Category Archives: Pipe and Tobacco Historical Documents

The Eskisehir Meerschaum Booklet


Blog by Steve Laug

I was clearing up some documents on my hard drive earlier today and came across this booklet written by the Republic of Turkey, Governorship of Eskisehir, Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism. It is a beautifully written booklet about the mining, carving and use of meerschaum throughout history. I thought I would share it with you all. While it is brief, it is succinct and well-illustrated. It is worth sitting down and giving it a read.

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One of those Antique Mall finds that makes you catch your breath


Blog by Steve Laug

This past weekend my wife and I took some much needed R&R and checked into a nice hotel about an hour and a half from home. We needed a break, as both of our work schedules have been heavy and my travel schedule has been quite demanding. It was great to be together and spend the weekend without a ringing phone and the ever-present work demands. We had plans for Saturday morning until about noon. However, we were absolutely free on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. We used the afternoon to visit one of our favourite spots. It has great restaurants, brewpubs and many different kinds of shops. One shop that we always check out is an antique mall. Irene always seems to find something there and so do I. She was happy to have found an older hard cover cookbook to replace one she had given away. I could not believe what I found. It was in the last row of the stalls in the mall, in almost the last booth. I looked in a cupboard thinking I might find something. There in the middle of the cupboard there was an old style tin of Capstan Medium Strength Navy Cut tobacco.

The label covered the lower part of the tin and goes about half way up the tin. The tin itself was oxidized and discoloured but did not appear to be punctured or compromised. The label on the front side of the tin reads; Medium Strength “Capstan” Navy Cut over W.D. & H.O. Wills, Bristol & London. You can see the layout of the label in the photo to the left. I could not believe what I was seeing. This looked like an old timer. I have handle a lot of old empty tobacco tins in my hunt for that full tin hidden among the tobacciana memorabilia. Many have looked like they had something in them. Some were empty or at best half full of old dried and rattling tobacco that was beyond its life. The difference was that this tin had a hand written tag from the seller that said that it was unopened. It was hard to tell through the glass of the cupboard what the seller meant by unopened. I purchased a “sealed” tin of older Balkan Sobranie that was open under the metal top cap once I opened it at home. The tobacco had dried out. Even rehydrating it did not bring the true depth of flavour of the tobaccos. So I was dubious about this “unopened tin”. I was hopeful that it was; and if so then the price of $25 was not a lot to pay for aged Virginia tobacco.

With a bit of “optimistic pessimism” I went to find the clerk to open the cupboard for me so I could check out the tin. I am one of those “got to have it in hand and check it out” kind of guys. I wanted to give it a light shake to see if it rattles. When the clerk opened the cupboard and handed me the tin I lightly shook it. Instead of a rattle, there was a thud as the contents moved from top to bottom. I looked at the sides and bottom of the tin and it appeared undamaged. I pried of the top and underneath the top of the tin was intact! I did not let the clerk see my enthusiasm at this point I just wanted to pay for the tin and take it to the car to check it out more thoroughly. I paid the $25 plus the extraneous taxes here in British Columbia and she wrapped the tin in newspaper and handed me the bag.

When I got to the car, I took it out of the wrapping and checked it out more carefully. The tin had a slight bulge on both the top and the bottom. It was sealed tight and there appeared to be no rusted areas or punctures in the tin surface. I was excited. I took photos of the top and the bottom of the tin. The photo to the left shows the top of the cap. The second photo shows the cap removed and the sealed tin. The third photo shows the bottom of the tin.

The embossed lettering on the top of the can reads, “To open the tin remove lid and press “V-Cut” until the point is directly downwards. Replace lid, press slightly and turn.” This gives simple and clear instructions on how to open the can. In essence the can has its own built-in can opener on the cap. The lettering on the underside of the can reads, “NAAFI Stores for HM Forces” in a circle around the outside with a CM in the centre.

The last tin photo below shows the back of the tin and label. The label on the back of the tin had same light and dark blue colour scheme as on the front of the tin. It reads Grand Diploma of Honour over a series of coins/medallions that span the top of the label. In a small banner centered under the medallions, it read Antwerp 1885. Under the top banner, there was a rectangular box with a star and the word Trade Mark in a square on either side of the rest of the label. In the remainder of the rectangle, it read Cut Cake Tobacco manufactured from specially selected Leaf. Being perfectly air tight and easily opened, this tin is the best package for preserving Tobacco in fine condition in all climates. At the bottom of the label it read, Capstan (Navy Cut) is supplied in the following grades and strengths: Mild – Yellow Label, Medium Strength – Blue Label, Full Strength – Chocolate Label.

I had no idea what NAAFI Stores was when I read the bottom of the tin. I understood the CM probably stood for Capstan Medium.

