Sunday, June 29, 2008

A little house-keeping

I tried an over-the-counter allergy pill this morning that I'd never tried before. Good thing I did it on a Sunday. I have been completely out of it all day.

However, I did manage to clean up some pipes today, which I had been putting off. I still have a few pipes in the truck that need cleaning, but today's work got the old Wellington back in smoking shape.

As you can see above, I also printed up some nice labels for all my tobacco jars. Not all of them contain tobacco yet, but I got them ready for when I open the tins. It looks like I could fit 5 of those half-pint jars in one stack in my cabinet. Lots of room for cellaring leaf with the Pump & Seal. I didn't buy the half-pints locally; my step-mother gave them to me. I did buy some very squat full pint jars from Ball's "Elite" line, but they don't stack well. I think I'll just give them to her and call it a trade, and meanwhile keep my eye open for more of these half-pint jars.

The white plastic dish at front right is my loading dish. I hold my pipe in it or over it when I'm loading it to catch the leaf that falls.

Here's another overhead shelf and as you can see, it isn't a very efficient use of space. But I did want to keep several of my most frequently used pipes near at hand. I think I will re-arrange it to put tobacco jars on the top shelf. The bale jar on top contains only a few dregs of something. The other jars on top are empty since they don't have any kind of air-tight(ish) seal. I just use them for pipe racks.

Here is the bookshelf to the right of my computer desk that I am planning on dedicating to pipes & accessories. Most of my Kaywoodies in the rack on the right, along with several pipes that I don't smoke very often and one pipe that I do smoke often but simply won't fit on any other rack, cleaning stuff on the bottom and some miscellaneous bits & pieces in the middle. Empty tins up on top.

Oh yes, and the owls. But the owls are not what they seem.

Featured Pipe Smoker: François Gros Louis

François Gros Louis

When I began building my collection of pictures like this several years ago, I found many that came with little or no information, such as this one. You won't find an entry for this person on Wikipedia, but it is very picturesque and worthy of inclusion.

My notes on this photo, taken from whatever book I scanned it from (I think it was one of those Time Life Old West books) are that it was taken in the early 1800's in Canada. This photo is of a Huron-Wendat trapper named François Gros Louis who posed for this portrait with all the accoutrements of his trade: steel traps, furs, his rifle (held in his left hand, wrapped in fur) and his pipe. I don't know anything else about him. His pipe was most likely made from antler or bone.

From comments:
François Gros-Louis alias Tekionde was a Huron-Wendat ( Québec native person ) father of François Gros-Louis alias La Plume father of Francis Gros-Louis alias Sassennio who married Rosalie Picard Huron-Wendat. Francis and Rosalie had many children which follows another 5 generations which most of them married native people. So Mr. François Gros-Louis is a pure native from Québec and not a French-Canadian trapper, a real Huron-Wendat! This is a message from his from his great-great-great-great-great grand son Huron-Wendat Québec.
UPDATE: A reader has sent me another interesting graphic and some information. First, the picture.

The photo was taken by William Notman in1866, and the painting recreated from the photo was also by Notman, made in 1882. Notman was born in Scotland in 1826 and moved to Montreal in 1856. He was an amateur photographer whose talent turned him professional. He was, according to Wikipedia, "the first Canadian photographer with an international reputation," and some of his photos, which he sent as a gift to Queen Victoria, earned him the title of "Photographer to the Queen."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vintage Ad (pre WWII): The Underboar

Here is another great example of an oddball gimmick pipe.

My cursory internet research has revealed that the Underboar was part of the Charatan line, and production of the Underboar stopped after World War II. It has a plunger in the shank which scoops out goop when you pull out the stem. This is a guaranteed way to make a mess and in my opinion would be inferior to a simple, standard cleaning with a pipe cleaner.

Maybe the Underboar was a good pipe. I don't know. But when a well-known maker like Charatan has to resort some gimmick like this, it probably means they're trying to move some inferior pipes.

Charatans of that era were made from Algerian briar, which is considered inferior to Mediterranean briar by many, and requires a very careful and prolonged curing process to prepare the briar for pipe making (or so I have read).

