The Briar Trade: Makers, Manufacturers, and Brands That Time Forgot
Originally appeared in Pipes & Tobaccos Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer 2013
From its inception in the late 1850s, the briar industry’s growth and expansion would be best described as evolutionary, starting with that cottage epicenter, St. Claude—with small- and medium-sized workshops—that evolved in the next hundred years into today’s global market comprised, principally, of industrial-strength manufacturers known by their long-standing company name or their trademark, e.g., “White Dot,” “WDC” in an inverted triangle, or the oval escutcheon “GBD.” By comparison, in the last 50 years, what’s been happening in the trade is considered revolutionary! This sector of the industry consisting of independent, skilled crafts people has been growing exponentially, and it is giving the old establishments a run for their money. This is not the era of your father’s—or your grandfather’s—briar!
LOOKING BACK: AN IMPRECISE OVERVIEW First, a quick review of a few uncorroborated claims about the three countries with the longest manufacturing track record: USA, France and England. From what is cited later in this essay, one can conclude that the U.S. briar pipe business was booming for a number of years. Then things began to change, but it’s not clear precisely when; the how and why are probably the result of aggressive marketing, merchandising, and acceptability of European imports. According to the Foreign Commerce Weekly, U. S. Department of Commerce, Volumes 16-17 (1944), the “[t]otal number of pipes imported by the United States in 1940 came to a little more than 1,000,000,” and by the early 1950s, “The whole U.S. briar pipe industry employs only about 1600 people...” (Life, March 2, 1953, 33).
Given the genesis of the briar, there’s much to note about France. St.-Claude was the bristling hub of briar pipe-making activity, described as “Nowhere in the world has a so little place gathered so many briar pipe workshops and factories” (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/infos/stclaude-en.html). It employed almost the entire population of the canton making briars: independent ateliers, one- and two-man workshops, and several much larger operations. It had, pretty much, a worldwide monopoly in briar pipes in the late 19th century. “By 1914, there were 1,300 workers making five million pipes a year, most for export” (Automobile Association Developments, Illustrated Guide to France, 2003, 97). But “Saint-Claude has been making brier-root pipes for half a century. Between thirty and forty millions of them are manufactured annually” (Bernard St. Lawrence, “Where Briers Are Made for the ‘Tommies’ and the ‘Poilus’,” The Wide World Magazine, February 1919, 316). (I find it hard to believe that in five years, the St.-Claude output had increased six- to eight-fold.) Another report is wholly off-mark regarding St.-Claude: “Pipe production takes off, and so does population which rises from 5,000 in 1839 to 12,000 in 1911. By that time, Saint-Claude is producing twenty-eight million briar pipes a year and shipping them all over the world. In 1920, one-third of the population (four thousand workers) was turning out over forty-three millions pipes” (Eugen Weber, “Between Center and Periphery,” in Peter Hans Reill and Balázs A. Szelényi, [eds.], Cores, Peripheries, and Globalization, 2011, 94). It seems that those who report on St.-Claude pipe production can’t agree on the numbers. According to the 1995 EURAIL Guide to World Train Travel, “The 15 manufacturers of smoking pipes who are located here have made this ‘the pipe capital of France.’ They produce 1,600,000 briar pipes annually.” Hardly an accurate figure for 1995! A more accurate claim is: “Mass production since 1945 has removed St. Claude from its place as the maker of 90 percent of the world’s briar pipes” (Illustrated Guide to France, 2003, 97). However, rather than cite annual production rates, John A. Linkletter, reported on another, more plausible statistic: “In all, some 1600 different pipe styles come out of Saint-Claude...” (“The Art of Making Briar Pipes,” Popular Mechanics, February 1977, 38H). Images of a few early 20th century briars from St.-Claude that, stylistically, preceded the conventional shapes we know today are found at http://tobaccopipeartistory.blogspot.com/2012/07/early-xxth-century-saint-claude-pipe.html.
It has been frequently reported that from Leghorn, Italy, “The rough blocks are packed in sacks containing 40 to 100 dozen each, and sent abroad, principally to France (St. Cloud) [sic], where they are finished into the famous G.B.D., or ‘Pipes de Bruyere,’ known to smokers in England under the name of ‘brier wood pipes’” (“Brier Root Pipes,” Scientific American, September 27, 1884, 195). “It is said that a large proportion of the so-called ‘English’ pipes are entirely manufactured at St. Claude and are exported ready for sale. This statement also applies to most of the French ‘manufacturers,’ who place their orders for pipes, ready branded in their name, with St. Claude factories” (U. S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Daily Consular and Trade Reports, Nos. 1-75, Volume I, January, February, and March 1914, 222). And a bit of humorous supporting evidence, St.-Claude pipes were “...sold in large quantities in London with English trade-marks, and therefore eagerly bought by those Frenchmen who visit London, as a souvenir from the other side of the Channel...” (Peter Kropotkin, Fields, Factories and Workshops, 1993, 307). Opinions then, as now, seem to vary as to who made the best pipe. “English pipe makers are tops in the hearts of many, but some believe briar is still best worked in France, or by a cult of Italian carvers said to have access to a superior supply of the gnarled root” (Ilene Barth, The Smoking Life, 1997, 117).