I also understood the HM Forces to mean Her Majesty’s Forces. This gave me a starting point to try to date the tin. I looked first on Wikipedia to learn about the NAAFI stamp. Here it the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy,_Army_and_Air_Force_Institutes#NAAFI_is_Born  In reading that I learned quite a bit. I quote that in part below.

After the First World War the Expeditionary Force Canteens (EFC) and the Navy and Army Canteen Board (NACB) did not return to the gratitude of the Nation. This was because EFC had made a large amount of profit from the sales of goods to the troops and opinion was divided as to what should be done with the money.

In March 1920 Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War, set up a committee to advise on the kind of organisation which would be needed for the Armed Forces in the future. The findings were unanimous; there should be one organisation to serve all three Services, it should be permanent and it should be able to rapidly expand or contract at times of war or peace. The Navy, Army, Air Force Institutes was therefore established on 6 December 1920 and started trading as NAAFI in 1921

As a not for profit organisation, with no shareholders to reward, NAAFI was asked to run the catering and recreational establishments needed by the armed forces. It had to make a profit for the good of the NAAFI customers – the men and women of the British Armed Forces- and so in addition it undertook to sell goods to servicemen and their families over and above those that were initially provided by the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC). The servicemen would benefit directly by getting cash rebates and discounts on purchases and indirectly through surpluses given back as a whole from each year’s trading.

For the first time the troops overseas were able to buy the same things in the canteen abroad as they could at home. NAAFI first saw overseas service in Ireland in 1922. Six years later NAAFI would have a presence in Bermuda, Ceylon, Germany, Gibraltar, Iraq, China, Jamaica, Malta, and the Middle East.

The NAAFI’s greatest contribution was during the Second World War. The Chairman & CEO during the war years was Sir Lancelot Royle and by April 1944 the NAAFI ran 7,000 canteens and had 96,000 personnel (expanded from fewer than 600 canteens and 4,000 personnel in 1939). It also controlled ENSA, the forces entertainment organisation. In the 1940 Battle of France alone, the EFI had nearly 3,000 personnel and 230 canteens.

From this I learned that NAAFI was formed by a committee set up by Churchill post WWI. The acronym NAAFI meant Navy, Army, Air Force Institutes and was formed in December of 1920 and began trading in 1921. It operated as a catering and recreation non-profit to sell goods to servicemen and their families. It was a discount store for servicemen. Its greatest contribution was during WWII growing from a small organization to a large one by 1944. This gave me a bit of a clue regarding the age of this can. Is it possible that this tin of tobacco remained unopened that long? Could it truly be from the time period of 1921-1945 with the close of WWII? I am not sure but that would date tin to the 1940’s. Is that true? Is that the correct period for this type of tin? I don’t really know. Perhaps some of you may be able to pin down the dates on this tin.

I close with an advertisement from the time period that I found while researching dates for this tin of tobacco. I love the language and the promises that are given in advertising from this time period. Things just seemed so much simpler in many ways – notice I said simpler, not better. Thanks for reading this blog.

 

It captured my attention: a beautiful Rinaldo Titania Lithos YY Author


Blog by Steve Laug

I don’t know if you have had this happen to you. But you probably have if you have been a pipe man for long. Today on my lunch hour I was browsing the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society (GPSS) on Facebook. I was honestly just taking a break from a morning of phone calls and meetings. I just wanted to have a quiet time. I shut the door of my office and quietly ate lunch and browsed through the feeds on GPSS. Then it happened. I saw a pipe that Neal Yarm was selling. Now Neal is selling a bunch of unsmoked pipes – Castellos, Ardors, Rinaldos and others. But this one – a Rinaldo Tatiana Lithos YY Author grabbed my attention. I have never had a Rinaldo on my work table or in my collection. But I liked the way this one looked. I clicked on the photos and enlarged them so I could look the pipe over. I went through every photo he included – they weren’t enough for me, I wanted more. But ultimately I had to admit no amount of photos would change the reality. I wanted this pipe; it ticked off all the boxes for me. It was unsmoked and came with the original pipe sock and box. What more could I ask for. I sent Neal a private message, he sent me the invoice, I paid the bill and the deal was done. Now I await it arrival.I know next to nothing about Rinaldo Pipes so I took some time to remedy that during the rest of my lunch hour. I googled the brand to see what I could find. The first thing I read was a quote from one of my favourite author’s on pipes and pipe brands – José Manuel Lopes. In his book, Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, he writes that Rinaldo is the Italian brand of the Sicillian artisan brothers Elio & Guido Rinaldo, who left for the continent at an early age and settled in Pesaro. At 15, Elio started working for Mastro de Paja, with Guido joining him shortly after, in 1974. Now I had some basic information. It was Italian (which I already knew) and it was made by two brothers in Pesaro.

I continued through the google listings and found a link to Smokingpipes.com. They sell new Rinaldo pipes and often in their introductory remarks to a pipe or a brand there is a lot of helpful information. In this case there is some repetition to the information from Lopes but also some expansion. I quote their entry from their online store in full.

