Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pipes of Our Presidents

By Ben Rapaport

(article originally published in Antiques & Collecting, November 1994)

In the world of collecting, it is infrequent when two disparate and diverse collecting fields, each an expressive - and impressive - assembly of historical artifacts in its own right, merge into an alliance to make a powerful visual statement. The two fields in question are antique smoking pipes and Americana - specifically Political Americana!

The fusion of these two disparate themes is found in a distinguished, unique, one-of-a-kind collection of hand-carved antique meerschaum smoking pipes. They are diminutive, but exact likeness of the busts of 29 presidents of the United States from the second, John Adams (1797-1801)

A painting of President John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd president of the United States, by Asher B. Durand (1767-1845), Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C. 

through the 31st, Herbert Clark Hoover (1929-1933).

Herbert Hoover, 1928, Underwood & Underwood, Washington, The Library of Congress

(A small meerschaum bust, rather than a pipe, of George Washington, belongs in the collection, and the absence of a pipe in his image defies explanation.)

George Washington (term: April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797)

This set of meerschaum pipes was the property of a devoted and hyper-enthusiastic Chicago-area collector who came to the United States in 1956 to study nuclear medicine and establish a practice here. In the same year, at the behest of a family friend, Professor Guiseppe "Eppe" Ramazzotti, along-established pipe collector in Milan, Italy,

Eppe Ramazzotti

he visited Chicago's finest retail tobacconist, Iwan Ries Company at 17 South Wabash Avenue, hoping to purchase a few antique pipes for his European friend.

The collector

Not an avid collector of anything in particular at the time, he saw so many magnificently carved antique pipes on display that he was instantly captivated by the craftsmanship and awed by the beauty of these chalk-white expressions or art in miniature. He had now discovered a hobby perfectly suited for him! In 1996, he began collecting antique pipes in earnest.  The history of these pipes and how this Windy City collector came upon them is the subject of this article.

First, a brief tale about the pipes. About 150 years ago, William Demuth founded a small tobacco company on Broadway in Manhattan. Advertising as a manufacturer and as an importer of smokers' articles and show figures, the company blossomed at a time when U.S. tobacco wholesalers imported more smoking pipes than the entire fledgling American pipe industry produced. 

During the late 19th century, according to an 1865 illustrated catalog in my possession, the company prospered, producing and selling pipes of briar, clay, real and imitation meerschaum, and exotic materials such as apple wood. And, for about the next 80 years, the triangular-shaped "WDC" (the Demuth Company logo) adorned its products and became recognized worldwide. 

Antique WDC Countertop Pipe Salesman Sample Display Case

But it was for excellence of execution in real - also known as block - meerschaum that Demuth gained international acclaim. The company was awarded gold medals for its craftsmanship in at least three international expositions of record: the American Centennial Exhibition in 1876, Philadelphia, the Columbian Exposition in 1893, Chicago, and the Exposition Universelle in 1900, Paris. Less noted public exhibitions of Demuth pipes, among others, included at least two held in New York City, at the American Institute Fair in 1869 and at the American Museum of Natural History in 1905. 

In the opinion of "Tobacco", October 24, 1905, a trade publication of the day: "The Demuth probably the most complete and comprehensive to be found anywhere in the world..."

In late 1880, Demuth, a friend of President James A. Garfield who was a meerschaum pipe devotee, 

President James Garfield, picture taken ca. 1870-1880

commissioned two pipes to be made for the 1881 inauguration, one in the likeness of the future president, another of the president's wife. The pipes were received with such enthusiasm by the just-inaugurated president, that Demuth decided to commission a series of only one high-relief-carved meerschaum pipe of all the presidents. At the time, most of the finest pipe carvers were still located in Europe, and as Demuth had business contacts overseas, he sought out the finest continental craftsmen to carve the likenesses. As a U.S. Tobacco Journal news item of May 31, 1884 reported:

Before him at this time was a photograph of President Garfield and with the bowl of the future pipe fixed in his vice, he was fashioning with minute chisels the mass of meerschaum into a sculpture head of the dead president. This particular pipe had been ordered from America and it was to cost a big amount; just how much the American was willing to pay for it the German couldn't say, and how much the carver was to receive he would not say.

Today, the name of that mysterious European carver and the names of the predecessors who carved the rest of the series ending with Hoover are not known. It is known, however, that American carvers executed the busts of at least President Wilson, Harding and Coolidge. For the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Demuth's presidential pipes from John Adams through Benjamin Harrison were exhibited alongside one very exceptional 33-inch-long meerschaum pipe executed for this specific exposition whose motif portrayed the landing of Columbus in America, titled "The Discovery of America by Columbus".

The Demuth pipe collection remained intact, along with other fine examples of Demuth's pipe art in wood and porcelain, even after David A. Schulte of the Schulte Cigar Company of New York CIty purchased the company in 1925. When he later sold the Demuth interest to another tobacconist, the S.M. Frank & Company of New York, Schulte retained the pipe collection. In yet another business transaction, the American Tobacco Company obtained the Demuth collection in 1940, then numbering more than 150 French briar, meerschaum, and other assorted pipes.

