A History of the pipe
Manufacturing and Marketing Pyrolytic Graphite Pipes from Development to Demise
|I have smoked a pipe for over 50 years off and on. In 1997, I took it in my head to begin collecting a specific kind of pipe that was manufactured from 1963 to about 1975. The pipes were imprinted with three different brand names: the pipe, THE SMOKE, and Venturi. In addition there were some pipes MADE IN ENGLAND. Fortunately for me, nearly all pipe smokers dislike the way these pipes smoke and so it has not been too expensive to develop a collection of these plastic pipes with pyrolytic graphite bowl liners. I was lucky enough to buy a few pipes in original packaging with inserts that gave some background along with a pretty hard sell. Thus began a search for more information about the construction, marketing, and history of these pipes.||I have interviewed many people who were involved in the manufacture and marketing of these pipes.
Further, I have consulted articles in magazines and trade publications of the times and generously been granted access to material in the files of Tom Dunn, Editor of The Pipe Smoker's Ephemeris, John Grawe, a pipe collector, Col. Ed Lawrence, publisher of The Calabash Papers, Ira Fader, Executive Director of the Retail Tobacco Dealers Association, and Ted Hoyt, Editor of Smokeshop. The References list has well over 50 entries so, while I am sure not all of those who contributed will agree with everything presented, I think it is an accurate rendition of the events, products, and personalities involved in making and selling these pipes from 1963 to 1976. It is a fascinating tale.
|In addition to the sources named above and in the References, Alfred Blankenship, George Burns, Larry Buys, C. Baker Egerton, Jay & Louise Jones, William Moore, Richard Osborn, Mick Ratliff, Kurt Sanford, Gregory Smith, Paul & Dan Spaniola, William Unger, and Kathy Worth provided leads, literature, ideas and encouragement for the completion of this document. This story could not have been told so completely without their invaluable assistance.
Thanks too to the public libraries in Santa Fe Springs (CA), Los Angeles, New York City, Cincinnati, and Dayton (OH) as well as the school libraries of the University of Michigan, Wright State University, Ohio State University, and the University of Dayton. Also there have been the occasional auctions on eBay of ads from old magazines.
|Finally, interest in collecting these pipes is growing. I know of half a dozen serious collectors and there may well be more. If you are as enamored of these quirky pipes as I am, this is for you.|
|The beginning of this story is difficult to define. So many things happened over so long a period of time that are so disparate they seem to have nothing to do with the topic at hand. These first few paragraphs will fill in the background that permits the story to make sense.
In 1822, an Italian physicist, G. B. Venturi, discovered that air flow could be controlled by constricting the center section of a tube through which the air is forced. The result was a reduction in pressure and a swirling motion of the air following the narrower section. This came to be known as "the venturi principle" and has been used in many applications ranging from devices for measuring air speed of aircraft to making cigarette filters and smoking pipe bowl liners.
|In the 1850's, the Ducommun family was selling picks and shovels and other equipment to the Gold Rush miners flowing into California. From this small beginning, an industrial empire began. In the 1960's, Charles Ducommun was a major shareholder and active in company management.
In 1896, Thomas Edison, an American inventor, discovered a process for hardening carbon which caused the molecules to align in such a way that heat was dissipated along the vertical axis of the material while the horizontal axis remained relatively cool. He called the material pyrolytic graphite. When shaped into a bowl or cup, pyrolytic graphite also creates a venturi effect. It has wide applications today in space rocket nose cones and nozzles, nuclear power plant plumbing, brake linings for such behemoths as the Concorde Supersonic Transport, and numerous other situations where intense heat must be quickly and uniformly dissipated in a controlled manner.
|Around 1910, Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-American chemist, created the first compression molded phenolic resin compound. He called it Bakelite and founded a corporation to market it. Subsequently, many other companies created variations of the product, some patented, some trademarked, some neither. Today there are hundreds of similar products, all commonly called plastic.
In the 1950's, defense contractors began experimenting with pyrolytic graphite for use as heat-shield coatings for space rockets which were planned for reentry into the earth's atmosphere. In the late 1950's, Super-Temp Corporation was founded to manufacture pyrolytic graphite and other specialty metals. In 1962, Ducommun purchased Super-Temp and promptly built a new manufacturing facility for it. Dr. William H. Smith, a widely regarded expert in the production of specialty metals, was then hired away from General Electric Company to become the President of Super-Temp.
|In 1963, George Long, a venture capitalist who had made a fortune with Ampex Corporation (the creator of the technology that allowed instant replays of televised sporting events), was looking for another business opportunity. Robert Dailey had recently retired from an advertising agency and had heard of a new product called Tar Gard Cigarette Filters. Long and Dailey bought all 55 Tar Gard Patents and began selling the product from their offices at 2 Pine Street, San Francisco, California. They did not manufacture the filters or any of their other products; manufacture was always contracted from outside suppliers.