I can't date this ad exactly, but it had to be sometime between 1920 and the end of World War II.

P.S. Sorry for the lateness of this post. I tried to post it early this morning but just kept getting error messages from Blogger.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's been a while...

Since I've had Blockade Runner by Cornell & Diehl. I ordered a sample of it recently to be included in my 8-sample pack. A straight Virginia that has been soaked in rum, then pressed and sliced. Very smooth, although the rum is not noticeable--to me, anyway. This small sample won't be enough. I'll have to add this to the list for bulk ordering sometime soon.

Featured Pipe Smoker: Tex Ritter

Maurice Woodward "Tex" Ritter (1905-1974)

Tex Ritter was probably famous enough that I don't have to say much about him. He was born in the small east Texas town of Murvaul and became famous as a cowboy singer, later becoming a radio actor and eventually a movie actor. He was the first artist ever to sign with the newly-formed Capitol Records in 1942, and had his own television music series in the late 50's and early 60's. In 1970, he entered the Republican primary for U.S. Senate (Tennessee) but was defeated. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and posthumously into the Western Performers Hall of Fame. He was also the father of the late actor John Ritter.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Vintage Ad (1941): Half and Half

Here's an old H&H ad that somebody cropped a little bit too much.

This is another of those old traditional American blends that I can't stand. I usually leave it just at that. However, with Half & Half I must go further.

This stuff is absolutely disgusting. If some kind of temporal accident were to happen that sent me back in time so that I met the man who invented this, I would have to ask him to step outside. This is stuff is ao bad, if I ever am unfortunate enough to find myself downwind of someone smoking it, I should have to have some harsh words with him.

For several months after trying this, anything with Burley in it would give me Half & Half flashbacks. I was able to only gag my way through about 1/3 of a bowl before I gave up and dumped it out. Fortunately, I was only using a cheap corncob so it didn't permanently contaminate one of my good pipes.

This is still one of those standard drugstore concoctions that somehow has managed to be sold decade after decade, so I guess someone likes it, but I have no idea why.

It is called Half & Half because it is supposed to be a simple mixture of 1/2 Virginia and 1/2 Burley. I'm pretty sure there's at least 5% goat urine in there somewhere.

Now. In the future, if I ever go into a mini-Half-&-Half rant or refer to "the Half & Half incident," you'll know what I'm referring to.

I get the willies just writing about it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Featured Pipe Smoker: Joseph Stalin

There probably isn't much I can say about Stalin. If you don't already know about him, you're probably not from this planet. Both pictures are video captures emailed to me by a reader of my old "pictures of people with pipes" blog several years ago.

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (1878-1953)

Pictured here in 1932 with Anastas Mikoyan (left) and Sergey Kirov (center). Mikoyan had a long career in Soviet politics and lived to the ripe old age of 83 before dying in 1978. Kirov was not so lucky. Although a loyal supporter of Stalin, he eventually came to be more popular than Uncle Joe, and about two years after this picture was taken, Stalin had him...(ahem)..."purged."

In this photo Stalin smokes his pipe in the background while poring over numerous documents, probably lists of people who were "next." In the foreground is Lavrenty Beria, one of the primary executors (no pun intended--well maybe a little) of the Great Purge, happily bouncing Stalin's daughter Svetlana on his knee.

As far as his pipe-smoking habits, well, I have read some about this, but I have no way to verify what I have read. Most of it is bad, which may be just because Stalin is so generally disliked. So with that caveat, this is what I have read.

Stalin allegedly never cleaned his pipes. Any respectable pipe smoker will tell you that this is bad. The frequency of cleaning varies from person to person, and often from pipe to pipe, but every pipe must be cleaned periodically. It may involve some minor reaming to remove excess cake, but often all that is required is that a pipe cleaner be moistened with a bit of cleaning fluid--which can be some expensive "real" pipe cleaning fluid or any liquid high in alcohol. I assume Stalin had plenty of vodka at his disposal; it would have made an excellent pipe cleaning fluid (I prefer Everclear, myself). The moistened pipe cleaner is run through the stem once or twice, followed by a dry cleaner. The same moistened cleaner (or a new one, if you prefer) is then inserted into the shank of the bowl and scrubbed in and out several times, followed by another dry cleaner. Then you put the pipe up for a day and let it rest. That's all there is to it, but apparently this was too much trouble for Uncle Joe. He was reported to have the foulest smelling cloud of mundungus around him when he lit his pipe, because he never bothered to clean them.