From one snippet of evidence, it appears that the English were busier at the workbench than the French: “Between 15000000 and 20000000 pipes were sold annually in the British Isles in pre-war years—more than half the finished briar pipes imported by the United States having come from that country” (Foreign Commerce Weekly, U.S. Department of Commerce, Volumes 16–17, 1944). That’s a hellova lot of pre-World War II briar, or is this quantity a bit exaggerated? In contrast to the aforementioned 1,600 pipe models released from St.- Claude, Pipedia reports: “At the end of the 19th century GBD offered 1,500 models.” Noteworthy, reader, is this takeaway about mid-20th century British-made briars, a stringent British Pipe Trade Association (BPTA) “bye-law” that drew my attention:
“3. On or after 1st January, 1939, it shall not be permitted for a member to sell briar pipes marked, stamped or described as “British Made”, “English Made”, “London Made” and “Made in London”, or with other word or words of a similar character, unless the following conditions are complied with:—
(a) Either the bowl or the mouthpiece is of entirely British Manufacture and (b) The pipe is fitted and finished in the United Kingdom.
“4. Members shall not, either directly or indirectly, fit and/or finish for firms abroad.”
And as a gratuitous comment, whether true or not: “English manufacturers keep the high-grade stummels to be made into high-priced pipes, sending low-grade stummels to their French factories” (Raymond Joslyn Hoyle and John R. Stillinger, Wood-using Industries of New York, 1949, 91).
Italy needs mention as well. She played a rather significant role early in the briar trade. She “became the largest producer of pipes in the world, with 35–40 factories located mainly in Lombardy, many of which worked as subcontractors for distributors, often British, who then would put their trade mark (the ‘punzone’) on the finished product” (Anna Grandori, Organization and Economic Behavior, 1995, 321).
Today, buying a pipe is no longer a simple decision, because there’s, literally, a crowding sea of briar...a full menu of options, so to speak, for any pipe smoker with an appetite. With a cornucopia of briar choices, a pipe smoker just might experience list-thinking, a symptom of our short attention span; listing subconsciously creates patterns, groups and piles of information that seem to come together on their own. Some might already have a written inventory of their briars, or generated a roster of favorite pipe makers or assembled a bucket list of specific pipe maker styles to eventually own. Such lists are personalized, developed to the list-maker’s taste and need. To these list makers, I ask: What about the utility and benefit to us all of an industry mega-list, one that’s encyclopedic in content? Wouldn’t it be grand if there were a comprehensive archive on the Web that traces and tracks this once-upon-a-time cottage industry that evolved into large-scale, mass-production manufacturers, and that now includes a global community of independent hand craftsmen? With all this pipe hyperactivity, thousands of inquisitive briar smoker-collectors around the world, a free and open Internet, and an extensive online community of pipe aficionados, authorities, connoisseurs, experts, and mavens, isn’t it odd that there’s not been a recent individual initiative or a collective movement to develop a substantive, and all-inclusive—ideally, global—list of makers and manufacturers for this community’s reference and research, one that adds flesh to the briar’s bones?
Might I be wrong? Is there a public archive or repository that includes all the players not just of today, but also of yesterday? Is someone secretly at work compiling this information and preserving it for posterity? Does anybody know? I’ve certainly looked, and I can’t find one that’s inclusive and accessible to the public. And if one doesn’t exist, is there an industry or an individual interest, need, or demand for such a list or, in today’s parlance, a database? Maybe yes...maybe no. If no, the balance of this essay is wasted space in this magazine! If yes, how does one go about cataloguing an entire industry’s lengthy past, and is it doable? An obvious way to start is to mine what’s available and build on this foundation gradually and methodically. What follows is just a starting point, but someone more knowledgeable than I will have to energize and expand the effort.
PRINT AND INTERNET RESOURCES
Who were the earliest pioneers, how many companies were in operation, say, arbitrarily, between 1860 and 1950? Have all those old concerns been relegated to the dustbin of the tobacco industry, although their pipes may still be in circulation? A cursory review of Paul Jung’s 19th Century Patents, Designs, and Trademarks for Tobacco Pipes and Related Material Issued by the U.S. Patent Office 1858-1899 (1987) indicates that hundreds of American and European ideas and design concepts for briar pipes were submitted for a U.S. patent—I didn’t count them—but there is no easy way to determine how many of these patents materialized into commercial pipes. Include all the approved patents and designs for briars in France, Germany, and Great Britain, and that population would probably increase at least four-fold.
