The Dunhill Briar Pipe - 'the patent years and after':


This book is both an end and a beginning. It began as a dating guide for Dunhill pipes and in that sense it is very nearly an end. While further definition in the pre 1918 era may be possible, for the first time pipe collectors, pipe smokers, and those just going through those old attic trunks will be able to comfortably date Dunhill pipes from their inception in 1905 through today. Additional tools are provided to allow dating or easier dating of heretofore 'undatable' or 'difficult' pipes having weak nomenclature and question mark years such as 1951 are addressed and I believe, resolved.


As a dating reference this volume may be viewed as being of three parts. First, there are two one page 'quick' guides that unlike previous efforts basically work from 'nomenclature to year' rather then from 'year to nomenclature' on the premise that most all dating questions begin with known nomenclature and an unknown year. Given that similar date codes were used in multiple years, a "0" code for instance can date to anyone of six years (although previous date guides recognized only five) this approach should at least limit the page turning, and perhaps even the puzzlement. To allow easier utilization these charts appear both in the centerfold to this book and on either side of the back cover.


The central text more closely approaches the traditional dating guide, proceeding by year and finish, but in greatly expanded form with the premise that it should not be so much a tool for immediate use but rather, a means of providing a sense of background and nomenclature development that will allow for a comfortable and knowing use of the 'quick' charts. In addition the reader will find that I have significantly expanded my previous work regarding the pre 1918 Dunhill pipe.


There then follows the second half of this book which addresses other aspects concerning and nomenclature found on the Dunhill pipe and in many cases how the same may assist in dating. In that latter regard patent charts are provided which should greatly assist in dating or confirming the dating of pre 1955 pipes which have no, weak or unreadable date codes.


The pipe I just put down is a good example of how this book works as a date guide (and in draft form actually did work) with a 'difficult' pipe. It's a 'double patent number' DUNHILL'S "SHELL" churchwarden with crisp nomenclature that has the look and feel of an 'older piece' but suffers from that dreaded decease known as - no date code.


From all previously published material the best one could say in terms of dating this pipe would be that because of the possessive DUNHILL'S nomenclature it has to date before 1935 and because one of the patent numbers ends with a "/20", it can't date earlier then 1920. And it's doubtful that most 'experts' could do much better. However, notwithstanding the lack of a date code, (or as we shall see, because of that absence) with this book one can comfortably date the pipe to 1921. To wit:


The book's patent charts indicate that the particular double patent number combination stamped on the pipe was used between 1920 and 1923. While those charts can not be taken as absolute gospel, in addition one of two patent references on the pipe is an early "Mar.9.15" form, which from an overall review of the patent charts one finds is suggestive in and of itself of not later then the mid '20s. Next turning to another of the book's charts dealing with basic Shell nomenclature (other then date codes and patent stampings), one finds that the particular stamping form found on the pipe in question was used between 1918 and 1923. Further, in another part of the book a discussion of pre WWII Shell shape/category number stampings suggests that the particular shape/category stamping on our pipe is perhaps best consistent with the early '20s, especially since the sandblasting did not seriously distort the original shape of the bowl. Lastly, a discussion of the date code implementation tells us that while date codes were implemented sometime in 1921 they were not commonly stamped on pipes until the following year. Since the pipe's nomenclature is otherwise 'crisp' (thus tending to rule out 'buffing' as the reason for the lack of a date code) and since a patent granted in 1920 (the "/20") would not likely be widely stamped on pipes until the following year, it follows from all of the above that our pipe very most likely dates to 1921.


There is more to a Dunhill pipe however, then simply it's dating, and in that sense, this book is just a beginning. In essence Dunhill nomenclature is a cryptic shorthand history of the development of the underlying pipe. This book, in many respects for the first time in print, attempts to translate that shorthand for the patent years, e.g. prior to 1955, and then to go beyond that shorthand altogether, making the pipe and an understanding of its development the goal. Unfortunately, all too often, even in print, substantive discussions of the Dunhill pipe, particularly in it's early form, devolve to a kind of mythology. This volume seeks to initiate a more serious study, one grounded on documentary resources and the analysis of the same. As such, while it covers some significant new ground, it is nonetheless only a step. There is much more yet to be done and hopefully this volume will be an impetus, perhaps for a multi authored successor wherein various collectors can address Dunhill pipe topics of their particular chosen interest or expertise.


In addition this book goes beyond the Dunhill pipe per se and provides the basic information necessary to generally date Parker pipes and Dunhill tinned pipe tobacco as well as Dunhill pipe accessories and ephemera. To provide ease of use, summary charts of the same are provided on the page facing the inside back cover.


The reader will note the absence of pictures. Pictures take time, cost money, require permissions and will really be warranted for a revised, supplemented successor. The idea behind this volume is to get information out at a reasonable cost and to challenge others to undertake or contribute to a mature successor.


Books of this type really just build on the past work of others. The author collates, reorganizes, copies and occasionally adds a new fact or thought. This book is no different although given the dirth of prior publications it is a bit easier to add new, still it rests significantly on what has gone before and substantially upon the assistance of others. I would name names but some wish to remain anonymous, and honoring that wish, with one exception, I will render my thanks anonymously: to the real pioneers of the 1980's who published the first dating guides and preserved important material for future study; to collectors and dealers who made available to me invaluable source materials; to collectors who allowed me to study their collections; to those who have previously published; to those I have trapped at pipe shows and drained of knowledge; and the exception, to Michael Balfour for his 1992 general corporate history of Dunhill "Alfred Dunhill One Hundred Years And More".


In working on this book I have come to learn first hand how valuable old source materials, such as catalogues, factory logs, advertisements and the like truly are, especially when they can be compared and analyzed. Unlike the situation with some other collecting interests, far too few of these materials are available today to pipe collectors. To that end it is my intention to develop a public archive of Dunhill and other pipe brand material, with copies of the same, to the extent possible, being available to collectors. Profits from this book will be devoted to this end and to further Dunhill research, and with the intent that once established and working the archive will be turned over to a pipe club or coalition of clubs for continued operation.


Lastly, the reader will note that contact information follows. A book like this can not help but have errors and omissions. To the extent you spot the same or to the extent you have material which may be of help in preparing a successor edition or to the extent you would like to contribute to such a successor please contact me.

John C. Loring

June 1, 1998

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