An Amazing Story : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

An Amazing Story


The tale of a king’s pipe

by Ben Rapaport

Today’s artisan briar pipemakers usually stamp their own distinguishing marks, such as a strike number, production date, signature or unique logo, somewhere on the shank, whereas factories have almost always stamped their brand on the stem— Dunhill’s “white dot,” the “C” for Comoy, the moustache for Caminetto or the cloverleaf for Kaywoodie—but the date of production is not normally incised. Essentially, those who purchase briars nowadays can get a few specific details from the maker or, if the maker is deceased, at least have some general idea when and by whom it was made. This is provenance, the history, origin, genesis—the authentication of an object.

Photo by Robert E. Ormston

Photo by Robert E. Ormston

In the late 18th century and throughout most of the 19th century, master carvers crafted myriad meerschaum pipes and cheroot holders, and inside the accompanying fitted cases, most often, appeared an embossed or paper label indicating the name and address of the manufacturer, or the information was gold-stamped on the exterior of the case so as not to blemish the pipe. Unfortunately, plenty of fitted cases had no internal markings. Without identifying marks inside the fitted case or, worse, in the absence of the case, it’s impossible to ascertain the country of origin, the maker or other details. Carved wood pipes of the same period from European factories and independent artisans hardly ever bore a signature, maker’s initials or other marks. Among even the most expert of antique pipe collectors, often it comes down to conjecture and assumption. More often it is a wag trying to ascertain the provenance of his pipes. But on occasion a ray of light shines on the occasional antique pipe, and with enough collateral information—after an in-depth paper chase—a story takes shape. This is one of those instances where the provenance of an antique pipe—not the identity of the maker or where it was made, but the identity of the owner—is authenticated beyond doubt, equivocation or ambiguity.

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Category: An Amazing Story, Winter 2017

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