Rinaldo pipes are made by two brothers, Elio and Guido Rinaldo in Pesaro, Italy. Elio began making pipes when he was only fifteen, and his younger brother, who worked with precious metals for jewelry, began making pipes when he was sixteen. There are few families of pipes being made these days, and these two gentlemen work in perfect harmony in their shop. They initially worked for a large pipemaking company, but branched off to work for themselves in 1987 when they started Rinaldo pipes. Because of his jewelry background, Guido is responsible for making all of their silver bands and accents on-site. They use acrylic stems and finish their pipes either smooth, sandblasted, or rusticated. Working together, the brothers produce around 1,500 pipes annually. https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/new/rinaldo/I read the next google entry which was Pipedia https://pipedia.org/wiki/Rinaldo. I read briefly there and saw that it cited Steve Monjure’s website – Monjure International. I followed the link to that site and read further http://www.monjureinternational.com/rinphist.htm. I looked through his interesting information on the Rinaldo brand and its history. He gave more detailed information on the brand that added to my knowledge base. I quote his introductory comments first and then the section on history.

The Rinaldo brand began in 1987. It produces 1500 pipes a year — mainly classic shapes, but with a more rustic design than the majority of similar Italian brands — and has its main markets in Italy, Germany, and the US. It uses briar from Liguria, and Lucite stems. The pipes are stamped: RINALDO. Grading: from one to four Y and Fiammata. Symbol: stylized Greek letters ρ and ι

From the history of the brand section I quote: http://www.monjureinternational.com/rinaldo.

Elio and Guido Rinaldo began their work with briar in 1974 at the very young ages of 16 and 14 respectively. At this time they were employed by a well known pipe factory. In the beginning they were involved with the design, modeling and finishing. After years of study, hard work, and hands on experience, Elio and Guido mastered their art. This knowledge combined with their sensitivity allowed them to answer the burning desire they had to express themselves in their own way. Their dream to create a pipe with their own mark became a reality.

In 1987, the two brothers founded “Rinaldo Pipes” with the intention of creating fine handmade (fatta a mano) pipes with highly personalized lines fitted with silver and gold treatments that distinguish their exquisite pipes from the vast panorama of pipes. Their production is very limited since Elio and Guido are the sole ones to make the Rinaldo pipe. This has been their wish from the very first day the factory was started. Because of this loyalty to solely crafting their pipes, the smoker is guaranteed that each phase of the work is being maintained by skilled and expert hands. Each Rinaldo pipe is made from the very best Mediterranean briar and Elio and Guido select each briar block for its compact texture and regular veining. The acrylic mouthpieces are perfectly balanced and studied for optimal dental grip. This attention to detail results in a mouthpiece that has a pleasant and “easy hold” and is truly a “work of art”.

The Rinaldo pipe is currently offered in the following finishes: Lithos(Rustic) – Sahara(Sandblast) – Triade(Smooth). The Rinaldo pipes are divided into three lines: Briar Line(All Briar) – Silver Line(Silver Ornaments) – Gold Line(Gold Ornaments). There are five grade levels: Y, YY, YYY, YYYY, and Fiammata(Straight Grain). All Shapes are available in the regular size bowl and the “Titania” which is a bowl of greater dimensions.

The pipe I had purchased is stamped on the underside of the shank Titania over Lithos YY, Hand Made in Italy, Rinaldo. From the above information I learned that the pipe was Rusticated (which I could see from the photos), it was graded YY (which is the second grade), and it was a Titania (which is a larger bowl). I also learned that the LITHOS hand made pipes came in three inishes – Rustic Tan, Brown or Black.The article went on to describe the detail and care that goes into each pipe that the brothers craft. Here is how the website describes it:

Each Rinaldo pipe is offered for the pleasure of beholding its classical and liberal forms. Elio and Guido Rinaldo’s passion for crafting the finest pipes available is evident in each piece. Elio and Guido Rinaldo are currently producing approximately 1,500 pipes per year. When it comes to hand-made (fatta a mano) Italian pipes, two brothers in Italy, Elio and Guido Rinaldo are raising eyebrows around the world and are proving that high quality doesn’t always come at a high cost. In 1987 they started the business that bears their name although they actually started making pipes back in 1974 when they were only in their teens. They use the finest Mediterranean briar and their pieces not only are expertly designed and easy to hold, but they use fine balanced acrylic mouthpieces to insure a pleasant grip and ease on the teeth. Although some pipe manufacturers employ a body of carvers to create their designs, the two Rinaldo brothers are the sole carvers of their company. They create pipes in three different finishes (smooth, sandblast, and rusticated), several different sizes, and line their pipes with briar, silver, and gold ornaments.