Item two on the list, which may be related to the previous item, is that he liked to smoke Dunhill's Royal Yacht. RY is a famous, or infamous, blend of various Virginias, but with a "unique flavor" added. It is this "unique flavor" which some find horrendously offensive, but others enjoy. I guess RY is about as controversial as a pipe tobacco can get. For an idea of what I'm talking about, you can check the Royal Yacht reviews at I have never tried it myself, so I can't comment on it personally. One thing I can say for certain: tobaccos with flavor added (known as "aromatics") are about a million times worse at gunking up a pipe than natural, non-flavored tobaccos. This means your pipes will require even more frequent cleaning than if you only smoked natural tobaccos.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Vintage Ad: Faron Young and Prince Albert

A sad one here but I'll post it anyway. Faron Young left the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, so this ad must have been before that time. Prince Albert is another of those old traditional American pipe tobaccos that I can't stand. The shape of the pipe in this ad is, appropriately enough, called a "prince."

This one is sad because Faron Young was stricken with severe emphysema in the mid 90s and between very poor health and bad depression, he committed suicide in 1996 at the age of 64.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Stream-of-consciousness tobacco review: Peter Stokkebye's Luxury Bullseye Flake

Here and here are thoughts:
memories I did not live,
and dreams forgotten.

I am on a journey of discovery. A discovery of the senses, where taste and smell intertwine and tease each other with flirting hints of rare spices and guilty, candy-like pleasures. To put this sense into words is like trying to pick up honey with my bare hands. An impossible task, it flows away in thick skeins, some of it sticks, but is it enough?

Blue smoke rolls on the palate like cinnamon dust. But there is more: nutmeg perhaps, fresh hay, sandalwood, hickory leaves baking in the hot summer sun. A spice never meant to be eaten, but only experienced. Breathe it. See how it fills the night? Somewhere a small forgotten god has smelled this pleasing aroma and smiled briefly in his sleep.

Breathe it. Let the tendrils drift around you. Let them touch your nostrils. Does it remind you of food? Of drink? Of a woman? Or does it remind you of that which you have never known, never known but suspected, suspected only in forgotten dreams of alien lands where strange small people harvest hidden fruits beneath a waning moon.

I need not know the answers. Only know that this is a tiny moment of now suspended in the swift transition of the ages. Like all things, it will soon pass.

This small, finite censer I hold in my teeth, it burns only briefly. Soon it will extinguish itself. Someday there will be another. But will it ever be like this again? Should it ever be like this again?

Only dream your forgotten dreams, and remember these things that were or may have been, and let the smoke lie on the back of your tongue for an instant before it dissipates. At this moment, nothing else matters.

crossposted at Blogonomicon

P.S. Now you see why I rarely write tobacco reviews.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Tobacco Cellar

So you should be able to tell from the previous post that I finally placed what I've been calling my "big tobacco order." I was waiting until I could get moved into our new house and bring some slight semblance of order to my "office," which I usually refer to as my Sanctum. When I get things more orderly in here, I will try posting a photo or two, but for now I'll just describe it. Directly overhead at my computer desk are two cabinets at left and center and one double shelf at right. The shelves are for pipes and other pipe paraphernalia (there is also part of a bookshelf in this room dedicated to holding pipes, plus cleaning and pipe-working tools and gear). The overhead cabinet at left holds various important computer-related items, but the center cabinet built into the corner of the wall is deep and spacious and will be my cellar. It will be able to hold a lot of tobacco, and I will probably eventually store larger bulk quantities in our big bedroom walk-in closet. But enough of that. Here is my current tobacco inventory. All of these are in quantities of 2 ounces or less except where noted.

