Bullets, Sawdust, and Rhododendrons: The Story of the D&P Spartan


Blog by Anthony Cook

I love old pipes with stories to tell and I recently acquired a couple of very unique, American-made pipes that appear to fit that bill nicely. For those of you unfamiliar with the brand and the pipes (and I’m betting that’s the most of you), let me make the introduction. Meet the D&P Spartan… Spartan1 Spartans were made from 1942 until at least 1945. The majority of them were produced for distribution to U.S. troops overseas during WWII, but some were available domestically as well. The pipe pictured above is one that I acquired and it was probably made in mid-to-late ’43. The stem is made from maple, and although the bowl is stamped “GENUINE BRIAR”, that’s not really true. It’s most likely mountain laurel and possibly even rhododendron (they made do with what they had on hand when briar was tough to get during the war). The stamped patent number (2089519) on the side of the bowl refers to a method of curing wood with boric acid for better heat resistance.

The shape of the Spartans evolved during the course of production. The earliest were simply a wood block with a hole drilled for the tobacco chamber and another on the backside that the stem fit into. It’s very similar to the design of a cob pipe. Those were made from 1942 to mid-1943. I don’t have one of this design on hand, but Tim (oldredbeard) from the Dr. Grabow Collector’s Forum, graciously sent me a couple of photos of one that is in his collection.Spartan2

Spartan3 Notice that Tim’s pipe has the same patent stamp on the bowl as the one pictured above it. The patent was issued in March of 1943. So, this pipe is probably from one of the last production runs for this design.

Sometime around mid-1943 the design of the Spartan was changed. The new version was slightly less utilitarian and added a few aesthetic curves to the back of the bowl. It also grew a nub of a shank and utilized a patented (1888462) pressure fit for the stem. My mid-to-late ’43 Spartan is an example of this design.Spartan4

Spartan5

Spartan6 The design was again changed near the end of the war. I suppose the idea was to give it more appeal as D&P began to rely more on the domestic market. The new look was more traditional, but still rather roughly shaped. The paneled bowl received a few more angles, the shank was further extended, and the maple stem was replaced with one of vulcanite. The second Spartan that I picked up is an example of this design. It would have probably been made somewhere around late-’44 to ’45. I’m not aware of any further changes to the design, and in fact, I don’t believe that D&P continued to produce Spartans for very long after the end of the war.Spartan7

Spartan8

Spartan9

Spartan10 D&P was created in 1942 by David and Paul Lavietes. They were, respectively, the brother and father of Henry Lavietes who was part owner of the better known HLT located in Ozone Park, New York (Henry was the “H”). David Lavietes was also the inventor of the “Ajustomatic” stem fitting.

From the December, 1945 issue of Popular Mechanics

From the December, 1945 issue of Popular Mechanics

Originally, D&P was a sawmill and basically a supplier for HLT. They were located in Boone, North Carolina and purchased mountain laurel locally, which they then cut into blocks to be shipped to Ozone Park to be made into HLT pipes. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe that the D&P stamped pipes were ever sent to HLT. I think that they were carved in North Carolina. In 1944, D&P relocated the sawmill to Sparta, North Carolina and HLT relocated there soon after. In the early ‘50s, D&P became known as the Briarshop. They continued to carve blocks for HLT, although they were located in a different building and still regarded as a separate company. I’ve found no evidence that they ever again marketed pipes under the either the D&P or Briarshop names.

In 1953, HLT acquired the name and assets of the Dr. Grabow Pipe Company. The Briarshop ceased to be a separate company somewhere within the same timeframe and was rolled into HLT. The operation still produced stummels, but now they were doing it for both the HLT and Dr. Grabow brands. HLT has since ceased to exist, but Dr. Grabow pipes are still being made to this day in Sparta, North Carolina.

So, there you go. A couple of old pipes with stories worth telling. To me it doesn’t get much better than that.

I’d like to give special thanks to Dave Whitney and Tom Douglas for helping me put all of these pieces together. Sometimes, things get a little muddy out there in Sparta. Also, thanks to Tim for providing me with photos of a 1st-gen Spartan. You know where to reach me when you’re ready to let it go, Tim.

Late Breaking News Update!

Okay, not so late breaking, since the news is more than 70 years old, but here it is anyway…

Tom contacted me shortly after the write up was posted and told me that Appalachian State University has a yearbook titled, aptly enough, “The Rhododendron.” The 1942 and 1945 editions have D&P advertisements in them. Both of the yearbooks are available for viewing online here: http://bit.ly/asuyearbooks . I’ve cropped out the D&P ads and you can see them here:

1942: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-VqKwuNNXRjo/VZ7dMvMyeVI/AAAAAAAABic/386oDL1_swE/s800-Ic42/asuyb1942-p133.jpg

1945: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-7PyicjIL6nQ/VZ7dMzP2UqI/AAAAAAAABig/bM3Xw9a0poM/s800-Ic42/asuyb1945-p101.jpg

You’ll notice that the ’42 and ’45 ads refer to both Boone and Sparta. This leads me to believe that the Sparta location was part of the D&P operation from the beginning. When D&P relocated in ’44 it must have been a headquarters move only. The Boone location appears to have remained in operation after the move, but I have no idea for how long. I’m going to do some more digging around Boone and see what turns up.

8 thoughts on “Bullets, Sawdust, and Rhododendrons: The Story of the D&P Spartan

  1. Tim

    Great article Anthony, several things about the pipes that I didn’t realize. Thank you for putting it all together, and you’re certainly welcome for my my humble contribution.

    Reply
  2. Troy

    Nice article , although i dont have any D&P pipes i do have a couple of WW2 made Linkman Mountain Laurel pipes along with a couple of same era Medicos . Im fascinated with the history of them but to be honest mountain laurel has terrible smoking qualities . I can see why the pipe makers went back to briar as quickly as they could .
    Still a very neat and interesting part of American pipe making history along with American history .

    Reply
    1. Anthony

      Usually, my way of thinking is that any pipe that can be smoked should be smoked, regardless of history or pedigree. Mountain laurel and rhododendron aren’t the healthiest of woods for consumption though. So, unfortunately, the will likely just remain as display pieces.

      Reply
      1. Troy

        I smoke mine on occasion but they do have a odd taste and smoke very hot if you are not careful . The wood is pretty soft too . I restored a Linkman Mountain Laurel and it was a chore to say the least .

        Reply
  3. rebornpipes Post author

    Thanks for the great information Anthony. Well researched bit of facts. I had never heard of the brand and now will keep and eye out for these pipes. thank you.

    Reply
    1. Anthony

      Thanks, Steve. The info was already out there. I just collected it all in one place. Thanks for adding the update at the end as well.

      Reply

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