Blog by Steve Laug
A friend I did a pipe repair for in Newfoundland, on the east coast of Canada, left a message on my phone the other day to let me know that he was sending a package to me. He said that it would have a couple of horn stem pipes – old timers and a unsmoked unique pipe that he thought I would be interested in having. He had purchased 6 of these pipes that were unsmoked and sent me one of them. The package arrived yesterday and the horn stem pipes were great and would clean up nicely. The Roto Bowl is in stellar shape and is a (New Old Stock) NOS pipe. I had never heard of the brand but was intrigued by his description of it over the phone when we talked over a month ago. I took some photos of the pipe when I unpacked it to show you all. It is pretty unique. The overall length of the pipe is 5 1/2 inches. I rotated the bowl insert from the base and took a photo of the inside of the bowl to show the unique drilling it had. There are two air holes on the bottom on the sides and then two of them half way up the bowl sides.When I lifted the bowl insert out of the bowl (it was pressure fit and was easily removed) I could see that the airway entered the bottom of the outer bowl perfectly centered. There was a groove carved from the airway up to the height of the upper air holes in the bowl insert. There were also marks on what would have been the front and the back of the bowl insert. The first mark was a single small drilled circle and the second one was two drilled circles. When the single mark was turned to the back of the bowl the airflow was constricted by at least half. When the double marks were turned to the back the flow was wide open. It kind of works like a Kirsten end valve is controlling the airflow from the bowl to the stem. It controls burn rate as well. Each turn of the bowl insert modified the airflow proportionally between the single and the double mark. Overall this little pipe was intriguing to say the least. It was yet again another attempt to find a drier and cooler smoke.
Since I had never heard of the brand I did some searching on the web and found a bit of information based on the stamping I found on the pipe. On the left side of the shank it is stamped with the name of the pipe in a circle with ROTO arched on the top of the circle and Bowl arched on the underside. There was a dot in between ROTO and BOWL and one in the centre of the stamp. On the right side of the shank it is stamped PAT. NO. 1988588 and on the underside of the shank Imported Briar. There are no other marks or stamping on the pipe, the bowl insert or the stem.
I found the first information on eBay on a previous sale (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Ellsworth-Roto-Bowl-Pipe-NOS-1946-/272119388370?hash=item3f5b9458d2:g:~MoAAOSwKtlWq9Xh). The link will likely be dead shortly so I copied the text and the photos for reference. The seller not only gave some pertinent information on the brand but also photos of the booklet that came with the pipe. Here is what the seller said about the pipe (including the sales pitch).
“Here is your chance to own one of the rarest of the rare in Brand New unsmoked condition with original instruction booklet. This pipe was manufactured in small number in 1946 by Francis P. Ellsworth. It is called a Roto-Bowl and was quite the invention. This pipe sold new in 1946 for $12.50 and in today’s dollar that amounts to $123.00. You can see why not many of these pipes were sold. Check out the pics for the best description. This pipe would enhance even the most advanced collection. I searched the internet and could find out very little about these pipes.”
I saved the photos he included with the sale information and have included them below. The brochure gave me some more information as well as the name of the pipe’s inventor, Francis P. Ellsworth. The brochure was produced in 1946 by Woodward and McDonald Inc, New York. Some of the descriptive phrases and turn of phrase on the cover were great. The first is “It’s Your Move to Lasting Sweet Smoking Satisfaction” and “Read a Scientific Analysis of Smoking Pipes”. On the back cover it reads “It’s no pipe dream…it’s a dream of a pipe”. Take time to read the inside of the booklet as it is a fun read. The 1940’s description and “Scientific” information is entertaining. I would never have guessed that the bowl was to be smoked with a cotton ball placed in the bottom of the bowl between the bowl and the insert for trapping and retaining moisture from the smoke. I know that there are more pages in the booklet but this is all that were included by the eBay seller. Here is a photo of the back cover of the booklet.Further digging using the patent number on the right shank led to me the following link on the US Patent Search website: http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?docid=01988588&PageNum=1&&IDKey=E06B2A6032A2&HomeUrl=http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1%2526Sect2=HITOFF%2526d=PALL%2526p=1%2526u=%25252Fnetahtml%25252FPTO%25252Fsrchnum.htm%2526r=1%2526f=G%2526l=50%2526s1=1,988,588.PN.%2526OS=PN/1,988,588%2526RS=PN/1,988,588
Included with the patent information is a set of drawings by the inventor and also a narrative description of the pipe and how it was supposed to work. It makes for fascinating reading for those of us who love the descriptions and details of these old timers. This was a rare pipe for me not just because of its uniqueness and age but because it is one of very few that I have received that I did not have to work on or clean up. I want to give a shout out to Joe in Newfoundland for the amazing gift pipe. Thanks so much Joe for thinking of me.