In 1997, H. Wilczak and T. Colwell published Who Made That Pipe? A Directory of Briar Names, Their Makers/Sellers, and Countries of Origin in the 19th & 20th Centuries (New York). It’s a great compilation that includes several thousand entries, precisely 7,685 discrete pipe-style trade names, e.g., Astor Bantam, Astor Pipe, and Golden Arrow (all from Comoy); 7,685 styles, models or brand names are not 7,685 manufacturers. A few years later, José Manual Lopes authored Pipes. Artisans and Trademarks (2005); the original Portuguese edition is Cachimbos (2004). His compendium contains some 1,800 alphabetized names, more or less, of pipe makers, past and present—again, I didn’t count ‘em—and it’s the best global source book to date of who made and who is making what briars. Three less comprehensive books are Aldo Pellissone, Catalogo Bolaffi delle Pipe (1978), David Wright, A Pipe Companion (2000), and Rolf Joachim Rutzen, Pfeifen. Die Pfeifenmacher der Welt, Marken & Modelle (2000); although global in their scope, the three focus only on contemporary pipe makers. Two Italian best sellers, Bozzini e. Fincato, Le Più Belle Pipe Italiane (1987) and Pellissone e. Emanuel, Pipe, I Tabacchi, I Fiammiferi, Le Tabacchiere (1985) concentrate on today’s Italian pipe makers, so both are quite limited in their coverage. Scandinavian Pipemakers (2012) from Jan Andersson is the newest entrant, but the title reveals its contemporaneousness and its narrow geographic orientation.
In print are a few specialized books: R. W. Stokes, Collector’s Guide to Kaywoodie Pipes. A Partial Chronology of Kaywoodie Grades, Shapes, and Prices (1936-1969); L. A. Rathburn, The History of The Fort Wayne Falcon Featherweight 1945 (1995); W. Taylor, The Pipe. Manufacturing and Marketing Pyrolitic Graphite Pipes from Development to Demise (2000); W. E. Unger, As Individual as a Thumbprint: The Custom-Bilt Pipe Story (2000); and K. A. Worth, Back From the Ashes: Uncovering The Lost History of G.L. Hunt and the Falcon (2007).
And there’s quite a bit of information online about more than a handful who made briars in the near-distant past, and those who make briars today, but much less, far less has been written about the “who’s who” of yesterday’s community of American or European makers. An Internet search yields a cameo history on several standards, for example, Demuth, Dunhill, Grabow, and Kaywoodie. In my judgment, six Internet sites are striving to keep the pipe smoker and collector informed:
- http://pipedia.org/index.php?title=Pipe_Brands_/_Makers; and
None of these sites claims to be all-inclusive, but using all these resources in conjunction, would they paint a fairly complete picture of the breadth and expanse of the briar trade, today and yesterday? It’s doubtful. Of these six sites, Pipedia is, perhaps, the best resource, because it’s an online global database organized by region, country, brand and maker, and it is a living document, constantly being updated, whereas a book on this topic is likely to be out of date once the ink is dry. Pipedia contributors have written a number of brief, company accounts that ought to be familiar to most briar pipe smokers. Not to be critical, but Pipedia’s endeavor is not complete—and it doesn’t claim to be—because the vast majority of citations are vintage and contemporary makers; there are few really old company names with rather cursory histories that have been posted so far, but maybe it’s because the wiki contributors are unfamiliar with ye olden-day makers and brand names. . The pipephil.eu site does a great job of illustrating logos, stamps and trademarks of many, lesser-known, pipe makers of the past. As well, there are lots of Web sites, such as www.pfeifenkonsulat.at/shop, and www.alpascia.com/groupIndex.asp?list=14095..1, but their purpose is to sell the output of a vast assortment of new-world briar pipe makers; such sites are essentially laundry lists, not low downs on their history.
EARLY AMERICAN ENTERPRISES
The early American pipe industry was rather sizable, and lots of small companies came and went without having left their mark, vanished without a trace, their contributions never recognized; in a word, there is evidence that they passed under this industry’s archival radar. Most everyone recognizes that handful of conventional American manufacturers, Dr. Grabow, KB&B/Kaywoodie, Medico, WDC, Weber, Yello-Bole, etc. But how familiar is the reader with the many, less-than-popular manufacturers listed In Table 1? The majority were concentrated in the New York–New Jersey corridor; New York was then this nation’s leading state of briar pipe companies. This table excludes all the independents that worked from their home, garage, or workshop and advertised in the classifieds.