The Monjure International Website includes an article on Rinaldo pipes in Pipes & Tobacco Magazine. Here is a link to that article; it is well worth a read if you are interested in reading about the brothers and their pipes. http://www.monjureinternational.com/rinaldo_articleP1.htm

Now that I had educated myself regarding the brand I was even more excited for the arrival of my new pipe. I could not wait to have it in hand and examine it up close. I wanted to look over all the hand made details and care that had gone into its design. I don’t often buy a new pipe; my tendency is to buy estates (as those of you who read rebornpipes have already figured out). They are already broken in and after a bit of cleaning can pick up where the last pipe man laid them down. But in this case I have to tell you, I am looking forward to giving this one a go and breaking it in myself. Once more thanks for sharing my excitement on this one. It is good to know that others are inflicted with the same “disease” and enjoy pipes along with me… I know that my wife and daughters only word for this is, “Another pipe? Do you really need that?” And to those comments I nod a yes, make no excuses and share my excitement with each of you. Cheers!

 

An Old Sealed Package of Eight Brothers Long Cut Tobacco


Blog Steve Laug

I was visiting my brother in Idaho and we went pipe hunting to see what we could find in the various antique shops and malls near by his home. One of the places we went was closing and they had some junk pipes for sale, a boxed set of bowls for a Koolsmoke metal pipe and a few tobacco tins that they were trying to sell out before the shop closed forever. Everything was 50% off so I was hooked to do a bit of looking at things I don’t normally buy. I picked up the Koolsmoke pipe bowls, an old tobacco tin the read Allen & Ginter’s Genuine Louisiana Perique, Made in Richmond, Virginia on the top and sides and a cellophane sealed pouch of Eight Brothers Long Cut Tobacco. I have seen the brand advertised before and I have seen it sold back in my early years or so I thought! I have no idea what it is or what tobacco is in the pouch. I don’t know if it was a Virginia, Burley or even a Latakia. I can’t seem to find any information on the contents of the tobacco. I decided to do a bit of research and see what I could find out about the brand.

I started my search on Google with the name “Eight Brothers Long Cut Tobacco”. I found lots of empty tins for sale and thought that was a dead end. But it was not! I started to notice that the tins had different company names printed on them. Some were marked Swisher International Inc., others were marked Schmitt Brothers Tobacco Works, Penn Tobacco Company, Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company, Helme Tobacco Company, General Cigar & Tobacco Company and also Culbro Co. I had no idea of the historical line of the brand and where it started. I did not know which company came first and which came next, etc. I just new that the package I found read General Cigar & Tobacco Co. a Division of Culbro Corporation. So my work was cut out for me.

Here is what I found. (Throughout this blog I will use pictures I found on the web for this tobacco. The tins show the various iterations of the tobacco through various manufacturers.)

On the US Trademark website (http://www.trademarkia.com/eight-brothers-71539750.html) I found out that the brand was first owned by Swisher International, Inc. (Helme Tobacco Company). Here is what I read on the site: On Friday, October 31, 1947, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for EIGHT BROTHERS by Swisher International, Inc., JACKSONVILLE 32206. The USPTO has given the EIGHT BROTHERS trademark serial number of 71539750. The current federal status of this trademark filing is EXPIRED. The correspondent listed for EIGHT BROTHERS is JUDITH D. COHEN of KANE, DALSIMER, SULLIVAN, KURUCZ, LEVY,, EISELE AND RICHARD, 711 THIRD AVENUE, 20TH FLOOR NEW YORK, N. Y. 10017 . The EIGHT BROTHERS trademark is filed in the category of Rubber Products . The description provided to the USPTO for EIGHT BROTHERS is SMOKING AND CHEWING TOBACCO.

It seems that the blend was sold to Schmitt Brothers Tobacco Works. This was an independent tobacco manufacturer, which was later bought by the Penn Tobacco Company of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Tins were printed Penn Tobacco Company during that time frame. In the photo below it reads Penn Tobacco Company and underneath it reads Successors to Schmitt Brothers Tobacco Works.I also found one that was printed Bloch Brothers Tobacco. From what I could find out on the web Bloch Brothers purchased the brand from Penn Tobacco Company and moved it to Wheeling, West Virginia. The tin below bears the name of Bloch Brothers and underneath reads Successors to Penn Tobacco Co.In 1969 Bloch Brothers/Penn Tobacco Co was sold to the General Cigar and Tobacco Company, which became a division of Culbro in 1978. The tin below is printed with the name General Cigar & Tobacco Co. I did some reading on the Culbro Company. Here is a link to the their website and specifically to the section on their history. http://www.culbro.com/about-us/our-history.html

Quoting from their site:

The Cullman family has a long history in all parts of the cigar industry. In 1961, Edgar Cullman, Sr., son of a tobacco grower and grandson of a tobacco merchant, entered the business of cigar manufacturing with the purchase of General Cigar, then a large maker of mass market cigars in the US. Under Edgar’s leadership, General Cigar entered the premium cigar industry and over time became the largest manufacturer and marketer of premium cigars in the US. Its leading brands include Macanudo, Partagas, Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey.

