Saturday, February 28, 2009

Featured Pipe Smoker: William Mount

William Sidney Mount (1807-1868)

This painting, California News, by William Mount includes a self portrait. The artist has portrayed himself in the right foreground with a clay pipe in his hand. This scene depicts Mount and other tavern patrons checking the newspapers for news of the California gold fields.

Mount grew up on a farm on Long Island. During a time when other artists preferred to emulate the European academic tradition of painting historical, religious, or literary scenes, Mount chose rather to depict rural American subjects in a realistic style. He became apprenticed to his older brother, who was already an artist and who had a sign-painting shop in New York City, after their father died when William was only 7.

Mount was once offered the opportunity to study art in Europe, but declined "
for fear I might be induced by the splendor of European art to tarry too long, and thus lose my nationality. We have nature, it speaks to every one and what efforts I have made in art have been appreciated by my countrymen."

William Mount was one of the first American artists to portray African Americans in his paintings "
with dignity although he opposed abolition of slavery."

He was also an inventor and an accomplished musician. He invented
a steamboat paddle wheel, a two-hulled sailboat, a painting studio on wheels and a hollow back violin named the "Cradle of Harmony." He was also admired for his skill as a country fiddler, and was a composer and collector of songs as well, publishing several songbooks.

William Mount biographical info from
Information on the Cradle of Harmony violin at HistoryWired.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vintage Ad (1932): Granger Tobacco

"Why do I say that? Well, just as soon as you come into the house and pack your pipe with Granger, you seem to be in a good humor."

Granger ads of this period positively reek of this stuff. Man comes home from work, flops down with his pipe, stay-at-home little woman coos over him and compliments him on his choice of pipe tobacco. Kind of nauseating, to me.

Granger is still made, and is just a plain burley tobacco, but as with other allegedly "plain" tobaccos that are old traditional American smokes, it is probably saturated with propylene glycol and I'm sure I would find it horrendous, right in the same category with Half & Half, Sir Walter Raleigh, Prince Albert, et. al.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Featured Pipe Smoker: Roy Weatherby

Roy Weatherby (1910-1988)

In the 1940s, Roy Weatherby became disappointed by the performance of available hunting ammunition and decided to create some new cartridges of his own. He was convinced that a small, fast bullet would provide better results than a big, slow bullet. He was a man of tremendous energy and enthusiasm, and in 1945 he quit his job to start his own company to develop and produce what he believed would be better hunting cartridges.

Some of his ideas regarding ballistics might seem downright ludicrous. Of his African hunting he once wrote, "I shot him with my .257 Magnum, hitting in the front leg only, high toward the shoulder ... nothing can withstand the shock of high velocity bullets, even when not hit in a vital spot." (Emphasis mine).

Later, a Cape buffalo escaped after being shot four times: first with a .375 Weatherby, two more times with a .300, and finally once more with a .470. This seemed to have changed his mind somewhat: "You must hit them right unless the bullet has sufficient velocity to disintegrate. Now, I am going to try the 87 gr. .25 caliber on them -- this may have the shock we are after."

He was convinced that hydrostatic shock would kill big game, regardless of shot placement. Although sometimes he seemed to disprove his own theories, he still stuck to old ideas that extremely fast velocity was more important than where the bullet hit.

A 1948 diary entry: "I'm disproving all my own theories and everyone else's ... the bullet must be traveling at a certain velocity when it hits the animal in order to kill by shock, no matter where it hits."

A 1951 Gun Digest article: "It doesn't matter whether you shoot (a game animal) in the ham, the ribs, the paunch, or the shoulder; you do not have to hit the heart, the lungs, or the spine in order to kill when using a bullet that disintegrates inside his body. I recommend you try a .25-caliber bullet travelling at 4,000 fps to shoot your next game animal, whether it be deer, moose, or African buffalo."

He carried this idea to what seems to me ridiculous extremes, as evidenced by this quote which seems to say you don't even have to hit the animal: "Government experiments with projectiles traveling 10,000 fps show the devastating results that can someday be expected ... they shot over the backs of animals with these guns, missing by only a fraction of an inch. The animals jumped several times their normal ability to jump and fell dead. Autopsy revealed every blood vessel was ruptured in the area over which the bullet passed. It worked with shock waves in the air..." [Bullsh*t! --ed.]

He did develop many high-velocity, flat-shooting cartridges that proved themselves excellent for hunting big game. Although at first he used Mauser actions (and others) for his rifles, in 1957 he developed what is now known as the Mark V--a new bolt action strong enough to handle his very powerful and fast magnum cartridges.

The Weatherby company still produces high quality rifles and shotguns as well as a wide range of ammunition. Weatherby cartridges range from the zippy .224 Weatherby Magnum (55 grain bullet, 3650 fps MV and 1627 fpe ME) to the big-game-stopping .460 Weatherby Magnum (500 grain bullet, 2600 fps MV and 7500 fpe ME).

Regardless of his controversial theories on hunting ballistics, Roy Weatherby's creations have become pretty much legendary in the world of hunting. With one of his rifles and the proper cartridge, one can hunt any animal that walks the earth.

Friday, February 20, 2009

International Pipe-Smoking Day

Read all about it at the International Pipe Smoking Day website.
Today’s hectic environment almost dictates that we run on full efficiency, have total involvement in our work, our families and in every aspect of what we do to survive and achieve in a world set at high speed. With ever-changing values it is the intent that The International Pipe-Smoking Day will allow us, the Brothers and Sisters of the Briar to step back and appreciate our rich historical value. For pipe-smokers and pipe-smoking everywhere the day will be emblematic of our shared values, history, traditions, and aspirations.
Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Except for those so-called "pipe tobacco" cigarillos. Those don't count. In fact, I think Feb 20 is also Kick Someone's Ass for Smoking a Peach-Flavored Cigarillo Day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vintage Ad (1940s): William Demuth Co.