|Albee Smoking Pipe Corp., Brooklyn, NY||Anti-Nicotine Pipe Co., Ottawa, IL||Aply-Tec Products, Inc., Brooklyn, NY|
|Arlington Briar Pipe Corporation, Brooklyn, NY||Art-Craft Briar Pipe Company, Brooklyn, NY||J. Bachmann Company, Chicago, IL|
|Baltimore Briar Pipe Company, Baltimore, MD||Barnaby Briars, Brooklyn, NY||Breezewood Pipe Company, NY, NY|
|Briarcraft, Inc., Spring Valley, NY||Briar Hill Corp., Millersburg, OH||Brunswick Briar Pipe Company, NYC, NY|
|CPW (Colossal Pipe Works), NY, NY||E. A. Carey Company, Northbrook, IL||Century Briar Pipe Co., Brooklyn, NY|
|Continental Briar Pipe Company, Brooklyn, NY||Danco Pipes, NY, NY||William Demuth & Company (WDC), NY, NY|
|Eastern Briar Pipe Co., Brooklyn, NY||Emperor Briar Pipe Co., Brooklyn, NY||Empire Briar Pipe Co., Inc., Brooklyn, NY|
|Flower City Briar Pipe Company, Rochester, NY||S. M. Frank & Co., NYC, NY||Freeman Pipe Company, Kalamazoo, MI|
|Ryerson D. Gates, Oak Park, IL||General Briar Pipe Co., Inc., NY, NY||Hamilton Pipe Works, Brooklyn, NY|
|(Joseph) Harvey & (Edwin) Ford, NY, NY||Duncan Hill Ltd., Hartville, OH||Hirschl & Bendheim, Washington, MO|
|O. R. Jacques, Manchester, NH (The “Hooker Pipe”)||F. J. Kaldenberg,/ F. W. Kaldenberg, NY, NY||Kaufman Brothers & Bondy, NY, NY and Union City, NJ (operated the Colossus Pipe Factory [C. P. F.])|
|B. F. Kirtland, “the Pipe Man,” Chicago, IL||Knickerbocker Smoking Pipe Company, Brooklyn, NY||Pipes by Lee, (Stewart-Allen Co., Inc. NY, NY)|
|Henry Leonard & Thomas, Inc., Ozone Park, NY||M. Linkman & Co., Chicago, IL (MLC and Dr. Grabow)||Manhattan Briar Pipe Company of Brooklyn; Jersey City and Marion, NJ (successor of Brunswick Briar Pipe Company)|
|Marxman Pipes, Inc., NY, NY||Mastercraft Pipe Company, NY, NY||Meerbowl, Hicksville, NY|
|National Pipe Works (NPW)/ National Briar Pipe Company, Jersey City, NJ||New England Briar Pipe Company, Penacook, NH (Yello-Bole)||Norwalk Pipe Company, Stanhope, NJ, and NY, NY|
|Pacific Briarwood Company, Los Gatos, CA||Percolator Pipe Co., Inc., NYC, NY||Perry Pipe Company, Chicago, IL|
|Premiere Pipe Company of Union, NJ||(Ernest) Rejall & (Julius) Becker (RBC), NY, NY||Sachs Pipes, Brooklyn, NY|
|Sepra-Bol Pipe Co., Atlanta, GA||R. H. Sherlock Co./ Sherlock Holmes Pipe Co., Chicago, IL||Siphon Tobacco Pipe Company, NY, NY|
|Sport Briar Pipe Company, NY, NY||L. & H. Stern (LHS), Brooklyn, NY||Transylvania Pipe Company, Brevard, NC|
|W. H. Utter & Son, Olean, NY||VanRoy Company, NY, NY||Viking Pipe Co., Greensboro, NC|
|T .J. Winston Briar Pipe Manufacturing Company, Lindenhurst, NY|
Thumb through any copy of Pipe Lovers magazine (January 1946–April 1950), The American Smoker (May 1950–January 1951), or Pipe Smokers Review (May–August 1952); the ads for many off-brand briars appear in various issues. I mentioned a few briar pipe oddities in “From True Confessions to True Confections” (Pipes & Tobaccos, Spring, 2011):
There were other pipe oddities that were for sale in our store: the Century Briar Company’s filter pipe with the underside, screw-in glass bottle; the Pavey Pipe Company briar with its air-cooling chamber insert; the Spiral-Kool Company briar with a composition piston on the end of a plunger to scrape tars and juices from the metal stem; the James King & Company briar with a tamper-spade mounted on the pipe’s shank; and some of the oldest stock that never sold, a few Vogel and Bohn-Dri pipes made specifically for the “wet smoker.”
These aforementioned pipe oddities and many other briar apparatuses, contraptions, contrivances, novelty and Rube Goldberg-style utensils for smoking tobacco have long ago ceased production, have long ago been forgotten.
Now and then, a little light shines through from unexpected sources. The Historical Record to The Close of the Nineteenth Century of Rockland County, New York (Arthur S. Tompkins, ed., 1902), a curious, esoteric resource for a pipe historian, revealed two tidbits. William Heyenga (born in Germany in 1827) came to New York in 1860 and, partnering with a certain Mr. Lesser, began manufacturing pipes. Whether true or not, the Historical Record states that he “was the first manufacturer of pipes in America.” Furthermore, it claimed that he invented and patented the metal pipe wind cover, and was the first to adopt the metal shank ferrule for briars. He and Lesser eventually owned and operated three large pipe factories in New York, engaging about 150 employees. He retired to Spring Valley, New York, in 1880 and, in 1881, established another factory there; he eventually passed the business on to his son, Herman. As well, Mr. I. C. Lindemann, another native of Germany, had learned the trade in his native land, then in New York City, and eventually relocated to Spring Valley. It is more than coincidental that Briarcraft, Inc. (Table 1) was located in that city, but I found little else in print so far about either these individuals or the company. Sources for similar arcania can be mined online, in public and university libraries, museums, and directories.
