Breathing New Life into a Signature Imported Briar Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff picked up this interesting looking partially rusticated billiard from an auction on Facebook back in February of this year. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the script Signature over Imported Briar. The rustication pattern is similar to the carving on Custom-Bilt pipes. The rim top is beveled inward to the bowl. There is an aluminum band on the shank that is slightly oxidized. The bowl has hardly been smoked. The bottom 2/3s of the bowl is still raw briar with some slight darkening on the top part of the bowl. The stem is quality vulcanite that is slightly oxidized but does not have any tooth chatter or marks. It is embossed on the top of the stem with the gold initials M.M.S. There is a stinger in the tenon that is different from any I have seen before. It is aluminum and built like a stack of circles. There is a slot where it is inserted in the tenon end. It is pristine. The stem interior is very clean. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup on it.Jeff took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the condition of the pipe before he started to work his magic on it. The rim top is pristine and the bowl was quite clean. The pipe may have been smoked once in its life time. There is no cake in the bowl and there was no smell of tobacco. The finish of the bowl was dirty and dusty from a long time sitting in storage. He also took photos of the sides of the bowl and shank from different angles to show the condition and the design of the bowl. The pipe looked good other than lots of dust and grime in the carvings and grooves. Jeff took a photo to capture the stamping on the left side of the shank. The stamping was readable and clear.The stem looked pretty good – lots of scratches and light nicks in the vulcanite but not any tooth marks. There some light oxidation but the stamping on the surface of the stem were stamped and embossed.I was unfamiliar with the Signature brand that was stamped on the pipe so I did a bit of digging to see if I could find some information. I turned to the two sites that I always check – Pipephil and Pipedia. Pipedia had no information on the brand so it was singularly unhelpful. Pipephil had some helpful information. I have done a screen capture of the information and also included the text from the site. It says: This brand of the Larus & Brother Co. proposed to customize their pipes by engraving the owner’s signature or initials on the stem in addition to the “L” logo.  http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s7.htmlI now knew that the Signature brand was made for or by the Larus & Brother Co. It was made to be customized. I did a search for the Larus & Brother trademark and found a link that gave some more information on the brand. Here is the link – https://trademarks.justia.com/owners/larus-brother-company-4959/. It confirms that the pipe was made by Larus.Armed with that information I googled the company and found more information. I found a link on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larus_and_Brother_Company) that gave some history and background on the company. I quote some of the pertinent information.

Charles D. Larus and Herbert C. Larus purchased the Richmond-based Harris Tobacco Company and founded Larus and Brother Company in 1877. They manufactured pipe and chewing tobacco. In 1882, Herbert Clinton Larus died and William Thomas Reed, his nephew, became the company’s partner and general manager. For the rest of its history, the company was led by members of the Reed and Larus families.[1]

The company was dissolved on June 10, 1968. Larus Investing Company, a holding company, was established for the tobacco and media businesses. The tobacco subsidiary, Larus and Brother Company, was sold later that year. In 1969, the last media subsidiary was sold.[1] The Virginia Historical Society holds Larus and Brother Company records at the Reynolds Business History Center.

Further down the page of the wiki article it gave a connection some of the tobaccos that the company produced. I thought that it was interesting to see the connection to Edgeworth Tobacco.

From 1878 to 1897, the company relied on prison labor at the Virginia State Penitentiary.[3] After that, it operated for more than 75 years on Twenty-first Street (along Tobacco Row) in Richmond. Larus and Brother Company incorporated in 1900.[1] By 1901, the company’s workers were represented by the Tobacco Workers International Union (TWIU).[4][a]

Edgeworth tobacco products were introduced in 1903 and became the best selling pipe tobacco in its price class. Edgeworth Sliced tobacco was the first pipe tobacco product to be advertised nationally. Broken into smaller pieces, Edgeworth Ready-Rubbed was introduced in 1912.[1][2]

The company began to manufacture cigarettes after it purchased the Reed Tobacco Company and adopted it as a subsidiary in 1913. Distribution companies were opened in San Francisco and Boston in the early 1930s. In 1935, Larus bought the plug tobacco plant, Sparrow and Graveley of Martinsville, Virginia, which was closed in 1942 because it was unprofitable. The plug tobacco operations were transferred to Richmond.[1] Holiday, the aromatic smoking tobacco company, was purchased in 1942. Holiday and Edgeworth were Larus’ best selling products.[1] The company’s tobacco supply went to the United States Army and aid agencies during World War I and II. Packets of four cigarettes were labeled with the words, “I Shall Return”, and distributed secretly in the Philippines.[1]…

As more people began to smoke cigarettes, the company’s profits from pipe tobacco began to decline and the company sought to diversify. Larus and Brother Company, the tobacco subsidiary of Larus Investing Company, was sold to Rothman’s of Canada, Limited on October 18, 1968.[1]

I found one more interesting site that gave a quick summary of information on the brand and the connection with Edgeworth Pipe Tobacco (https://www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/larus-brother-advertisements). I quote:

In 1877 a partnership between Charles D. Larus and Herbert C. Larus formed the Larus & Brother Company. This small tobacco company, based in Richmond, Virginia, received national recognition with Edgeworth pipe tobacco, which then became the international hallmark of the company. By the 1930s, Larus had expanded to manufacture cigarettes, operate distribution centers outside Virginia, sponsor national radio programs, and manage local radio and television stations…

…During both world wars the federal government requisitioned Larus’s entire line of production. One special war project involved the secret distribution of cigarettes in the Philippines whose packages bore the words, “I Shall Return,” and the signature of General Douglas MacArthur. After the war, Larus prospered both as a tobacco company and a broadcasting company until the late 1960s. The company dissolved in 1974.

Armed with that information I knew that the pipe was made before 1974 when the company dissolved. I was not sure of the other end of the spectrum but my guess is that the pipe was tied to the Edgeworth Brand… If any of you have information on the brand please let me know.

I turned to work on the pipe. Jeff cleaned this one up before he sent it my way. He is really good at the cleanup work. He had cleaned up the bowl inside with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the debris. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the smooth portions and rustication patterns on the bowl and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. Without the grime the finish looked really good. The vulcanite stem would need to be cleaned up but it was in good condition. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.  I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. The top was in excellent condition and appears to be unused. The inside of the bowl also looks really clean and there is raw briar in most of the bowl. The monogrammed vulcanite stem had some light oxidation but otherwise looked really good.I took the stem out of the shank and was surprised to see a very clean aluminum stinger apparatus. The photos below show the look of the rounded tenon end and the unique stinger.I took a photo of the stamping on the shank as well and it matched the photos of it on the Pipephil site. Underneath Signature it reads Imported Briar.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the rustication around the sides of the bowl and shank. I rubbed it into the smooth portions of the bowl and the beveled rim. The Balm works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and the help of a horsehair shoe brush. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I touched up the gold stamping on the top of the stem with Rub’N Buff Antique Gold. I used a tooth pick to push the product into the grooves of the monogram stamping. I rubbed it over the surface of the stem. Once it had dried I buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to preserve and protect the rubber. After the final pad I gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. I the polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this interesting piece of pipe history made for the Larus & Brother Company. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly so if you are interested in adding it to your collection send me an email or a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking. 

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One thought on “Breathing New Life into a Signature Imported Briar Billiard

  1. Greg

    That is a very neat piece, Steve! I have seen that type stinger twice, both were on old Clairidge (I’m almost positive) pipes. They were both also pot-shapes with saddle bits if I recall correct. I’ll look and see if I can find a photo or two.

    Reply

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