The cigar business was the core of General Cigar, but in the 1970s and 1980s, as cigars were experiencing declining consumption, the company diversified its holdings and changed its name to Culbro Corporation. During those years, it acquired, managed and sold a large number of businesses including Ex-Lax, a laxative maker, Bachman Foods, a snack food company, The Eli Witt Company, a wholesale distributor, Centaur Communications, a publishing company, CMS Gilbreth Packaging Systems, a manufacturer of packaging and labeling systems, and Bermas Plastics, a plastic cigar tip manufacturer. Culbro Corporation also formed a real estate development corporation which, when combined with Imperial Nurseries, ultimately became Griffin Land & Nurseries, Inc. and invested in HF, which subsequently became Doral Financial Corporation. Both of these companies were public spin-offs.

In 1997, when interest in cigars had resumed, Culbro once again took General Cigar public and split off the other businesses. A few years later, public markets lost interest in cigars, and General Cigar went private with the assistance of Swedish Match, a multiline tobacco business. Five years later Swedish Match acquired the whole business.

Culbro, LLC was formed in 2005 to bring the financial and operating experience of acquiring and managing businesses to bear in the private equity industry.

The label on my package is printed with the General Cigar & Tobacco Co. of Wheeling, West Virgina label. I know then that tobacco was manufactured between the dates noted above 1961-1969. 1969 was the date when Bloch Brothers Tobacco Co./Penn Tobacco Co. sold the brand to General Cigar & Tobacco. The other article note is that in 1961 Edgar Cullman, Sr. of Culbro Co. purchased General Cigar and tobacco. I believe that the package I have was made sometime during the 1960s (1961-1969).

A cellophane sealed Yellow Eight Brothers Tobacco package. Black print reads “Eight/Brothers/Mild Smoke/8 Brothers” over a circle that reads “ Mild Smoke on the top of the circle and “Pleasant Chew” on the underside. I the centre is an 8 over the word BROTHERS. Underneath the circle it reads “Long Cut Tobacco”. Both front and back are the same. On one side it reads “General Cigar & Tobacco Co.” with the following address: Wheeling, West Virginia. Underneath it has a CULBRO logo and reads “A Division of Culbro Corporation. On the other side it reads  “Union Made” and has a bar code.Now I have a decision in front of me – do I open the pouch and fire up a bowl or do I leave it as a historical pouch from 50+ years ago. What do you think?

A friend on the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Group on FaceBook posted the following link for more information. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/549 What follows is an interesting addition to the above information.

“Jesse Bloch was president of the company from 1937 to 1947. During his tenure, the company expanded by acquiring the Pollack Crown stogie and the Penn Tobacco Company. Jesse’s son, Thomas, continued as head of the company, adding the firm of Christian Peper Tobacco Company and its line of pipe tobacco products to the mixtures being made in Wheeling. Bloch Brothers was sold in 1969 to the General Cigar and Tobacco Company, which became a division of Culbro in 1978. The company was acquired by the Helme Tobacco Company in 1983 and now uses the name Swisher International. Mail Pouch, described by tobacco chewers as drier and not as sweet as some other chewing tobaccos, remains a popular product.”

 

 

A Review of “Rattray’s Booklet on Tobacco Blending: A Disquisition for the Connoisseur,” and the Original Text


Review by Robert M. Boughton

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Photos © the Author except as noted

“Look at almost any painting.  Three-quarters of the can vas is covered by the background.  Tradition is the background of our life.  Take away the background, and you have spoilt the painting.”
— Charles Rattray (1880-1964), quoted in “Up in Smoke,” article by Russell Kirk, Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 9, 1956A FOREWORD FOR MODERN TOBACCO CONNOISSEURS

Charles Rattray

Had I not chanced upon one of Gregory L. Pease’s always informative and entertaining essays in a browser search for better information about Charles Rattray, the late great Scottish tobacco blender, than the scads of teasing, contradictory bits and pieces that clutter the so-called Information Superhighway, I might never have learned about the “Disquisition.”  I was working on a review of Rattray’s Jocks Mixture, determined to dig up some real dirt about the blend and the methods of the man whose name was on the tall orange tin.  Just when I thought I had wasted almost an hour making frequent refinements to the search terms, up popped Mr. Pease’s listing at the top of the page, with the wholly irrelevant seeming title “Those Pesky Non-Polar Molecules.”  Doubtful but intrigued, I scanned the URL’s blurb that ended with the incomplete sentence, “In fact, Charles Rattray, in his ‘Disquisition….”  Stifling some very ugly words even though I would have been the only human to hear them, but with the presence of mind to consider the sensibilities of my cat, Tiger Lily, I jabbed the blue link.

