The Smokerís Pipeline - July 15, 1989 - Vol. 6, Number 5 - Pages 13-14

For some time, I've been intending to write a definitive article in dating old Dunhill patent number pipes. Time, however, escapes me. I thought that you might be interested in publishing a note about how to date really old Dunhill pipes.

There is a great amount of miscommunication about how to date older Dunhill pipes. I have seen one source which erroneously claims that the stamping "DUNHILL" in a semicircle refers to pipes made from 1909 to 1912. Other sources incorrectly confuse the date of the patent with the date of the manufacture of the particular pipe. For example, I have seen it claimed that a pipe stamped "Patent No.5861/12" refers to a pipe made in 1912 and, similarly, a pipe stamped "Patented Mar. 9-15" means a pipe made in 1915.

Unfortunately, these conclusions are simply incorrectly. Until approximately the late 1920's, Dunhill used a variety of patent number stampings without, as far as I can tell, any consistency. For example, in my collection I have a 1922 bruyere with a 1912 patent number and a 1926 bruyere with a 1914 patent number, even though Dunhill had obtained later patents and used stampings reflecting the later patents on most of its production. At best, patent numbers on early Dunhills (which usually, but not always, have the last two years of the patent's date following a slash after the patent number) allow one to tell that the pipe could not have been made before the patent. If a 1917 patent number is stamped, obviously the pipe could not have been made before 1917 (since Dunhill could not predict the future issuance of a patent). For early Dunhills, one should not confuse the date of the patent with the date code.

How, then, can one date very early Dunhill's? In most cases, it's surprisingly simple. Prior to 1930 Dunhill made only two finishes, bruyere (although the colorings sometimes vary) and shell. Virtually all the bruyeres were stamped "INNER TUBE" in some form and almost all the shells had two patent numbers listed and the phrase "DUNHILL SHELL". Given an old Dunhill with either stamping, one can pretty well be assured that it's an older piece.

Second, look for the date code--generally a small digit, which can be placed variously on the pipe on the right side (sometimes after "INNER TUBE", sometimes after "MADE IN ENGLAND", etc). If it is a single digit between 2 and 9, then you have determined the year of manufacture (2, for example, representing 1922 and 7, for example, representing 1927). If it is an 0, however, or a double digit then the pipe was made later. 0 would be the code for 1930 and 11 would be the code for 1931.

Third, the trickiest problem occasionally arises--how to date an old Dunhill patent with no small digit date code whatsoever. Usually this means that the pipe precedes 1922, but not always since Dunhill from time to time didn't date stamp every pipe. To date most of these pipes, one needs a secret. Mr. S.F. Gomersall, the predecessor of the current Group Archivist at Alfred Dunhill Limited (London), several years ago wrote an unpublished letter about how to date these old pieces. What follows here is a photocopy of the relevant section of his letter:

a) Up to June 1918 - Pipes marked: DUNHILL (above) DUKE ST. S.W. in block letters and where "A" is noted there is no full-stop after the "A"

b)) June 1918 - 20th October 1918 -Pipes marked: As above a) in block letters, but with a full-stop after the "A" where mentioned.

c) October 21st 1918 to 2nd January 1919 - Pipes marked: DUNHILL LONDON in block letters, with both the "Dunhill" & "London" of the same length & no full-stop after the "A" where mentioned.

d) 3rd January 1919 to 20th May 1919 - Pipes marked: DUNHILL LONDON in block letters with the "Dun hill" in a curved formation and the "London" level within the compass of the curved Dunhill - no full-stop after the "A" where mentioned.

e) 21st May 1919 to 1st January 1920 - Pipes marked: As d) in block letters with the curved "Dunhill" but with a larger lettered "London" which is of the same length as the "Dunhill" and not encompassed by it.

f)) 2nd January 1920 to November 1920 - Pipes marked: DUNHILL LONDON in block letters, with the "Dunhill" longer than the "London".

g)) From 1920 November - Pipes marked: Exactly similar to f)) but with the "D" of the "Dun hill" in a Roman block letter (with tails).

For example, a pipe marked "DUKE ST. S.W."." was made between 1910 and October 1918; if the pipe is stamped "Dunhill" "London" one can rule out its manufacture before October 1918 even if the pipe has a 1912, 1915, or 1917 patent number. Similarly, a pipe with "DUNHILL" in a semicircle was made in 1919. One can further refine the dating of these pieces by careful observance of the subtleties in the above list and considering the patent number's date. For example, another pipe in my collection is stamped "DUKE ST. S.W."." AND "Patented Mar. 9. 15" Obviously, the pipe was produced between March 9, 1915 and October 1918.

Dating very early shells can be somewhat more problematic. If there is single digit date code (beginning with 2) the pipe can be dated from 1922 onwards. If there is no date code, it is likely that the shell pipe was made between 1919 and 1921. Occasionally, undated shells have a 1920 patent number (1,341,418) as one of the two patent numbers, rather than two 1917 patent numbers, which at least means that the pipe could not have been manufactured before May 25, 1920.

Three minor historical footnotes. Most sources believe that the white spot first appeared in 1915, that at about that time a one year guarantee was issued, and that the shell finish was introduced in 1917. My information leads me to believe that the white spot was introduced in 1912 and the one year guarantee commenced in about 1921 (which is the reason for the date digit beginning in 1922). While the patent (No. 119,708) for the process to produce shell finishes is dated 1917, in fact the application was filed on October 13, 1917 and the patent was finally accepted on October 14, 1918. As a consequence, to my knowledge the production and distribution of shell briars began in about 1919.

Finally, a word of caution. In the early years, Dunhill was not always consistent in its stampings. As Mr. Gomersall also stated in his letter:

"(W)e hope you can appreciate that it is only with some trepidation we issue information on this subject especially in reference form, for from our experience, the interpretation of such data, can be and often is, much adrift. The markings have to be taken as points of evidence and weighed in the balance of experience and 'feel" for at times all the factors do not add up for the uninitiated to make a positive judgment. "