon brand of pipe, so much so that Falcon won a lawsuit against Grabow. The original design looked very much like the Falcon, and was patented in 1954. In 1956 the multi-finned chrome plated design (more commonly seen) came out, and was no longer such a copy of the Falcon. The Viking pipes use one thread for their bowls, unlike the Falcon which uses four. The pipe body is aluminum, usually chromed and has cooling fins. Viking pipes utilize a lower bowl that the briar screws into. This bowl collects the moisture and tar from smoking and reduces bite to almost nothing. This pipe is no longer in production but estate pipes are readily available.

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