Cornell & Diehl
Bayou Morning -- 4 oz bulk (although I've misplaced it at the moment, but I know it's in this room somewhere).
Perique -- straight for blending
Gray Ghost
Haunted Bookshop
Bayou Night
Oriental Silk
Blockade Runner

Various makers ordered from Cup o' Joes.
Balkan Sasieni -- bulk. I just had a pipe of this--my first time for this blend. I thought I had lost my love for latakia, but I was wrong.
Escudo -- tin. Ah! Escudo!
Dunhill Early Morning Pipe -- bulk. An old favorite from my early years of pipe smoking which I haven't had in a long time.
Pease Maltese Falcon -- tin. This will be another new one for me when I get around to popping the tin.
McClelland St. James Woods -- tin. Another new one that I'm sure I'll love, from what I've heard about it.
Stokkebye Luxury Bullseye Flake -- bulk. 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!
Gawith Balkan Flake -- tin. Another new one that I haven't popped open yet.
1792 Flake -- tin. The famous--or infamous--flake that I've been wanting to try for a long time, and will soon.

I almost forgot, I also have a tin of Robert McConnell straight latakia that was graciously given to me by a reader of my other blog. I have had it for a while now, but was putting off popping it until I had a good means to preserve it.

I had also wanted to order McClelland's Blackhills Flake and Dunhill's Nightcap (both old favorites) but they were not in stock at the time I ordered. I'll probably order some Blackhills if possible with my next order before too long. I think I can get the Nightcap locally.

I haven't popped any of the tins yet because I need to get more Mason jars. I'm going to keep everything sealed up at all times if possible for preservation. And I probably will delay getting any large bulk quantities of anything until I can find the box where I stored the Tilia Food Saver during the move. There are 3 or 4 C&D blends that I have ordered by the pound in the past, and certainly will again.

The Pump 'n' Seal

Here's a really lousy camera phone photo of the beginnings of my new tobacco cellar. Eleven jars of various bulk blends and 6 thus far unopened tins. That thing in the foregr0und is the Pump 'n' Seal.

I have been keeping bulk tobacco preserved by vacuum-sealing for a long time, but I've been using an electric Tilia Food Saver. This is a perfectly fine machine and indispensable for long-term bulk storage, but I wanted a way to keep smaller portions preserved while still having easy access to them. I did some searching around on the internet and finally came across this device called the Pump 'n' Seal.

It can used used with any "canning" jars, like Kerr, Ball or Mason jars. I think that it may even work directly on some tins, but I haven't tried that yet (any lid that has a rubber seal should work). A tool that is basically an all-metal thumb tack is used to puncture a hole in the center of the lid. Then a little yellow piece of rubberized tape called a "Tab-Chek" is placed over the hole. The pump is then placed directly over the hole and you pump the air out. As the air comes out, the vacuum sucks the rubberized tape down, forming a secure vacuum seal. When you want to take something out of the jar, you simply peel the tape up slightly until the air wooshes back in, then unscrew the lid. The tape can be used over and over again, so it isn't necessary to replace the tape every time you open the jar. The whole kit came with enough "tab-cheks" to provide for a very large cellar.

Some other pipe bloggers have mentioned using certain 2-ounce Mason-type jars for this. I couldn't find any locally, so I got these 4-ounce wide-mouth jars. The size of the jar doesn't matter to the Pump 'n' Seal.

The pump comes with a tiny hose that you can use, with a little extra care, to vacuum-seal typical heavy-duty baggies such as Ziplock freezer storage bags. It should be very useful for removing air to prevent freezer burn when storing food.

Here's a close-up of a sealed jar. You can see the tiny dimple in the middle where the hole is and the tape has been sucked down. I folded one end of the tape (they're designed like miniature band-aids) over so that it wouldn't adhere to the surface and would give me a little handle to use when peeling up the tape to re-open the jar.

This is going to give me a whole new way to store my pipe tobacco, and will allow me to provide myself with a greater daily variety than previously, when I usually just opened a vacuum bag and smoked it all until it was gone before opening another.

That reminds me. I still have a 4-ounce bag of Bayou Morning around here somewhere that I seem to have misplaced.

The basic kit which comes with the hose and 100 tab-cheks is about $33 with shipping included, pretty much inexpensive enough for anyone to try out without endangering themselves financially. Extra tab-cheks cost about $10 per 75.