Speed reading the piece, the gist of which was fine and dandy but all about the different ways to preserve tobacco and maybe even improve its taste, blah-blah-blah, I came across the sentence I was gasping to find.  As I read, I stopped breathing altogether.  Here are the only words in the entire essay, which I saved to my Favorites because I gathered enough to know I would enjoy the real subject more at a later date (as I did), that began my quest anew: “In fact, Charles Rattray, in his ‘Disquisition for the Pipe Smoker,’ wrote that the last bowl from his tins would be the best.”

And so, typing the given title for another search, I saw there were 1,950 entries, the top three being other links to the same article by Mr. Pease, followed by everything from pipe smoking in Middle Earth to a disquisition on the evils of using tobacco.  Well, I can tell you, I had just about had it.  But being relentless, I added “rattray” before the same title, and although the possibilities were a touch fewer at 1,139, well down the first page I felt a glimmer of hope in the description of a site called “Welcome to the Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage, and Cellaring FAQ!”  Maybe the exclamation point stopped me enough to spy, among various sentence fragments separated by more damned ellipsis marks, one with Rattray’s in bold and another being “Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  Clicking on this link to verify that Mr. Rattray was indeed the author of said Disquisition, I had to exercise a level of patience that is atypical to my normal threshold, and forced myself to venture 47 pages – or halfway down my scroll bar – into the bowels of the collection of documents, on the subject with the exclamatory heading noted above, before I came across yet another Mr. Pease quote, this one referring to Rattray’s “Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  Why, in the name of all that’s holy, I beseeched myself, had I not just Googled that whole term in the first place?  At any rate, there is a purpose to all of this verbiage.

Mindful of not being the only tobacco pipe aficionado to have read the famous and extraordinary discourse by Mr. Rattray, founder of the famed House of Rattray, I am certain of the high probability that still many more like-minded pipe folks out there remain oblivious to its existence.   The sole reasons for such a detailed description of the blocks I encountered while hunting for a bona fide version of the work are to demonstrate the sometimes arduous task of locating the exact document one knows exists somewhere, even with search terms one would have every right to believe are sufficient, and to make the fruit of this personal crusade available with fewer trials to others who also seek accurate details of Mr. Rattray’s lifework, including his own published wisdom.  The Disquisition that follows my foreword is essential reading toward that end.  The clear opinions in this opening commentary are my own.

Steve Laug is, as am I, an acknowledged enthusiast of the habitual conditions called Pipe Acquisition Disorder (P.A.D.), Tobacco Acquisition Disorder (T.A.D.) and Pipe Tobacciana Acquisition Disorder (PTAD) – which I propose henceforth be referenced in combined form as Pipe, Tobacco and Tobacciana Acquisition Disorder, or PTTAD for those of us who are self-diagnosed or in denial.  As such (with an emphasis on PTAD, under which category I suppose the Disquisition falls), Steve published the same copy in 2012, calling the booklet a catalog and adding only a brief opening comment recommending it to readers.  The full name of the 30-page tract is somewhat misleading given the use of the prepositional phrase “on Tobacco Blending” followed by the subtitle “A Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  The two parts combined suggest far more particulars of the contents of the Rattray’s mixtures, meaning the nine available when the Disquisition was written, than the blender’s seminal publication reveals.  Even so, the work remains a fascinating insight into the personality and philosophy of its author as much from its disclosures as its omissions.  Some of these show apparent deliberation while others tend perhaps toward the subconscious.  By the way, as of today, more than 40 Rattray’s blends have been released.

My frustration locating an online copy of the great work, even after the attempts already described and one more that pulled up a boggling number of references in tobacco discussions, articles and commentaries, turned out to be the result of my own failure, which I concede in advance was a bit stupid, to add the single word “online” after the second part of the Disquisition’s name.  In frustration, and with my tail between my legs, I dispatched a message to Mr. Pease, an eminent blender of fine pipe tobaccos in his own right, soliciting his aid.   His quick and thoughtful response led to the copy included here in its entirety, and by example to links of many others.  A quick but excited first reading set my mind abuzz with perceptions garnered from the primary source of this review that for the most part I did not find echoed anywhere else in my research.

Unlike some facsimiles, the PDF to which I was guided includes curious handwritten notes on the title page and one other.  Having exhausted every means of deciphering the words, which I considered might or might not be in English, and even consulting online Scottish alphabet and cursive handwriting sources, I made an unconditional surrender as to the words on the title page.  Regarding those on page 22, I ventured a guess that I thought was grasping.  In the end of this particular pursuit, I reached out for Steve’s almost encyclopedic opinion.  Two mornings ago, just in time to begin the final revisions to this review (or so I thought), I was rewarded with his agreement, in the latter of two responses via email, that the second note seems to be “write re shipping.”  But Steve’s initial response, appearing in my inbox below the other and concerning the title page, astounded me.  He interpreted it as a name, “Sh q. Jensen.”  Smiling and nodding in silence, almost laughing out loud, I revisited the title page and could only concur – with one suggested amendment: building upon Steve’s astute conclusion, the notion that Sh might be an abbreviation taken from some book owners’ proprietary need to write or in other more OCD examples stamp words to the effect of “From the library of (insert name),” I reasoned that Sh could be an abbreviation for “shelf,” as in “From the shelf of Q. Jensen.”  With a final search for words and acronyms involving the two letters in question, I confirmed the wild guess at the fifth Web link in my list of sources.