The American Tobacco Company had its first headquarters on Fifth Avenue in New York, and production facilities in various southern states including plants in Reidsville and Durham,N.C.,

Completed in 1874, the American Tobacco Company factory was initially known as the W.T. Blackwell and Company Tobacco Factory. It was also referred to as the Bull Durham Tobacco Factory, and eventually earned the nickname "Old Bull,"  because the whistle actually sounded like a bull. The ell-shaped building of Italianate design is a brick factory trimmed with marble, and features a Bull Durham ad right on the front of the building. The Bull Durham advertising campaign even offered a cash prize for baseball players to try and hit the sign from nearby stadiums.American Tobacco Company factory, circa 1926 (Source: Durham County Library)

 and Louisville, Ky. American also owned leaf storage sheds, a stemmery, and a factory in Richmond, Va; these combined facilities essentially represented a fully integrated cigarette and pipe smoking tobacco production center. On March 26, 1952, American joined the Kimball Tobacco Company of Rochester, New York,

In 1881, William S. Kimball started operating his factory in Rochester, New York. By 1887 it was among the largest producers of cigarettes in the county. Centrally located along the Genesee River at Rochester's Court Street bridge, the four story factory was built of brick with steep slate roofs, timbered gables and dormers.
The factory's most striking feature was the sculpture of the Roman god Mercury, the symbol of commerce, placed atop a 150-foot smokestack.

to participate in an exhibit entitles "The Story of Tobacco", at the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, and the Demuth Collection prominent at this exhibition, was identified now as the "Half and Half Collection" (named after the American Tobacco Company's best-selling pipe mixture that was introduced to the public in 1926).

Over the years, the American Tobacco Company's plant in Richmond became closely linked to this city. Understandably, then, when the plant closed in 1957, the company donated the pipe collection to the Valentine Museum, the Museum of Life and History of Richmond.

Valentine Museum and Garden, Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

The Half and Half Collection remained at the Valentine - occasionally in open display - for the next 35 years. In the spring of 1992, the Museum decided to deaccession the collection, and as museums are obliged to do,offered it to other museums. In June 1992, the Austrian Tobacco Museum (Osterreichisches Tabakmuseum) in Vienna was declared the successful bidder.

österreich Tabakmuseum, Mariahilfer strasse 2, Wien
The curator of the Austrian museum desperately wanted the Columbus pipe. He also understood the importance and the historical significance of the Presidentials to America, and he was confident that interest in them would not be as great in Europe, steeped in its own political and cultural past. So, he decided to leave the 29 pipes and the Washington statuette at the Valentine in the hope that another museum, a foundation, an historical society, or perhaps a collector, would purchase the lot. Otherwise, he was left no choice: return them to Europe by June 1993 and their ultimate fate, the auction block, after which time, he was confident, the set would be dispersed forever.

Now, the connection between the Presidentials and the Chicago-area collector. Having heard of their availability through the collector's network, he had two motives to purchase these pipes: one was noble and altruistic, to keep the Presidentials together a an intrinsic symbol of political Americana; the other was self-serving, to add them to his burgeoning global collection of smoking artifacts. Any native-born American can comprehend the first motive; any antique pipe collector can appreciate the second motive. This particular individual,living in the United States for almost half a century, envisioned the confluence of both motives, for the pipes represented a political chronicle of his adopted homeland and a legacy of a cottage industry that once flourished here.

Those who collect antique pipes know that it is a challenge to find an antique pipe made in the likeness of any personage of historic importance, but to find a treasure-trove such as this set of 29 precision-carved likenesses of our own presidents is an even less common occurrence. The series is uniformely sized in height and length, the body of each pipe measures approximately 7.5 inches in length and 3.5 inches in height, and all are anatomically and physionomically accurate. What is also remarkable is that the amber mouthpieces are of relatively uniform size and color, a rich orange hue. Additionally, the overall condition of all 29 pipes is, on average, near-mint, since none has ever been smoked and, since their commission, all have survived the ravages of time, inadequate preservation, and less-than-ideal storage facilities.

Generally, private collectors are not aware of museum deaccessions since the deaccession process follows only two avenues of dispersal, to another museum, and when that fails, to an auction house. This collector was afforded a once-in-a-life-time opportunity, occasioned by an unusual set of circumstances: the Austrian Tobacco Museum curator outbid all American Museum competition, and the curator chose to leave the collection intact in the United States. These two factors resulted in extending the life of a special group of pipes that will, forever, remain singular in form, motif, character and significance.

Their significance? The pipes represent the flowering of art in a medium now very much lost today, not only in America, but also in Europe. Significant because a once-revered industry chose to craft a common smoking pipe into a noble expression for posterity. Significant because these pipes relate the once and often-told history of a 19th century American cottage industry. Significant because the Presidentials represent an American heritage, a classic, visual, and permanent record of these personages in diminutive three-dimensional form.  Significant because the pipes demonstrate that mementos of the occupants of the White House need not always take the form of an oil portrait, a commemorative medallion, or a stamp.

