Blog by Steve Laug
When I bought this old Leonard’s Sea Rock billiard on EBay I did a bit of hunting around the web to find out what I could about the brand. There was not a lot of information available but this is what I found out. I have edited it and added and adapted the material that I found on the web. I am unable to find who originally wrote this material. If anyone knows please leave a comment and I will acknowledge the work that person has done on gathering this helpful information.
The pipe I purchased is a shop pipe that came from one of America’s great old pipe shops – LEONARD’S PIPE SHOP which was located in Portland, Oregon, USA.The shop and the brand never was as famous as Peretti’s, Ehrlich’s, The House of Robertson, Bertram’s, Garfinkel’s, Drucquers or some of the other great names from the past, possibly because of its’ location. But in terms of stature among the world’s greatest pipe makers, Leonard’s had no equal. While some pipe shops catered to the rich and famous, served politicians or visiting emissaries,or made pipes for actors, entertainers or stars in one field or another, Leonard’s catered to the other end of the pipe chain – the all-important source of supply! The shop was founded by Arthur Leonard in 1936 who worked hard to establish close relationships with the world’s biggest and best pipe maker’s — Charatan, Barling, Sasieni, Kaywoodie and others.
In 1936, Kaywoodie was the most important name in pipes producing top-quality pipes and the most expensive pipes then available. So, it was natural for Arthur Leonard to establish a relationship with the makers of Kaywoodie. It is fairly recent that some of the greatest Kaywoodie’s ever made returned to the marketplace. For example the Leonard-owned Kaywoodie Magnums dated from the late 1930s which were displayed and ultimately sold by the family at the Chicago Pipe Show a few years ago. It will always be a question how they wound up in Portland, Oregon rather than New York, Chicago, Washington DC or the “hometown” of any of the other great pipe shops in America. The answer must lie in the relationships that Arthur Leonard established with pipemakers!
Another huge “GROUP 6” or “ODA” sized KW billiard also came on the market. It no doubt originated from a special order placed by Arthur Leonard. But the question with this pipe and others that Leonard’s had was who made it? As many collectors who visited his shop know (as well as those who have met the last generation owners, Lou and Betty Leonard) this was once one of America’s greatest pipe shops! It operated on the same corner location from 1936 through 1983 before moving to an uptown location for another six years. On display the Leonard’s had the longest and largest Kaywoodies ever made, unsmoked Dunhill Magnums and a host of pre-1900 Barlings! Arthur Leonard had established a powerful relationship with the great pipe maker’s of the last century and his shop retained the bounty of those relationships.
It is interesting that when the Barling family sold out, they called the Leonard shop and Arthur Leonard responded- – -buying every single Barling on hand at the time of sale so no inventory was acquired by the new owners (ending speculation that “Transition” Barlings were really older pieces acquired by the new owners)! Leonard did the same thing for the Sasieni family when they sold out! The Leonard’s Shop was perhaps the most well-known American smoke shop in Europe! The Leonard Shop ONLY carried high grades, so when the craze for meerschaum pipes occurred in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, (and the Turkish government restricted the exporting of raw meerschaum) the Leonard shop placed an order with Charatan for 50 meerschaum-lined Charatans! (At that time, the Supreme was the top-of-the-line Charatan! Imagine meerschaum-lined Selected’s and Supreme’s! Lou Leonard says that only about 35 were ever delivered and Charatan said they would make no more!)
I read that those who saw the Leonard’s display pipes at the Chicago Show a few years ago marveled at the quality of the uncirculated, unsmoked pipes. He had acquired the original Barling Meerschaum’s from a company that made Meerschaum pipes before making Briar pipes! The Dunhill Magnums were unsmoked in their original cases. The Kaywoodie Magnums were displayed in a specially made case. And the Sasieni’s, Charatan’s, Comoy’s and all the rest were pipes of historical importance. You see, Arthur Leonard nurtured his relationship with the supplier’s rather than the movie stars and politicians who bought pipes. In fact, Betty Leonard told stories about the vast inventory of pipes kept out of the public eye in a back room from which they were produced on an occasional basis to meet the needs of a specific customer’s request.
Like the other great American pipe shops, Leonard’s is gone. They closed their doors in 1989. Their inventory was slowly liquidated by the last family owners of the shop. It is sad that yet another piece of American pipe history is gone. It would be grand to have seen that back room filled with a huge inventory of beautiful old briars of renown. Ah well, we have to use our imaginations to enter that room now. As I go there in my mind, I load a bowl of good tobacco from Drucquer’s (another American Pipe Shop that is gone) in my Leonard’s Sea Rock and lift it in both of their memories.
ADDENDUM & CORRECTION: Please read the response below by Pete. He has added some great information that focuses and corrects some of the information above. Thank you Pete.