Nevertheless, the original year of the Disquisition’s distribution remains a mystery, but be assured I will not give up trying to find a definitive determination.  For now, I can report with certainty that the booklet was issued much later than I had believed, considering the extended quote on page 2, replete with the type of romantic nostalgia popular to many Scots of great and lesser renown, and most often encountered in the bawdy singing heard in pubs of that proud and sentimental country that forms roughly the northern half of Great Britain.  Attributed to a certain gentleman whose prose leaves no doubt he was a Scotsman with literary aspirations, by the name of B.A. Forbes, the essay, titled “Snuff – and the ‘Forty-Five’,” appeared in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts in August 1936.  For the edification of anyone familiar with or interested in this magazine, it was published under that name in London from 1854-1956 as the continuation of its predecessor, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal (1832-1853, published in Edinburgh).

For a glimpse at Rattray’s nationalistic pride and his personality in general, and tobacco blending philosophy in particular, the primary source of which I have already hinted, of course, is Rattray’s Booklet on Tobacco Blending: A Disquisition for the Connoisseur.  Again, there are frequent mentions of “Rattray’s Disquisition” or just “the Disquisition,” the latter reminiscent of rare classical music masterpieces, for example Johan Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major for strings, with its alternating melancholy and somewhat more upbeat parts, being referred to as “the Canon”; J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for organ, called “the Fugue,” and Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor for strings and organ, a work of a profound  sense of impending doom that builds into an almost harrowing conclusion, known as “the Adagio.”

The Disquisition is divided into eight parts: an informal preface; the foreword proper; a synopsis of the five elements of creating what the master blender and author called the House of Rattray’s “adherence to the true unhurried craftsmanship, the secret of our success;” six blends specifically identified as Scottish Mixtures, showing their domestic prices; “Cabinet,” or sampler pack choices with their prices; three All-Virginian Mixtures giving the same pricing; Export Prices for the pipe tobaccos, and, described last but with effusive pomp, Rattray’s Hand Made Cigarette (the Golden Leaf of Old Virginia), the reason “why we have one cigarette and one only,” again with domestic and Export Prices depending on the quantity ordered.  All prices are stated in shillings and pence.  For example, the lowest domestic price per ¼ lb. tin of Red Rapparee and Black Mallory is shown as 9/2, or nine shillings two pence.

Every pipester, as Mr. Pease sometimes calls us, whether he coined the term or not, should give the Disquisition thorough consideration.  If the reader is as inquisitive as I am, he (and I use the pronoun in the formal writing sense, not to exclude the many women among us) will find himself more and more engrossed, compelled to keep turning the pages, as it were.  In fact, I, for one, hope someday to own a genuine, ink and paper original printed edition of the prideful, almost swaggering presentation.  Moving forward from the weathered but elegant title page, take in every detail and nuance that combine to create a portrait of Charles Rattray, the man, the Scot and the tobacco blender.

Read every word of the text, as all of them were chosen by the author with the skill of a master craftsman, the cunning and wile of a politician avoiding the real answers to questions, the reluctance of the true chef to reveal too many secrets of his recipes – and, last but above all else, the fierce pride of the Scotsman who created the invaluable legacy of the now almost forgotten traditions of quality tobacco blending.

Study every image of antique statuettes and jars, each of them a special illustration of the centuries old history, traditions and values of the tobacconist’s trade, and singled out by the hands of the founder of the House of Rattray from his family’s vast, treasured collection.

Don’t miss a single quote related to the enjoyment of pipes and tobaccos, selected by Mr. Rattray with the same attention to history and tradition that is the theme of his Disquisition, which further illustrate the purpose behind his vocation and business, and when combined with the images of priceless tobacciana are especially telling of his sentiments.    Beginning with the longest from B.A. Forbes found at the end of the preface, the quotes, all derived from sources subject to the British Crown, continue in small bars heading each page of the following Foreword and the synopsis of the four fundamental preparatory acts, with the fifth being the final choices of which leafs and their quantities to choose for a given blend, and provide an enhanced understanding of the Rattray story.