In 1964, the United States Surgeon General published a Report on Smoking. It was a bonanza for Tar Gard whose ads simply stated, "It may save your life."
It is here that our tale begins.
|In 1963, one of the workers at Super-Temp was machining pyrolytic graphite sleeves and cups for nuclear power plant plumbing. An avid pipe smoker, he noticed that the cups he was working on were about the same size as his pipe bowl. On a whim, he drilled a hole near the bottom of one of the cups and stuck it in his pipe. It smoked quite well and he shared his discovery with management. Dr. Smith was taken with the notion of a pipe lined with pyrolytic graphite and encouraged further experimentation. They discovered that the pipe bowl liners' venturi effect significantly reduced the tars and nicotine passing through the pipe to the smoker. An application for patent of a "Smoking Element" was submitted by Edgar C. Buckingham, Super-Temp's Marketing Manager, in August, 1963. The patent was granted in 1965.||When he learned of his subsidiary's new pipe bowl liner, Charles Ducommun introduced Dr. Smith to a social acquaintance, George Long. When Smith presented the new pipe concept to Tar Gard, Dailey, also an avid pipe smoker, and Long enthusiastically adopted it as an extension of their product line. Tar Gard applied at once for a trademark for the pipe. The first several applications were rejected but, when the initial "p" of "pipe" was made a small logo of a pipe, the trademark was granted.
Dailey wrote the first "Story of the pipe" brochure which remained essentially unchanged for the remainder of the product's life. The benefits of the pipe to smokers were claimed to be: "1) World's driest smoke, little gooey residue; 2) Smoke is 10 - 20 degrees cooler; 3) Needs no break-in; 4) Burns all the tobacco; 5) Easier to clean, no caking; 6) Never needs "drying out;" 7) Produces up to 83% less tar, up to 71% less nicotine; 8) Provides flavorable [sic], clean taste."
|Tar Gard began selling the pipe at $9.95 in January, 1965. It was sold through pipe shops and tobacco dealers. At that price, it was in the "quality" price range and had to compete with the better briars and meerschaums being offered. the pipe was offered in only five shapes (Apple, Bent, Billiard, Bulldog and Pot) and only in black. Even so, the first quarter's sales were an astonishing 9,000 units.
A Giant Pot shape was advertised as having been added within a year or so. It was said to be larger than the regular Pot, holding thirty-six percent more tobacco.It was also said to be very heavy, a "real tooth-puller." However, no surviving examples have yet been found although there are examples of a larger bowl in some Pot pipes. The larger capacity was apparently created by having thinner walls of both the shell and the liner and the pipes are actually lighter than the original Pot!
|About 1970, two more shapes were added: Author and Canadian. The most popular shape was the Billiard, followed by the Apple and Bulldog, Bent and Pot were about the same, with Author and Canadian never having great demand. The Dublin was a steady seller but never challenged the top five. The Giant Pot was even less popular and very few of them were ordered.
Beginning in 1966 and throughout the remainder of the pipe's life, colors were added to all of the shapes. The idea for coloring the pipes came from Arrow dress shirts being marketed in colors other than the traditional white and light blue. Starting with six, an unknown number of colors were offered at one time or another in an almost endless variety of combinations.
|Super-Temp Corporation manufactured and assembled the pipe. The bowl liners were made from purchased one-inch-diameter, foot-long carbon rods which were cut into sections. Usually seven sections could be cut from each rod. Each rod section was bored out according to the pipe style it was destined to become. The pipe bowl liners were then loaded one by one onto racks. Each rack held 288 liners. Different size furnaces could accommodate varying numbers of racks. The liners were treated in an electrical vacuum furnace for five to seven days at a temperature of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Methane gas was introduced into the furnace gradually over this time to process the bowl liners from carbon to pyrolytic graphite.||Meanwhile, the shells were created by an outside supplier with compression molded phenolic resin, a material similar to Bakelite. In 1968, Ducommun purchased a plastics company to make the shells so it could control the entire production process.