Several years ago, S. Paul Jung, good friend and clay pipe collector, began an investigative effort that he titled “Tobacco Pipe Manufacturers and Distributors Found in U.S. Directories in the Library of Congress.” What he discovered was that the listings in old directories—street, local and regional business, state and regional—as well as more modern directories are not always specific as to the type of pipe made or sold. For a sensing of the expansive nature of what once was the American tobacco pipe business, Table 2 is my summary of Paul’s database, by state for the inclusive years 1860-1930; his includes company names and cities.
|STATE||NR. MFGRS||STATE||NR. MFGRS|
|District of Columbia||2||New York||496|
Paul identified more than 1,000 companies in 32 states, and he has yet to complete his research! The database is overwhelming, but the problems with it is that the directory word descriptions are vague or generic—i.e., “mnfr pipes,” “smok art,” “mnfr br, meer,” “mnfr pat pipes,” “pipes,” and other ambiguous terms—so not only are the specific product lines not known, neither are their years of operation. Directories classified a company, if it was pipe-related, and some, as Paul indicates by the title, were probably importers, wholesalers, and distributors. There is also some redundancy in that more than one entry for a company appears in his database if it had either multiple, concurrent facilities at different addresses in a city, or its facility relocated frequently, according to each annual directory. Not all were involved in the manufacture of briars, and it’s difficult to discern who produced what, based on the minimal descriptors in these assorted directories. Any attempt at sorting or collation would certainly lead to faulty conclusions.
EARLY FRENCH ENTERPRISES
Now I add to the mix with some from “over there” for comparison. First, what’s in print on the French pipe industry? Two books are from the noted briar pipe maker, Gilbert Guyot, both now out of print: Le Piper de Paris (1984), and Les Pipiers Français. Histoire et Tradition (1992). Both, intentionally, are broad treatises about the entire French pipe industry with too little historic detail about specific companies. Several companies had shops in Paris, among them LMB, Ganneval, Bondier & Donninger (later, Bondier, Ulrich & Cie/Bine, Marechal & Cie./A. Marechal, Ruchon & Cie), Goltsche (Guyot), Sommer Frères (R. Faivret, Successeur). Among the notable in the early days of St.-Claude, to mention a handful, were E. Buffard–Bontemps & Fils, Henry Dalloz, Alix Delacour, Ewa, L. Faton et ses Fils, Gefapip, G. Vincent-Genod, Guichard & Cie., Jeantet, Louis Lamberthod, Paul Lanier, Pierre Manzini, Lucien Morand, Henri Nicod, Prost & Sevenier, St. Claude Briar Pipe Co., Ltd., C. J. Verguet Frères, Vidaillet & Gros, Paul Viou, Emile Vuillard, Vuillermoz & Goujon, Wolf and Mathiss, among many others... names far from the tip of the tongue to anyone tracing the nascent French briar industry. Many of these facilities are now long shuttered, their machinery, tools, and stamping dies—all in perfect working order—were purchased by the late Alberto Paronelli, along with the machines, tools and, perhaps, the company archives, of a few Italian briar pipe manufactories, such as Rossi and Gallarte; all this stuff is on display at his home at Via del Chiostro 5, Gavirate, Italy, now converted into a museum.
How does one sort out St.-Claude’s extensive briar pipe industry? With this industry jumble, one of the many obvious difficulties in wrapping one’s arms around the early years of St.-Claude is how to catalog all these firms by country and inclusive years of operation. Who should claim dominion? For example, Francois Comoy’s first factory was in St.-Claude until Henri, one of his grandsons, moved it to London in 1879. Another example is the Jobey, once an English original, then an American standard, and now a St.-Claude-machined pipe. So it’s difficult to determine whether a particular maker should be considered French, English, or Franco–English. For an historic gem, a diagram of the marriage (or merger) of early 20th century French and British briar pipe makers is at http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/infos/connect-en.html. No one, to my knowledge, has attempted to develop a similar wiring diagram depicting the combines, consolidations, and takeovers of American briar pipe companies from the same period.
