The CPCC Doctor and Master of Pipes Awards: They’re Not Forever Programs

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The CPCC Doctor and Master of Pipes Awards: They’re Not Forever Programs

Ben Rapaport, August 2022
Exclusive to pipedia.org

INTRODUCTION

It’s difficult to know if anyone reads my posts on pipedia.org, but Scott Thile has been very gracious during the past two years to accept every story I send. Since the demise of Pipes & tobaccos magazine in 2019, he’s been my venue of choice. This latest essay gives the reader something to ponder and contemplate.
(SYSOP Note: Thank you for entrusting your work to our archives on Pipedia, Ben. People do read your posts, but perhaps more importantly, they will be available here for future collectors and historians to discover. Only time will tell what will ultimately be important to future pipe enthusiasts and historians. Our mission is to capture as much information as possible while we still have access to the brain trust.)

Around 500 BCE, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus is to have said “The only constant in life has been change.” In 1849, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse-Karr echoed that sentiment: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (The more things change, the more they stay the same). I’d say that in today’s pipe and tobacco environment, the adage is the more things change, the more they don’t stay the same! Change, most often, represents growth and progress, but change can also create a negative effect. As a writer, pipe smoker, pipe collector and, especially, as a spectator on the periphery of the tobacco industry since the 1960s, I have witnessed lots of changes, big and small, dramatic and trivial, some successes and some failures, such as the Venturi pipe, R. J. Reynolds’ “socially acceptable” smokeless cigarette “Premier,” Peter Stokkebye’s “Free” cigarettes, and other so-called “safer tobacco” products.

In my opinion, the following changes have been very significant. Collectively, they have signaled a huge transformation of the industry, here and abroad. This list is not intended to portray turmoil in the trade, but the last 50 to 75 years have certainly not been a period of statis:

  • From an industry with a powerful special-interest lobby to an industry trying to survive with shifts in the tobacco-product landscape with new FTC regulations, increasing excise taxes on tobacco products, proposed rules on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, and the FDA’s war on pipe tobacco.
  • From independent B&M tobacco stores and Tinder Box International’s 100 or so franchises that have shrunk to around 20, to pre-Internet, mail-order businesses (Al Grosskopf, John Herring, Barry Levin, Marty Pulvers, et al.), to online and pipe show sales.
  • From the convenient pouch, pack and bulk pipe tobacco blends to mostly tinned tobaccos that are pretty much today’s container standard.
  • From the Manufacturers of Smoking Pipes—also known as the Association of Smoking Pipe Manufacturers—that began in New York City around 1937, renamed the National Association of Manufacturers of Smoking Pipes, then as the Association of Smoking Pipe Manufacturers of the U.S., to the early 1950s as the American Smoking Pipe Manufacturers Association where the trail ends. Since then, there’s been no organization to represent American tobacco pipe interests.
  • From factory-made pipes, such as Briarcraft, Dr. Grabow, Kaywoodie, Mastercraft, Medico, and Yello Bole sold in supermarkets, drug stores, and smoke shops at prices that most smokers could afford, to myriad wonders in wood that can empty the wallet of most pipers today.
  • From five briar pipe-making countries—Denmark, France, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States—to a global community of several hundred independent artisans, many from unexpected countries, such as Albania, Cyprus, and China engaged in offering hand-made briars.
  • From the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America (RTDA), founded in 1933, rebranded as the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers (IPCPR), to the Premium Cigar Association (PCA). The RTDA was an association representing premium tobacco products; its annual show exhibit booths displayed mostly pipes and pipe tobaccos along with a handful of cigars. On the PCA website for the 2022 show, there are only the logos of cigar makers and distributors.
  • From the early 1970s when the Pipe Tobacco Council had estimated that 52 million pounds of pipe tobacco were sold annually in the United States, to the 1990s when the figure was 7.1 million pounds, a decline of 86 percent and the downward trend continues.
  • From one or two books about pipes and pipe smoking published in the 1960s, e.g., Weber and Verdaguer, to myriad choices in several languages, many of which are profusely illustrated.
  • From Pipe Lovers (1946–April 1950) to several short-lived magazines (Pipe Friendly, Pipe Smoker, Pipe: The Worldwide Pipe Smoker’s Magazine, Wonderful World of Pipes and The Compleat Smoker) to the demise of Pipes & Tobaccos. Now there is only one journal, The Pipe Collector published by North American Society of Pipe Collectors. (Would you believe that there are at least six publications for the American cigar-smoking devotee?)
  • From the debut of Cigar Aficionado in Autumn 1992, to the cigar business that continues to outperform the pipe business. Nowadays, many tobacconists sell cigars exclusively.
  • From the first weekend pipe show, a rather small event in Burlingame, California, in 1980, the First National Pipe Collectors Exposition sponsored by Drucquer and Sons, Ltd., Berkeley—Drucquers also hosted the second show in 1981—to the annual Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club Show (CPCC), an international event that draws pipe makers, tobacco blenders, collectors and spectators.
  • From simple terms and expressions to describe the act of pipe smoking to a new-age vernacular that I believe began in 1984 with the introduction of the term kapnismologist, one who studies the art of smoking. The opinion of some who have adopted and use this ever-expanding argot is that it separates the true connoisseur from the casual smoker and excludes those who are not among the cognoscenti.
  • Last, the saddest change of all, from the passing of many giants who had set the pace, broke new ground, energized the hobby, and left an indelible mark in many different and important ways: Tom Colwell, Tom Dunn, Carl Ehwa, Harvey Greif, John Loring, Barry Levin, Mike McCain, Mike Reschke, Chuck Rio, Basil Sullivan, inter alia, to the most recent, Frank Burla, the force behind the CPCC. Unfortunately, this change is an unavoidable constant in life.