And of course, I am receiving no remuneration for this post. I just think it's a useful device that you might be interested in.

Pipes in Literature: The Smokers' Rebellion

The Smokers' Rebellion by George H. Boughton (1833-1905)
Wilhelmus Kieft...had been greatly annoyed by the factious meetings of the good people of New Amsterdam, but, observing that on these occasions the pipe was ever in their mouth, he began to think that the pipe was at the bottom of the affair, and that there was some mysterious affinity between politics and tobacco-smoke. Determined to strike at the root of the evil, he began forthwith to rail at tobacco, as a noxious, nauseous weed, filthy in all its uses; and as to smoking, he denounced it as a heavy tax on the public pocket,--a vast consumer of time, a great encourager of idleness, and a deadly bane to the prosperity and morals of the people. Finally he issed an edict, prohibiting the smoking of tobacco throughout the New Netherlands. Ill-fated Kieft! Had he lived in the present age and attempted to check the unbounded license of the press, he could not have struck more sorely upon the sensibilities of the million. The pipe, in fact, was the great organ of reflection and deliberation of the New Netherlander. It was his constant companion and solace: was he gay, he smoked; was he sad, he smoked; his pipe was never out of his mouth; it was part of his physiognomy; without it his best friends would not know him. Take away his pipe? You might as well take away his nose!

The immediate effect of the edict of William the Testy was a popular commotion. A vast multitude, armed with pipes and tobacco boxes, and an immense supply of ammunition, sat themselves down before the governor's house, and fell to smoking with tremendous violence. The testy William issued forth like a wrathful spider, demanding the reason of this lawless fumigation. The sturdy rioters replied by lolling back in their seats, and puffing away with redoubled fury, raising such a murky cloud that the governor was fain to take refuge in the interior of his castle.

A long negotiation ensued through the medium of Antony the Trumpeter. The governor was at first wrathful and unyielding, but was gradually smoked into terms. He concluded by permitting the smoking of tobacco, but he abolished the fair long pipes used in the day of Wouter Van Twiller, denoting ease, tranquility, and sobriety of deportment; these he condemned as incompatible with the despatch of business, in place whereof he substituted little captious short pipes, two inches in length, which, he observed, could be stuck in one corner of the mouth, or twisted in the hatband, and would never be in the way. Thus ended this alarming insurrection, which was long known as The Pipe-Plot, and which, it has been somewhat quaintly observed, did end, like most plots and seditions, in mere smoke.

--Washington Irving (1783-1859)
excerpt from A Knickerbocker's History of New York

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Stokkebye's Luxury Bullseye Flake

At this moment I'm trying it for the first time. There's an underlying melange of spiciness, like cinnamon mixed with myrrh.

I will give it my seal of approval: 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!

Vintage Ad (1921): Kodak

No, this is not a vintage pipe ad. It is actually an ad for the Kodak Portrait Attachment, which I'm sure was cutting-edge technology in 1921. I came across this somewhere out there on the internet once when looking for pipe advertisements. I was struck by the image of "the judge, with a week's growth of beard and a pipe in his mouth," looking tired and full of sad wisdom, or so it seems to me.

And we must ask ourselves the question: Would Kodak so prominently feature a user of tobacco to sell one of its products today, 87 years later?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Featured Pipe Smoker: Charles T. Stoneham

Charles T. Stoneham

I can't find anything about Stoneham on Wikipedia or Google. So this is all I know about him. Stoneham was British, and a professional big game hunter and phototgrapher. He authored the book Hunting Wild Beasts with Rifle and Camera (1933). One of his adventures, during the 1920's in Kenya, was unsuccessfully hunting for a mysterious and undocumented (i.e., probably mythical, certainly crypto-) creature that was called the Nandi Bear. This animal had allegedly been savagely attacking villages at night, and ate only the brains of its victims.

When I had previously posted this on another blog, I thought someone had left a comment adding more information about him. But I can't find the comment, and if it was an email, I can't find that, either. It had something to do with another book or books he had authored. So if you have any additional information, please leave a comment.