EARLY ENGLISH ENTERPRISES
Consider, next, England. This is how the Brits report history: “During the late 1850s, however, a new kind of pipe, the briar, or brier, found its way to England from Corsica via France” (B. W. E. Alford, W.D. & H.O. Wills and the Development of the U. K. Tobacco Industry, 1786-1965, 1973, 111). England has a long and storied tradition of makers and manufacturers beyond the iconic BBB, Barling, Bewlay, Charatan, Comoy, Dunhill, GBD, Loewe, Peterson, Sasieni, and a few other standards. It’s not easy to find all the early English companies in operation. Similar to the aforementioned problem with U.S. directories, parsing English reports is just as challenging. In an 1891 census of trade, profession, and employment, within the category of “Tobacconists, &c.”, are two broad subcategories, “Pipe Makers and Importers” and “Tobacco Pipe Manufacturers” (James Salmon, Ten Years’ Growth of the City of London, 1891, 127). What’s the discrete difference, how does one differentiate one subcategory from another? The task became more daunting poring through a reference 30 years later, the (UK) Tobacco Year Book for 1921. Pages 59 and 60 list “Additional Pipes and Pouches, etc.,” and Pages 145–147 is a “List of Pipe, Pouch, Fancy Goods, etc., Brands.” Both sections contain not only myriad company names and a host of briar trade names, but space forbids mentioning all; neither list, however, clearly indicates whether a named company uniquely made briar, clay, meerschaum, calabash, or any other type of pipe. To wit, just three randomly chosen, Breeno Pipes (Breen Brothers), Ambush (Unbay Pipe Manufacturing Co.), and the Patent Urn Pipe Company, are pipe puzzlers to me, maybe less so to someone intimately familiar with the British tobacco pipe industry.
Table 3 is my best shot, nonetheless, and it’s far from complete. No doubt, the reader will recognize many, others not so much. Several of those in the table may have had manufacturing facilities in both England and France.
|Allen & Wright||Ashenfarb, Leon||Barling, B. & Sons|
|Baron & Company||Billy Pipe Company||Block, Salamon|
|Blumfield, Louis (BBB)||Brix Sons||Bruderlin, Otto|
|Brumfit, John||Bull, Samuel M.||Carter’s Patent Pipe Co.|
|Civic Company, Ltd.||Clement & Collcomb||Comoy, H. & Co.|
|Coventry Patent Pipe Co., Ltd.||Davies & Huybrecht (London Castle)||Deguingand, Emile & Son Ltd.|
|Delacour, A.||Dunhill, A.||Edwards, Friedrich & Co.|
|Flachfeld, J. & Co.||Fraenkel Bros.||Frankau, Adolph|
|Friedlander, L. (L.F.L.)||Grappin-Dallox||Guinzel & Rosenberger|
|Harwood Brothers, Ltd.||Hecht, S. Sons & Prag||John Inderwick (I. & Co.)|
|Janovsky, Albert||Jeantet, David||Kapp & Peterson Ltd.|
|Kippax Bros. (K. B. A.)||Kohn & Wiess||Lewis & Hardcastle.|
|Loewe, E. J. & Co.||London Pipe Co.||McLardy, Samuel (Simplex)|
|Maas, Charles & Co. (Crown/CM)||Masta Patent Pipe Co.||Nathan, Alfred Jerrold & Co. (Anchor)|
|Oppenheimer, A. & Co.||Sina Oppenheimer, Seckel & Co. Ltd.||Perkins, Henry & Sons|
|Pierce, W. H. & Co. (The Cantilever)||Posener, Adolph & Co. (The A. D. Pose)||Randolph, Andrew & Co.|
|Rougier & Co. Ltd.||Salmon & Gluckstein||Simon, Vuillard & Strauss|
|Stantien & Becker||T. & H. Tobacco Pipes||Trombone Pipe Company|
|Vince’s Patent Pipes||Wade, Ben||Weingott, Samuel & Son|
|Woolf, M. A. & Co. (VDT)||Yeomans, T. E. & Sons, Ltd.|
- Thanks to the late Robert M. “Mike” Leverette for some of the company names in this table.
The trade names in Table 4, next, were extracted from various 1890s issues of the weekly British trade magazine, Tobacco. No doubt, there may be some duplication between Table 3 and Table 4 that only more rigorous, more granular research will reveal. In the January 15, 1881 issue of Tobacco appeared “A Complete Directory of The Tobacco Trade in the United Kingdom.” This is the earliest, most reliable list I have encountered. The section titled “Tobacco Pipe Makers” included 92 names and addresses; unfortunately, similar to the problem with U.S. directories, there is no way to determine the product line of each company. And the brand names in Table 4 are absent their associated manufacturers and may be in the product line of one or more of the manufacturers listed in Table 3.