MY HYPOTHESIS

Now and then, a thought forms about what might be other changes for our community and I have to intellectually pursue that thought to its logical end. The CPCC’s Doctor of Pipes (DOP) award—established in 1998—and the Master of Pipes (MOP) award—established in 2017—are unique programs. They are the only award programs for lifetime achievement; no other pipe club has a comparable system to honor individual accomplishment and publicly announce—forgive the military analogy—“Thank you for your Service.” Both programs are not at risk, but what about their future? What if both programs are terminated? It may seem counterintuitive to those who are familiar with the program or are awardees that this could happen, but it would certainly be a very significant change. The CPCC has been in operation since 1993; 29 years is quite an accomplishment for any pipe club, and the likelihood that it shutters, while remote, is a possibility. After all, many local and regional pipe clubs have come and gone in the short span of the last 30 years for various reasons. (Remember Pipes & tobaccos that debuted in 1996? According to Chuck Stanion, it was “…the longest-running, highest-quality commercial pipe magazine in history,” yet it was unexpectedly sold in 2019 without much fanfare and without as much as a whisper.) I suspect that no one has considered the possibility that the DOP and MOP programs could suddenly end, so no course of action is currently being envisioned, discussed, or planned. And because this may not happen, it is a hypothesis.

PAST AND PRESENT AWARD PROGRAMS

A look back to other awards for our community is in order. Throughout time, there have been sponsors of various awards and honors for pipe smokers, pipe collectors, and those affiliated with the tobacco industry. Here’s a brief look into Europe’s award history. The “Pipeman of the Year” changed to “Pipesmoker of the Year” under the auspices of the British Pipesmokers’ Council. The idea was to honor distinguished enthusiasts and raise cash for charity. Sir Harold Wilson received the “Pipesmoker of the Year” in 1965, “Pipeman of the Decade” in 1976 and, later, the unique “Pipeman of the Century” award. In 2003, Comedian and novelist Stephen Fry was selected as the 39th and last “Pipeman of the Year.” After 39 years, the program was terminated because the organizers feared the new laws banning all advertising and promotion of tobacco. (Although this program has not been revived, the Federation of British Pipe Clubs which coordinates the activities of all English pipe clubs has its own annual “Pipe Smoker of the Year” award.) Britain’s prestigious Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers & Tobacco Blenders, founded in 1619, is known for its an annual “Retailer of the Year” award, but there’s much more to this 600-year-old association. In 2010, It formed the Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Trade Benevolent Fund to help anyone who worked in the trade in any capacity or to their dependents and instituted an annual £50 scholarship to any young man of “satisfactory academic ability and notable qualities.”

Elise Rasmussen is not a household name in the U.S. She’s the publisher and sales director of Tobacco Reporter, co-founder and chairwoman of Women in Tobacco, the founder and president of the Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum (GTNF), and the executive director of the GTNF Trust. She was awarded the Freedom of the City of London in 2013. In 2015, she was elected as Fourth Warden of the Worshipful Company. And in 2017, she received a Voices of Freedom Award from Forest, a U.K. organization for adult nicotine consumer rights. Think about it! Someone entrenched in the tobacco industry honored by unaffiliated organizations.

