An Irish Legend is born
1865 marked the beginning of a company we, as tobacco pipe smokers, have come to think of as the steady grandfather of our world. It would be 10 years before the Kapp brothers took on the confident Latvian immigrant, Charles Peterson, as a part of their company, but once they did magic was born for pipe smokers the world over--Peterson pipes history had begun.
Charles Peterson makes his name
Although we’ve come to think of Peterson of Dublin as a thoroughly Irish brand, it was started by three immigrants, none of them Irish or even from Great Britain for that matter. The Kapp brothers, George and Frederick, were Bavarian and Peterson himself was Latvian.
Originally hired as a craftsman for high-end special order pipes, Charles Peterson distinguished himself over the years. By the time the sons of his original employers were grown he was able to buy out some of their shares and change the name of the company to Kapp & Peterson.
The Peterson System Invented
The years after both the Kapp brothers were at the helm are when many of the unique innovations happened. Although Alfred and Fredrick Kapp would both be involved in the company, making it a multi-generational effort, it would be Charles Peterson, from 1890 on, whose name was known in the pipe world.
In 1891 the Peterson System was patented around the world, although a United States patent wouldn’t come for three more years, until 1894.
The Patent Lip Innovation
Better known as the P-Lip, the patented mouthpiece was designed to move smoke away from the tongue and to the top of the mouth. It debuted in 1898.
For the next 20 years Kapp & Peterson would grow, gain notoriety and enjoy collecting awards and accolades.
Irish Turbulence and Peterson Stamps
From 1915 through the end of World War II was a pretty eventful time for Peterson of Dublin, or any other Irish company or citizen for that matter.
The Easter Uprising in 1916 caused damage to Kapp & Peterson shop which had to be repaired and Charles Peterson died, not long after his retirement, in 1919.
Petersons from this time, if you are lucky enough to come across one, can be identified by the following stamps:
From 1922-1937 -“Irish Free State” stamp on the side of in some lines.
From 1938-1941 -“Made in Eire” replaces the earlier stamp to signify the formal acknowledgement of Ireland as a free state.
From 1945-1949 - “Made in Ireland” was stamped, in a few different formats, on the briar.
A more stable time
Many modern Peterson tobacco pipes, from 1950 until the 2000s, are stamped with “Made in the Republic of Ireland”, although not always directly on the shank. Through out the 1950s and 60s Kapp family members remained at the helm and in key roles in the company.
In 1969 the last Peterson pipes to be made in England were produced. The english shop was closed and all Peterson’s were, from that point forward, made in Ireland.
Peterson changes hands
Over the course of it's 150 year history, Peterson pipes has changed hands a number of times. Here is a brief overview of the highlights:
Peterson Tennant Group
After the death of Harry Kapp, in the early 1970s, the company merged with the Tennant and Ruttle company, changing their name to Peterson Tennant. This change would not last even five years.
James Crean Group
James Crean Ltd. took the helm at Peterson next and was the first to divide the brand into pieces. Recognizing the loyalty of customers to the original name, the company was returned to it’s historically significant moniker of Kapp & Peterson.
Tom Palmer acquisition
In the early 1990s, Tom Palmer bought the company along with a small group of investors. However, by the mid-90s he would take almost complete control of the company. An accountant by trade, Palmer has been able to look at Peterson as a creator of products that must make a profit, while still holding true to the artistic side of briar pipes.
Modern tobacco pipes for Peterson
Tom Palmer has made it abundantly clear over the years that there is a delicate balance between art and commodity when it comes to choosing a smoking pipe. His understanding that a pipe is "a consumer product" ushered in a modern era of new lines, limited edition collections and other special products that consumers love and demand.
Distinguishing the Shannons
New Peterson collectors will sometimes get a bit confused between the Peterson Shannon Series and a unique batch of smoking pipes sold at the Shannon Airport during the 1970s. These pipes were sold duty-free and and featured pieces from almost all series. Before shipping they were stamped with the word “SHANNON” in block lettering.
The introduction of Sherlock Holmes
Perhaps the most famous of all Peterson series, Sherlock Holmes pipes were first introduced in 1987. Originally presented as a collector’s 7-day set and featuring a handsome pipe stand to display them. A second set of seven different shapes was released under the title “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”.
In these original series, all the pipes had extra large bowls and a special stamp. To satisfy those who prefer a smaller bowl, a Junior Sherlock Holmes series was then released.
The annuals begin
Some of the most popular collectibles in the Peterson pipes arsenal, the annuals are pipes with special finishes, mouthpieces and other details designed to celebrate a holiday or special event. Currently the Irish brand produces these special pipes each year:
St. Patrick’s Day Pipes - This series was introduced in the 1980s. If you’re looking for an estate Peterson St. Patrick’s Day, look for a Flag Pipe (the original name). This series usually features a shamrock of some sort on the ring and green accents somewhere on the briar.
Christmas Pipes - Peterson’s Christmas pipes were released for the first time in 2009 and have quickly become a collectable favorite. Usually featuring special stems and accents on the pipe that distinguish it for a holiday issue.
Father’s Day - Although they look like classics, the Father’s Day pipes were only first issued in 2010. Affordable and understated, the perfect gift for a collector or new smoker.
Still going strong
150 years later, we are still enjoying new strokes of Peterson genius every year. We can’t wait to see what this upcoming banner year has to offer collectors around the world!