The entire set of presidential pipes, a concept that commenced about a century ago, now thrives in a new ambiance. Here, in a Chicago-area residence, a passionate collector now assures their continuing care and preservation for yet another generation of pipe collectors, art lovers, and political historians. His fellow pipe collectors now applaud his coup, and historians and art lovers alike should laud his passion to safeguard a small, but significant, segment of political Americana...for Americans.

John Adams (1797-1801)

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)

James Madison (1809-1817)

James Monroe (1817-1825)

John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
Martin Von Buren (1837-1841)

William Henry Harrison (1841)

John Tyler (1841-1845)

John Tyler, side view

James K. Polk (1845-1849)

Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)

Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)

Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)

Franklin Pierce, side view

James Buchanon (1857-1861)

Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

Andrew Jackson (1865-1869)

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)

James Garfield (1881)

Chester Arthur (1881-1885)

Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897)

Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)

William McKinley (1897-1901)

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

William Howard Taft (1909-1913)

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)


In the 1994 article, "Pipe of Our Presidents," the owner of this unique set of bust pipes was not revealed, but much has changed in the intervening 18 years. The name of that gentleman can now be revealed. He was Dr. Federico "Fritz" Baylaender of Wilmette, Illinois. He commissioned a talented Turkish pipe carver to extend his collection by having him craft the likenesses of Presidents Roosevelt through George W. Bush in the same exacting size and detail as the Demuth originals. 

Sadly, Dr. Baylaender passed away in late 2011, but the legacy of the Presidentials lives on. We who collect antique meerschaum pipes are pleased to know, and America should be pleased to know, that the set remains intact in the United States, because another private collection, the Morris Collection, of Florida, assumed the mantle of responsibility for their care and preservation in the spring of 2012.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Jonah and the Whale Porcelain Pipe

According to the Book of Jonah in the Old testament (Tanakh),

Fragments of the Book of Jonah were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) (4Q76 aka 4QMinorProphetsa, Col V-VI, frags. 21-22; 4Q81 aka 4QMinorProphetsf, Col I and II; and 4Q82 aka 4QMinorProphetsg, Frags. 76-91)

Jonah (Hebrew: ‫יוֹנָה‬, Modern Yona Tiberian Yônā ; dove; Arabic: يونس‎, Yūnus or يونان, Yūnān; Greek/Latin: Ionas) was a prophet from a small village north of Nazareth during the reign of Jeroboam II, the fourteenth king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel (c. 786-746 BC).
Jeroboam II, Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum, 1553, Published by Guillaume Rouille (1518?-1589)

God instructed Jonah to go preach to the people of Nineveh, capital of Assyria "for their great wickedness has come up before Me". Jonah refused and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish, which is geographically in the opposite direction.

God sends a great storm and Jonah is cast overboard, and swallowed by a whale.

Carving of five main scenes from the Book of Jonah, made for a sarcophagus in 3d Century Mainz, Vatican Museum

For three days and three nights in the belly of the beast, Jonah prays to God for forgiveness. God forgives Jonah and commands the fish to release him.

"Jonas rejeté par la baleine" - Mosaïque paléochrétienne - IV° siècle
 Jonah returns to Nineveh where he preaches, 
Stone laver from Assyria, Pergamum Museum in Berlin
 and his message is heard. The Assyrians repent.

The Biblical Story of Jonah is repeated in the Qur'an,

This page in Maghribi hand, is from a Qur'an probably copied in the 13th century in the Muslim Kingdom of Grenada, the last bastion of Islam in Spain. It shows the end of Sura Yunus (The Prophet Jonah) and the beginning of Sura Hud (The Prophet Hud) separated by an illuminated chapter heading in Andalusian Kufic.

 and in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament.

"Jonas jeté à la mer" -  Enluminure du Moyen-Âge.
Jonas rejeté par la baleine. Enluminure de la Bible de Jean XXII. France, XIVth century
Jonas - Speculum humanae salvationis - XV°century

 The Story of Jonah would continue to inspire great artists through the centuries,

The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, 1471 - 1484

Jonas and the Whale, 1621, Pieter Lastman (1583-1633), Oil on canvas - 36 x 52,1 cm
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Photo : Didier Rykne

Rare XVIIIth century opera knob in bronze sculpted of Jonas emerging from the whale's mouth.This knob delicately chiseled, shows Jonas's chest, he has curley hair with moustache and beard. The fabulous animal has a very important head and shows sharp teeth, an important snout, eyes nearly humans, sculpted scales and a coiling tail. On the base of the knob, waves. On each side two precious stones one cut amethyst and a cut tourmaline.
On a high ebonized wood shaft, high copper ferrule.
So it should be of no surprise that the superbly talented German porcelain makers of the XVIIth/XVIIIth century would immortalize the Story of Jonah...on a pipe.