Pipe Lines: The Baechtel Pipe
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OK I admit it I have a problem….I can’t stop buying unusual pipes. I should be standing up in a meeting somewhere introducing myself, providing my name, and reluctantly saying it’s been three days since I bought my last pipe……a pox on you, Ebay! But the good side of this affliction is that I occasionally find a truly rare one….case in point, the Baechtel “radiator” pipe.
Actually, I ran into this rare pipe in an antique mall in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was patented by Warren Murray Baechtel of Hagerstown, Maryland in 1917. The principal was simple – the longer the stem of the pipe, the cooler the smoke. However, a pipe several feet long was impractical, so Baechtel’s solution was a series of coils like a cornet, connected at the bottom to a shared chamber to trap any saliva or tobacco particles and provide a means of easy cleaning.
Baechtel came up with several variations to his design, as seen in the original 1917 patent document. Unfortunately the only one I’ve ever been able to find actually produced is similar to the one shown in figure 5 of his illustration.
The design was promoted in a short 1918 Popular Science article, and later in a straight-to-the-point sales pitch in the August 1921 edition of Forest and Stream (a magazine that later merged with the better know Field and Stream in 1930):
´”The Baechtel pipe has twenty 20 inches of stem. Fits snugly into any vest pocket. Has four separate and complete drip chambers. Positively cannot draw tobacco particles into mouth. Cleanest coolest most wholesome smoke there is. Remember the size of the pipe is only four and one half 4 inches from tip of stem to extreme outside upper edge of bowl, yet you have twenty 20 inches of cooling stem.”
The price was $5.00, which in 1921 dollars was rather significant….this was not a cheap pipe! As with many other innovations during this period, the concept was not widely accepted or appreciated, and very few of these pipes were sold…..few remain today. I know of only three at this point – the one I own, an example owned by a gentleman in Europe (we traded notes on our warped admiration of odd pipes), and one that sold on Ebay a few years back.
This is just one example of the incredible creativity and innovation that has gone into unusual pipes of the past. I’m sure there are many out there that are even more extreme. The next time you’re at the local flea market, tag sale, or antique shop, keep a sharp eye out for the “fringe” pipes….you may find a treasure!