Germany has its Pfeifenraucher des Jahres (Pipe Smoker of the Year) program that began in 1969 under the sponsorship of the Tobacco Forum, an association that represents the interests of the pipe tobacco industry, the pipe industry and importers. Nominees come from politics, business, science, or work as writers, actors or television presenters. The attributes used to select an awardee are listed in its charter: “…the title holder should embody the ‘typical qualities of the pipe smoker: Individuality, independence in thinking and acting, standing up for personal convictions, self-confidence, openness, critical faculty, a sense of pleasure as well as down-to-earthness and a love of freedom,’” criteria that I find very unusual for such an award. The Tabakkollegium (Tobacco College) has a “Pipe Smoker of the Year” program. The European Smoking Tobacco Association represents the interests of European manufacturers, distributors and importers of rolling tobacco, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and nasal snuff tobacco; it has no awards program.

The Confrérie des maîtres-pipiers (Brotherhood of the Master Pipe Makers), established in 1966, is a registered association with the goal as “Ambassador of the important pipe industry of Saint-Claude, France.” Inductees to the Confrérie represent a diverse group: importers, wholesalers, retailers, and those known for their love of the pipe, such as journalists, actors in film and theater, the medical profession, and sports personalities. Rick Hacker was inducted into the Confrérie, the Académie Internationale de la Pipe, and was knighted by the Internationales Tabakskollegium of Germany. That’s three European awards to an American author of pipe and cigar books!

Occasionally a European pipe smoker is immortalized on a postage stamp as was Georges Simenon and Harold Wilson or often portrayed on bank notes.

At the 2014 InterTabac Show in Dortmund, Germany, a Vauen 3-D-printed pipe named “Diamond” received a special award as “…the most attractive novelty in the pipe sector.” Marcus Bruckner, the designer-producer of the “Diamond” was mentioned in passing. I guess that the machine trumped the inventor-maker in importance.

In 2020, I learned of an impressive distinction for someone I have known for years, Don Duco, the curator of the Pijpenkabinet, the Amsterdam Pipe Museum that houses some 30,000 pipes and related utensils. “For his long-term study of and commitment to the history of the pipe and the culture of pipe smoking, Don Duco has been granted the prestigious European Heritage Award, or Europa Nostra Award. This is the highest honour in Europe for projects and individuals committed to heritage.” (“Mr. Don Duco,” europeanheritageawards.eu). European Heritage awards are granted on behalf of the European Commission. In another unusual gesture from outside the industry, Al Pascia, an Italian pipe retailer founded in 1906, received an award from both the Lombardy Regional Authority and Milan City Council for being an historic establishment. It’s evident that in certain quarters in Europe, tobacco people are rewarded, not ridiculed or reviled. I can’t recall another person associated with tobacco who has received such a prestigious award from an organization or institution outside the industry as had Duco. I don’t believe that the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Historical Association, or any other U.S. organization would recognize an American of equal stature and dedication.

What’s our history of awards and honors? In 1919, the International Jury at the San Francisco Exposition awarded the Grand Prix to Velvet tobacco, because of its superior quality. At that time, it was the highest honor ever paid to a smoking tobacco. Bakelite was named in honor of its inventor, Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, who discovered the synthetic material in 1907. Thirty years after Herbert Hoover left office, H. B. Moseman, Secretary of the International Association of Pipe Smokers Clubs, sent him a letter in May 1964 requesting that he accept the “Pipe Smoker of the Year” award at its August 14th banquet in New York. Hoover’s secretary replied that Hoover “deeply appreciates your gracious thought,” but declined to attend due to illness and a schedule restricted at age ninety per doctors’ orders.

You can be a famous pipe smoker and receive recognition for that fact alone: Bugs Bunny, Santa Claus, Donald Duck, Frosty the Snowman, Popeye, Bart Simpson, Mammy Yokum and others. Among the more famous American pipe smokers were General D. MacArthur and his contemporary, Admiral F. J. Fletcher (both loved the corncob), Presidents Hoover and Ford, Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, Bing Crosby, William Faulkner, Hugh Hefner, Ernest Hemingway, Burl Ives, and Mark Twain weren’t famous for smoking a pipe; they were celebrated for other accomplishments and traits. According to Karen C. Fox and Aries Keck (Einstein A to Z): “Other such honors for [Albert] Einstein included advertisers who wanted to name a hair tonic after him (he refused) and a certificate from a pipe manufacturer stating that Einstein was an ‘Honored Pipe Smoker.’”