The bowl liners were then machined and drilled and glued into the shells with a thermal-setting epoxy glue and heat-treated for one hour to make the attachment permanent. (At first, the vent hole was drilled through the liner after gluing, using the air-hole through the shank as a guide.)
|The pipes were hand painted with an epoxy-based two part paint. The pipe was buffed and the mouthpiece (purchased from a variety of outside suppliers) was installed with an o-ring connection to assure there would be no leaks. Super-Temp also packaged the pipes for shipment.
Billiard, Bent, Bulldog, Canadian and Pot pipes were also decorated near the head of the bowl with Rally Stripes, later called Fashion Stripes, and called by some Racing Stripes. All of the striping, too, was done by hand on a lathe with artist brushes (it took about 20 seconds to apply a stripe) and employees were allowed great latitude creating patterns. A detailed discussion of the colors and striping of the pipe can be found on the "Valuing the pipe" page .
|The paint work was checked by the primitive but effective method of dropping a finished pipe off the top deck of the three story high furnace scaffold to the concrete floor below. If the paint chipped, it was a reject.
Some Bulldog shapes had the top half of the bowl in a contrasting color. The Bulldog Buff Design was so named because the basic color was buffed off of the top half of the bowl and painted a different color.
All of these steps except the liner pyrolysis and shell molding were, of necessity, hand operations. Labor costs were higher for the pipe than for any other manufactured pipe at the time.
At its peak, the pipe was being manufactured for two shifts a day by 36 buffers and 12 painters a shift.
|Complaints erupted almost immediately from pipe smokers that all of the pipes were too heavy and the bits broke and crushed too easily. Even so, by the end of the first year on the market, 18,000 pipes had been sold. To address the complaints, the mouthpieces, which had been made from nylon, were switched to Bakelite.||In 1966, a group of engineers, John T. Rodgers, Richard M. Williams, and Richard J. Larsen, applied for another patent which was granted in 1969. This second patent was for a "Liner for Smoking Pipe" which was manufactured with a mandrel of graphite infiltrated with pyrolytic graphite, thus making the bowl liner lighter without losing much of its conductive and insulating properties, although the venturi effect was significantly reduced.||Strictly speaking, these bowl liners were "carbonized carbon" or "carbon carbon," not pyrolytic graphite. Other than being lighter than the first iteration of the design, these bowl liners had two production advantages.
First, although the furnace processing time was the same, the time to load and unload the racks liner by liner was eliminated because the liners could just be dumped "en masse" into the furnace. This, of course, reduced labor costs.
|Second, this design was less brittle than pure pyrolytic graphite and could be machined with less cracking and shattering, leading to material and labor savings.
In 1971 or so, further production cost savings were achieved by mechanizing the basic painting with an electrostatic paint line.
|Long and Dailey realized that these pipes could be extremely successful if properly marketed. They brought in Wes Myers, a well-known and highly skilled promoter, as Vice President for Sales and Marketing by mid-1965. The marketing strategy was changed from pipe shops to using the same distributors and catalogs of candy, cigarettes, and sundries that were successfully handling the Tar Gard cigarette filters. Venturi initiated a full refund policy for any smoker dissatisfied with the pipe.
In need of more space, Tar Gard moved to the third floor of the Hearst Building in San Francisco in 1965. In view of its widened product line, all of which took advantage of the venturi effect, the company changed its name to Venturi, Inc.
In 1966, following additional test marketing in Los Angeles and Boston, the price of black pipes was raised to $12.50 and the price of the Giant Pot was increased to $15.00. The colored pipes were also priced at $15.00. Suggested retail prices were increased at some point to $17.50 for the colored pipes.
|By 1967, over 79 color and shape combinations had been introduced and, by July, over a quarter million pipes had been sold.
Beginning with the June issues in 1967, Venturi undertook a major advertising campaign in national circulation magazines like Life, Playboy, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, The New Yorker, and Playgirl. The last known advertisement for the pipe in national media was run in 1971, in Life magazine.
In the three years these ads were run, they targeted the Father's Day and Christmas buying seasons with the intention of appealing to the woman in the pipe smoker's life.
Marketing success was assured by controlled distribution, selecting distributors market by market. There are at least three ads which were run in local newspapers as new markets were opened. One of these made a connection between astrology and pipe smoking ("Find his Personality in the pipe"). It was the most effective ad in history in its category and Venturi achieved national distribution.
|The newspaper ads continued to be run at least into 1971. In 1971 and 1972, Venturi won the Marketing Award from the National Association of Tobacco Distributors for having the most effective marketing campaign for pipes.