|A. G. E.||Baronfil||Biltor|
|Blowaway||Burkard Pipe||Dewy’s Patent Pipe|
|Dredger||Free and Easy||HOC|
|Imperial Pipe||Kebles Patent Press Pipe||King’s Cross|
|M.P.||PDP Patent Dividing Pipe||Prudential Pipe|
|Roll Call||Saget’s Patent Colonial||Sennett’s Patent Pipe|
|S. N. & Co. Pocket Pipe and Spiral Bore||Tanner’s New Fibre Pipe||Tindell’s Shilling Pipe|
|Tongard||Turf Pipe||V. V. pipe|
|Wise Pipe (also known as the Upside Down Pipe)|
The most well documented English pipe is Dunhill. There’s Mary Dunhill, Our Family Business (1979); Michael Balfour, Alfred Dunhill. One Hundred Years and More (1992); and a company-sponsored pamphlet, The Story of Dunhill’s, 1907-1957, with an updated version, The Story of Dunhill’s, 1907–1970. Gary Schrier (www.briarbooks.com) brought to life a reproduction of one of the company’s better catalogues, its 1928 About Smoke. An Encyclopedia of Smoking, a very complete picture of the company’s enduring forte and fame. He’s reprinted two other Dunhill catalogues, About Smoke. Gifts Edition, 1923 and Things The Soldiers Are Asking For, 1914. And he’s done a yeoman’s job with other reminders of those halcyon days: the 1912 BBB catalogue, No. XX; BBB. 100 Years in the Service of Smokers, 1847-1947, and the Loewe Pipe Packet (1910 and 1926 catalogs). Routinely, even lushly illustrated company catalogs did not include an in-depth history.
What also comes to mind are J.W. Cole, The GBD St. Claude Story (1976) and Leaves from a Tobaccoman's Log (1970) about Charatan, based on interviews of Herman G. Lane (who adopted America) and written by American R. L. Schnitzer. The late John Loring had invested much time and energy to assemble nomenclature data about and publish four volumes on the Dunhill briar pipe. Several Americans are now writing feverishly in concert with Tom Palmer, the Peterson CEO, to ready The Peterson Pipe Chronicles, to be released in 2015 in conjunction with the company’s 150th anniversary celebration. Additionally, there’s a lot written by Americans on English briar companies that’s posted on the worldwide Web. Why is that? What’s our fascination with, or attraction to, foreign pipe makers, and not to our very own? Our briar industry is not that much younger than our British (and French) counterparts, yet most recent evidence suggests that American pipe smokers seem less interested in documenting our own historic past. Strange, indeed, that about 100 years ago, at least one American, although not remarking on English-made briars, touted our workmanship: “French briar pipes are justly celebrated, but the American pipes are better made” (W. A. Brennan, Tobacco Leaves. Being A Book of Facts for Smokers, 1915, 161). The published evidence, to date, suggests that today’s American briar pipe man does not hold the same opinion.
PRESERVATION AND PERPETUATION
Le Musée de la Pipe, du Diamant et du Lapidaire, St. Claude, has a permanent exhibit of myriad, artistic briars from the late 19th century through the early 20th century. During its tenure, the aforementioned BPTA—not to be confused with the (UK) Pipe & Pipe Tobacco Trade Association—chartered “to encourage the development and promote and protect the interests of the briar pipe industry and generally to watch over and protect the interests of manufacturers and wholesalers of briar pipes and smokers’ articles” kept a register of trademarks, conducted public relations campaigns, introduced the “Pipeman of the Year” program, set stringent standards and guidelines for member manufacturers, wholesalers, suppliers and agents of finished pipes, bowls, and mouthpieces trade, but never maintained an archive. When the UK smoking ban in the work place took effect in the early 1970s, the BPTA ceased to exist.
More relevant to this discussion is Britain’s National Pipe Archive (NPA), a charitable organization founded in 1993, chartered “to collect, conserve and maintain a national archive of the tobacco pipe industry and related matters for the benefit of the public, both now and for future generations, and to promote and encourage the general education of the public in the study of the tobacco pipe industry and related matters.” And the Museum of London Archaeology, in concert with the City of London Archaeological Trust, has undertaken a major project “...to create a physical and digital database of clay pipe makers’ marks from London excavations, including both pipes made in the capital and imported from further afield.” The International Academy of the Pipe (IAP), founded in 1985, has established several working groups, one of which is the Briar Working Group (http://www.pipeacademy.org/working_groups.html). Its accomplishments, to date, are noted on the IAP Web site “Recent research has concentrated on the documentation of the factory produced briar industry in England in the 20th century. A paper on a briar pattern book of c1918 will appear in Volume 2 of the Academy’s journal. The first and second trade lists of the Civic Company of London issued, in 1921 and 1922, can be viewed via the links provided below.” The (UK) Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders, The Society for Clay Pipe Research, and several continental societies are focused on digging up the past and documenting the lengthy history of clay pipes; given their narrowly defined charters, none of these organizations is expected to advance the study of the briar industry’s past, writ large.