That story and a large part of Mr. Rattray’s pride began with the Clan Rattray.  According to legend, the Clan dates to the early11th century, when Malcolm II, born c. 954, King of Scots from 1005 until his death in 1034,  granted one of the first men of the Rattray surname –which at the time was an ancient variation –the position of Laird of Rattray.  The royal appointment as laird, or landed proprietor, gave the early Rattray immediate authority over the occupants of Perthshire, now the County of Perth, and also made him accountable to the king for payment of certain incomes in that period’s equivalent of taxes.  It was true then as it is now: every promotion comes with a price.  For more details of the legend of Clan Rattray’s origin, based on the accounts passed down through the family for more or less a millennium, there is as always a link in my sources.

When Mr. Rattray died in 1964, his son, Charles Rattray, Jr., inherited the Scottish tobacco throne.  At some unclear point in the 1970s (or, in the alternative provided by less reliable sources, the 1960s), Robert McConnell Tobaccos of London assumed responsibility for some of the Rattray’s blends.  Which specific blends is unclear, depending on the source consulted.  Some say all of the Rattray’s English blends were assigned to McConnell; others posit the vague notion that “blends intended for export to the U.S.,” which category begs interpretation as either specific blend names made for sale in the U.S. alone, or those that were available here.  Either way, the latter idea seems, perhaps only to me, laughable considering the lack of any handy evidence supporting a theory that any product made by Rattray’s was excluded for sale in the rest of the world or not available to U.S. importers.  The tenuous claims I have mentioned are intended for the reader’s own conclusion or, I hope, to inspire debate, and in no way alter the fact that both McConnell and Kohlhase Kopp became involved in the evolution of the House of Rattray after the founder’s death, with the latter at whatever date assuming current ownership.  I always desire and appreciate input readers may have concerning these or any other statements I make in my various contributions to this forum.

The complete transition of Rattray’s ownership is also subject to debate.  Kohlhasse Kopp & Co. of Germany was formed in 1979, not long before the universal dating of the House of Rattray’s closure in 1980.  The question remains, however, whether McConnell ever had complete control of Rattray’s production until 1990, when the best sources I can find assert Kohlhasse Kopp’s acquisition.  There is no doubt, at least, that Rattray’s pipe tobaccos are now manufactured in Denmark.

I will leave the final point of contention in the worldwide community of tobacco pipe smokers, relative to the overall quality of Rattray’s products after Mr. Rattray’s death, to the many members of that clan.

Antique Fairweather & Sons tobacco tin, courtesy of the Internet

If there is such a thing as predestination, Charles Rattray is the perfect example.  The man who can reasonably be credited with perfecting if not creating a style of tobacco known today as the Scottish mixture was born in Dundee – where he began learning the skills and knowledge that led to his long reign as the premier blender in Scotland – at Fairweather & Sons.  Some of his early blends while in the employ of Fairweather were deemed suitable for sale at that establishment.

House of Rattray, found on Pipedia

The details of Rattray’s ascension to the throne vary in the sources cited at the end, but my account of his rise is based on the most reliable of these.  He remained in Dundee until 1903, when, at only 23, he set out for the capitol city of Perth and worked at the Brown Tobacco Shop on High Street 158, which he purchased eight years later and renamed as the House of Rattray. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

SOURCES

http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1956/12/09/page/24/article/up-in-smoke#text
http://glpease.com/BriarAndLeaf/?p=28
https://rebornpipes.com/tag/rattrays-tobacco/
http://www.glpease.com/about.html
https://www.allacronyms.com/SH/Construction
https://pipedia.org/wiki/Rattray’s
https://www.lincolnwatchclinic.co.uk/rattray-s-tobacco
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/11/astleys-no-99-full-latakia-mixture.html
http://www.loringpage.com/attpipes/tobdatepaper.html
http://www.tobaccopipes.com/blog/rattrays-past-present-and-future/
http://kohlhase-kopp.com/ceemes/tabak/rattray-s/?ref_pfeifentabak
http://www.clanrattray.com/about-the-clan.aspx
http://de.kompass.com/et/c/kohlhase-kopp-co-gmbh-co-kg-tabakwaren-import-und-grosshandel/de187782/
http://www.fumeursdepipe.net/telecha/rattraysbooklet.pdf

Since 1936 There’s Been No Match For a Kirsten – 1980s Era Catalog


After all my recent post of Catalogues from the 70s I have been sharing them on the Facebook Metal Pipe Smokers Group. Samuel R. Vior who has written a blog here on rebornpipes in the past sent me some scans of some of his catalogues. The one that follows is recent one that he think came from the 80s as it is a booklet and the models are Designers stand up. Sam gave me permission to post these here. This is the first of them. It has some great historic information and photos that add to my Kirsten knowledge. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks Sam.

1975-1976 Kirsten Pipe Company Catalog


This is the last of the Kirsten Pipe Catalogs that I received. It is from 1975-1976. Once again enjoy this blast from the past. It comes from the year I got married – 40+ years ago now. I remember I picked up my first Kirsten not long after that time. There is something about the design that intrigues me so I really like reading the old pieces of literature from the company.