For the years 1946 through 1949, Pipe Lovers magazine also created an annual “Pipe Smoker of the Year” award “…for outstanding service or achievement in the field of pipes and pipe smoking.” Pipe Smoker magazine (1983–1988) selected certain individuals to receive the “Certified Kapnismologist Award” to recognize their contributions to pipe collecting.

J. Byron Sudbury, clay pipe collector and Registered Professional Archaeologist, began field work as a teenager and has been very prolific ever since. His lifetime oeuvre consists of more than 50 publications. He has authored books (the 3-volume Historic Clay Tobacco Studies, Politics of the Fur Trade: Clay Tobacco Pipes at Fort Union Trading Post, and Historic Clay Tobacco Pipemakers in the United States of America), journal articles (e.g., in Oceans Odyssey, The Wyoming Archaeologist, etc.), chapters in books, bulletins, newsletters and much more about American clay tobacco pipes. In 1998, he received the Golden Trowel Award from the Oklahoma Anthropological Society in recognition of more than 30 years of research as an amateur in this specialized field.

What about all those slow-smoking pipe competitions that take place around the world? Since 1949, the International Association of Pipe Smokers Clubs has hosted an annual World Pipe Smoking Contest and records the champion on its website, but it’s not a world competition! The participants have always been American. The United Pipe Clubs of America hosts an annual National Slow-Smoke Championship with a trophy presented to the National Champion and one to the Women’s Champion. The Brits and Germans sponsor similar events. The Comité International des Pipe Clubs hosts an annual international competition and a World Championship competition every four years; both are truly international events, because club members across the globe participate. These contests are fun but, frankly, neither the contest nor the winner contributes anything significant, memorable, or enduring for the pipe community.

What’s the marketing, merchandising and promotion end of the industry doing nowadays? Tobacco Reporter gives out annual Golden Leaf Awards for various new products, such as crushable flavored capsules in cigarettes and cigarette side-stream aromatization … whatever that is. Tobacco Business magazine gives out an annual award “…to recognize exceptional businesses, brands and entrepreneurs within the premium tobacco industry.” The categories are: (1) Value Cigar of the Year; (2) Pipe Tobacco Blend of the Year; (3) Tobacco Businessman and Businesswoman of the Year; and (4) Cigarette Brand of the Year. There is no “Pipe of the Year” or “Pipe Smoker of the Year” award so far. Country Squire Radio (“Pipe Smoking Podcast, By Pipe Smokers, For Pipe Smokers”) announces its annual awardees: (1) Best Pipe Accessory; (2) Best Tobacconist; (3) Best Artisan (non-tinned) Pipe Tobacco Blend; (4) Best Tinned Pipe Tobacco Blend; (5) Best Artisan Pipemaker; (6) Best Pipe Manufacturer; (7) Best Pipe; (8) Best Pipe Publication; (9) Best YouTube Pipe Channel; and (10) Pipe Club of the Year. And tobaccopipes.com posts its annual “Best Pipe Tobacco Blends.” Uptown’s Smoke Shop in Nashville was named Alfred Dunhill Limited Retailer of the Year in 1999, only the second time that Dunhill selected an American winner in the history of the award.

These industry awards—and those given to the winners of smoking contests—are ephemeral, temporal, short-lived, because they are awarded each year and valid for that specific year. Familiar with the phrase attributed to Andy Warhol: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes?” I did the math. All these recipients are famous—but not world-famous—for 525,600 minutes.

Awards for tobacco literature is a relatively new phenomenon. K. A. Worth’s Back from The Ashes: Uncovering the Lost History of G. L. Hunt and the Falcon Pipe (2007) received the Illinois Historical Society Book Award in 2008. Twelve years later, in 2020, Independent Publisher Books awarded the IPPY gold medal to The Peterson Pipe (2018) as “Best First Book—Non-Fiction.” It’s worthy of celebration for several reasons: crediting Briar Books Press and the two authors, but more important was saluting a book about tobacco pipes that competed with about 4,900 other submissions from around the globe. That’s a remarkable accolade in this anti-tobacco, anti-smoking climate. Who woulda’ thunk it?

WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW?

As I had amply indicated in the Introduction, changes happen in the industry and in our community with frequency when you least expect them; some changes can have profound, long-term consequences. If the CPCC ceases to exist, it’s likely that the DOP and MOP programs would atrophy and die. Shouldn’t there be some type of replacement program? Something more permanent, something that is not wholly dependent on a pipe club’s viability? Who might sponsor such an effort? The tobacco industry? Doubtful. The PCA doesn’t celebrate its members, nor did its predecessor, the RTDA, so it’s unlikely that organization would care a whit. The Tobacco Merchants Association? Not a chance! The National Association of Tobacco Outlets? Ain’t gonna’ happen. The Pipe Tobacco Council, a subsidiary organization of the Cigar Association of America? Its mission is to “…advocate on behalf of the best interests of members and the general welfare and growth of the pipe tobacco industry,” by acting as a communications network and lobbying group. Fuggedaboutit! The Tobacconists’ Association of America, Ltd.? Its vague mission statement reads: “…providing our members with the tools and relationship-building opportunities that will optimize their success in the Brick and Mortar business.” Would it assume the DOP and MOP programs? Fat chance!

How would the community (pipe smokers and collectors, pipe makers, tobacco pipe blenders, and all affiliated advocates) continue to honor its own in the future? Would the community find a way or would it acquiesce to the evanescent idiom “Here today, gone tomorrow,” or “Out of sight, out of mind”? Stated more linguistically, if nothing is done, then the community’s “silence is an admission of acceptance.” Nothing lasts forever, but there are now and will always be many worthy individuals deserving recognition.

What to do? Let me be clear. I have no particular scheme in mind, but I do have a dog in this fight, because I care and because I think it’s something that needs to be addressed. How to start? My suggestion is that pipe clubs, pipesmagazine.com, pipedia.org, members of online pipe forums, Facebook groups, UPCA, and the YouTube pipe community put their collective heads together, and “throw the (proverbial) spaghetti against the wall” to see what sticks. Consider only what’s achievable, manageable, doable with minimal investment of time, energy, effort, and limited manpower. Avoid pie-in-the-sky schemes that require lots of work, because the principals will be volunteers. Keep it simple, e.g., consider collapsing both programs into one. Seek input from current DOP and MOP recipients. While the effort must be collaborative, someone should take the lead. Most important, vet the program to avoid the frequent changes/modifications/ revisions that the CPCC’s DOP program encountered in its early years.

Chuck described the impact of both the DOP and MOP awards this way: “They are examples of the most dedicated in the world of pipes, and our community has advanced to the degree that it has in many ways because of their commitment and talents” (“Doctors and Masters of Pipes: A Timeline,” smokingpipes.com). Are we not a big enough community with enough caring and commitment to establish a follow-on program to show our affection, admiration, and respect for the American pipe smoker, pipe collector, and all those affiliated with the pipe and tobacco business? Would another pipe club assume the mantle? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely. If we want such a program to continue, we’re the ones who need to make it happen.

The late comedian Mort Sahl once said: “The future lies ahead.” Said Alan Lakein, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” From my involvement with the DOP and MOP programs, both took lots of collaboration to develop and launch, so what better time is there to begin thinking about a possible future without the DOP and MOP programs? Creating a Hall of Pipe Heroes, or A Wall of Pipe and Tobacco Fame (or whatever the title) will take time, effort and energy. I defer the decision as to who should initiate and lead this new effort to those better attuned to these affairs than I. Without considerable work, this concept will probably not be realized. (If asked, I’ll assist in any way I can.)

When should it start? I’d say sooner rather than later, so I’ll ask again: what if?

SYSOP Note: Lots of food for thought here. For the record, I commit to providing a virtual home here on Pipedia for any effort to honor (and remember) especially significant members of our community if and when the time comes. Meanwhile, the CPCC seems to have survived a significant test with the success of the 2022 Chicago Pipe Show (during COVID, and in a new venue). No small achievement! Lets not count them out until they lay down the gauntlet, while perhaps preparing to take it up, if and when the time comes. Count me in! Also, this article, as well as the one from Chuck, have inspired me to start a take off page of recipients here: Recipients of the Doctor of Pipes Award (1998-present). Hopefully most if not all the recipients will eventually be linked to their own articles. Feel free to dive in and help. (Scott Thile, sethile.pipes@gmail.com)