Where are our advocates, our benefactors, our briar brain trust? There is no American public or private museum dedicated to exhibiting, preserving, or archiving information about the tobacco pipe, and I doubt there will ever be one. There is no American consortium, trust, syndicate, or council of briar pipe makers, but if there were, its sole priority would be to advertise and promote today’s pipe makers. The closest counterpart to the BPTA is the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (previously the Retail Tobacco Dealers Association), but it is a trade association “...representing and assisting premium retail tobacconists and their suppliers.” There is a tobacco-industry archive comparable to Britain’s NPA, but it’s not available to the common man...a serious shortcoming, in my view. It’s the Tobacco Merchants Association (TMA), Princeton, New Jersey, founded in 1915, a worldwide information center for the U.S. tobacco industry that retains the most expansive library of industry research material, but its resources are accessible only to a dues-paying member of the tobacco business. (To be fair, TMA’s Web site states “Research is available to non-members...,” but after several unanswered e-mails requesting a visit as a non-member, I got this reply on October 23, 2102: “We do have a lot of books, periodicals, etc dating back many decades”...but, “The Cullman Library is not one that is used for visits by members or non members.”) Sad, indeed, because its Howard S. Cullman Library, as of a 1972 TMA brochure, housed more than 8,000 titles—books, pamphlets, and trade magazine articles—253 feet of shelving and 95 library-file drawers; since 1972, the Library has, no doubt, acquired much more material. Mining those files just might be the pipe researcher’s pot of gold, a briar history bonanza.
A WORTHWHILE ENDEAVOR?
If a detailed and expansive history of our briar trade is a worthwhile endeavor, it is left to us, not the league of pipe makers, to undertake. It’s Pipedia’s wish: “It would be great to see an overview of the history of pipe making in each region.” And, I would add, not just those of the here and now, but also of yesterday. If such a database is maintained by a reader of this magazine, he ought to share it, make it public-domain information so that those interested can access it, fill in the blanks, make it more robust, more comprehensive by adding an abstract, an historically relevant snippet, a brief summary of a company’s productive life in a sort of Wikipedia (or Pipedia) way or, perhaps, as a cloud system or data warehouse, because there are, unquestionably, lots of blanks. Or, if anyone is interested in expanding or delving deeper into Jung’s research endeavor independently or in collaboration with him, that would be great for our hobby. How many American pipe aficionados are energized enough to investigate and publish the lengthy history of Demuth, or KBB, or Weber, or any other American brand? (I confess that at least two substantive articles on Demuth have been published: “Profiles of Pioneers of the Pipe and Tobacco Industries: William Demuth (1835–1911),” a detailed account of the family and the business from tobacco historian Jonathan Guss at http://www.apassionforpipes.com/vintages-project, and my own, “A Legendary Company Gone, While Its Logo Lives On: The Other Demuth,” in CIGAR Magazine, Spring 2010, and there may yet be more to recount about this extraordinary pipe company.)
Jim Lilley, a Peterson pipe aficionado, has a way with words: “The pipe connoisseur might be defined as a laconic pipe historian, and the pipe historian as a loquacious connoisseur.” Is there anyone in our community of pipe smokers willing to assume the mantle of carrying out this effort as either a laconic historian or a loquacious connoisseur? Just as Pipedia states on its main page: “Knowledgeable enthusiasts, collectors, pipe makers, and tobacconists are welcome and encouraged to contribute to Pipedia,” I would offer that these same people could contribute to my proposed endeavor, or expand Pipedia’s noble efforts to serve any and all who are interested in the lengthy history of this colorful, but unscripted and uncelebrated, industry. Harking back to my comment about an open and free Internet, it has transformed the once impossible into the eminently doable. But be forewarned: it is, without question, a herculean task. How does one undertake an elephantine project? One byte at a time, and all who contribute will enjoy the bytes along the way.
This is not so much a plea as an acknowledgement that a meticulously developed audit trail of all American (and, perhaps later, all English and French) briar pipe makers and manufacturers from industry start-up would be a useful reference tool to researchers, historians, and smoker-collectors alike. After all, both the significant trend and the trajectory in the current briar trade are truly apparent only when measured against the backdrop of yesterday. To some, it may appear that I am writing from an academically pedantic perch, but it is said: “if you don’t know your history, you have no future,” or you can’t understand today without knowing yesterday. However revolutionary the current trend and trajectory in pipe making, both are understood and interpreted not just by their contemporary context; their past have played a very significant role. Everything has a past, the past is always present, and the past has applicability in the present. The more we know about the trade’s past, the better we comprehend today’s state of the art and what it bodes for the future.
In the final analysis, whatever results from such an endeavor, there will remain an historical omission. However fact-filled this database might turn out to be—if it is undertaken—it will never be truly complete, because a substantial segment of this cottage industry, here and abroad, represents hundreds of no-name master craftsmen, semi-skilled workers and apprentices who produced briars ‘to order’ that bore the incised stamp or trademark of various retail shops, or prepped the pipes for their finishing touches to be executed at other pipe companies. Those craftsmen went to their graves without an iota of recognition, names never to be included in the annals of the briar trade. It’s a sad, sobering, even sorrowful segment of the industry’s inattention and indifference, unless or until something is done to fix it. The aforementioned notwithstanding, as a parting salute to all those unknowns, paraphrasing General MacArthur’s address to Congress on April 19, 1951, like old soldiers, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those who worked in the briar trade so many years ago simply faded away. And their good, borrowed from Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, was buried “...with their bones.”