This pipe from WDC has an unusual flat, rectangular filter. Most filter pipes use a cylindrical filter.

I guess filters were good for something, back when all you could get was that gunky, syrupy drugstore stuff (yuck!). Pipe companies tried everything they could to cut down on tongue-bite and make the smoke "cooler and drier," when all they really needed to do was use some decent tobacco that wasn't pumped full of propylene glycol, sugar and artificial flavors.

I will admit that I started out on that junk. I think my first pouch was some Captain Black whiskey flavored. It smelled great in the pouch. Some cherry flavored stuff that I had once also smelled great in the pouch, and the same goes for some heavy black Cavendish that was flavored with black walnut.

Now, I would not object to them being used as sachets, but I wouldn't smoke them.

I have one old WDC pipe, a Wellington, which was their knock-off of the Peterson System pipe. It's probably my favorite pipe, although extra care must be taken when cleaning to make sure that reservoir isn't hiding any concentrated punk.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I am doing my first official pipe tobacco review

I got a sample from a place called Bennington Tobacconist in Boca Raton, FL and a form to fill out on various aspects of what I think of it. So far, not bad, and if I was a bigger fan of latakia I'd be all for it. A very nice medium latakia English blend that I wouldn't hesitate to put in my cellar if I liked latakia enough to do that. But I tend more toward the Perique-heavy blends these days, and have for several years now.

What's the name of the blend? I don't know. It's only labeled "TEST #4." I guess they didn't want any kind of identification to bias the reviews.

Big sample, too, about 1 1/2 ounces. The way I smoke latakia, I could seal this in a Mason jar and it would last me for years.

Featured Pipe Smoker: Raymond Chandler

Raymond Thornton Chandler (1888-1959)
"Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of bar-room vernacular, that is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have."
And what a method it was. Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago but moved to Britain with his mother several years later when his parents divorced, where he attended school and became a naturalized British citizen in 1907. He worked for the Civil Service and then as a journalist before returning to the United States in 1912, taking jobs as a bookkeeper and accountant.

In 1917, he enlisted in the Canadian army and fought in France. After the war, he moved to Los Angeles. He eventually became a vice president of Dabney Oil Syndicate in California but lost this job because of his alcoholism.

His education had included nothing particular to his becoming a writer; he didn't "study" writing. He simply began writing because he felt the creative urge and he thought he could make money at it. The Big Sleep was his first novel, published in 1939.

He renounced his British citizenship in 1948 to avoid paying income tax to the U.K.

After his wife died in 1954 he fell into depression and again began drinking heavily. He died of pneumonia in 1959.

Chandler's descriptive turns of phrase were quite original and since have been often mimicked. He achieved perhaps the supreme honor of any writer by having his name turned into an adjective: Chandleresque. All of his novels have been made into movies. He also wrote several short stories and one essay on pulp fiction titled The Simple Act of Murder.

Raymond Chandler is, of course, the creator of the famous fictional detective Philip Marlowe and is one of my favorite authors. I never tire of re-reading his works and trying to commit some of his descriptions to memory. One that has always stuck in my mind is him describing a woman's face in that it "looked like a bucket of mud." Another favorite, from The Big Sleep, is "The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men."

If you've never read any of his books, you should.

Amazon Search: Raymond Chandler

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vintage Ad (1941): Kaywoodie Meerschaums

The $10 pipe above is an actual calabash, not just calabash-shaped. The outer bowl is from a calabash gourd, with a meerschaum insert. The insert can also be made from clay or porcelain.

By the way, $17.50 was a pretty good chunk of money to pay for a pipe in 1941. Around $250 today, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Featured Pipe Smoker: Lin Yutang

Lin Yutang (1895-1976)
"When the mirror meets with an ugly woman, when a rare ink-stone finds a vulgar owner, and when a good sword is in the hands of a common general, there is utterly nothing to be done about it."
Lin Yutang was born in China, the son of a Christian minister. He studied at Saint John's University in Shangai for his Bachelor's Degree, then went to Harvard and later to the University of Leipzig in Germany to attain his doctorate.

Lin's writings popularized classical Chinese literature in the west. He worked to formulate a new method of Romanizing the Chinese language and created an indexing system for Chinese characters. He invented a Chinese typewriter and also invented a toothbrush with a built-in toothpaste dispenser.

Dr. Lin left Christianity to follow the paths of Taoism and Buddhism, but later in life rediscovered Christianity.

Dr. Lin wrote numerous books in both English and Chinese, both non-fiction as well as novels. Among his non-fiction works are commentaries on Confucianism and Taoism.

He was buried on the premises of his last home in Taiwan, which has since been turned into a museum.

Wikipedia, of course, has an entry on Lin Yutang, and includes a bibliography.

Brainyquotes has a collection of quotes by him. Here is one of my favorites:
If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vintage Ad (1895): F.W. Kaldenberg's Sons

Another pipe maker lost to history. This design of bowl is still called the bulldog. Note the "amber mouthpiece." Amber was used as such long ago, but it didn't wear well, because it became too fragile and brittle and broke easily. Some modern stem-makers create hard plastic (acrylic) stems to imitate amber because of its attractive appearance.

If an old pipe like this was still floating around somewhere with an amber stem attached, it would likely have a very high collectible value, and most people probably wouldn't smoke it for fear of breaking it.