Meanwhile, in 1969, Venturi began a television advertising campaign with over 200 placements, mostly on syndicated and network game shows again aiming squarely at the woman in a man's life. No wonder in that year (and for the next several years) it was the best- selling pipe over $10 in the country. Not bad when the average pipe at that time sold for $3.95 and Dunhill's sold for about $15!
It's high price and large dealer mark-up made it popular with department stores and other non-traditional pipe retailers which sold the pipes more as fashion accessories than smoking implements. The company claimed that over a million had been sold since 1965.
|Venturi faithfully attended the annual national tobacco conventions and trade shows, giving cocktail and dinner parties equal to those of the major tobacco companies. The company also hosted lavish Hospitality Suites at these affairs. the pipe's many colors together with its pyrolytic graphite bowl liners made it a unique product and it sold very well.
Venturi constantly conducted marketing surveys and, in the spring of 1972, discovered that over three-quarters of its higher priced pipes were being bought by women for their men. Intrigued, Myers commissioned Dr. Eleanor Criswell to conduct a study to discover what there was about pipes that caused women to want their men to smoke them. The results were surprising: in addition to the expected perceptions of pipe smokers as stable, mature, intelligent, etc., women identified their pipe smoking men as attractive, handsome, and, yes, sexy!
The concept of marketing pipes as a fashion accessory had been successful.
|As early as mid-1965, Tar Gard, Inc. and the Falcon House Group in London, England were negotiating an arrangement for Falcon to produce briar and Rare Wood pipes to be sent to Tar Gard for lining with pyrolytic graphite. The pipes were planned to be produced at a Dublin, Ireland factory jointly owned by Falcon House Group of London and Falcon International/Hunt Associates of Chicago, managed by Falcon/Chicago.
In 1967 or 1968, Venturi-pipes, Ltd. was formed in England to market the pipe, at first in black only, to European customers. It was a joint venture of Venturi, Inc. (formerly Tar Gard, Inc.), Falcon/London, and Falcon/Chicago. The price point of the pipe was some four times that of a Falcon or Peterson pipe but, when the unique colored pipes came along, they made for limited but steady sales. Even so, some 70% of sales continued to be the black models.
|In 1971, Falcon Pipes, Ltd. (a subsidiary of Falcon/London) formed a joint venture with Venturi-pipes, Ltd. and Falcon/Chicago to build a factory in Brentford, England to manufacture the pipe - MADE IN ENGLAND. There was discussion of a joint venture with Merton Pipes to manufacture the pipe at its St. Claude, France facility but nothing came of it.
Venturi-pipes, Ltd. marketed both imported briar and plastic pipes imprinted the pipe - MADE IN ENGLAND with pyrolytic graphite bowl liners. The colored plastic pipes were painted at first but were later "dyed in the mass" because of cracking and flaking of the paint. Since the dye permeates the plastic, they are less susceptible to easily visible chips and dings than the American versions.
|Except for the Imported Briars, the English pipes are slightly smaller than the American versions and have molded in the plastic the pipe - MADE IN ENGLAND The English pipes' air hole to bowl alignment is offset differently and the o-ring on the mouthpiece tenon is of a different design in the English versions. Many of these pipes were sold with a plastic bowl scraper imprinted the pipe apparently to try to forestall the use of metal reamers on the bowl liners.
The great unaswered question is, "How did pyrolytic graphite bowl liners get into the English pipes?" Super-Temp owned the patents but have no recollection or record of selling the liners or production rights to anyone. No other company in the world at the time had the capability of producing the liners.
|No one at Venturi, Inc. remembers any dealings at all with England. Although some surviving records from Hunt Associates discuss various arrangements with Falcon House Group, the pipe bowl liners are not mentioned. No one from Venturi-pipes, Ltd. recalls anything beyond "the liners came to us from America."
In the mid-1970s The Falcon Group and Venturi-pipes, Ltd. acquired all rights to the pipe. Production continued into the late seventies. Venturi-pipes, Ltd. was dissolved in 1988 although Falcon/London continued sales from stock until 1992. Retail outlets were still selling the pipe - MADE IN ENGLAND well into the nineties.
|Veteran pipe smokers were not enthusiastic about the pyrolytic graphite pipes, regardless of where they were made. They said the pipes smoked hot and wet and made the tobacco taste bitter. These may have been unfair criticisms because smokers of meerschaum and briar pipes build certain habits that reduce or eliminate the advantages of the pyrolytic graphite bowl liner. They packed tobacco in the bowl too tightly. They allowed a cake to build up and then scraped the bowl, damaging the liner. They puffed too vigorously, reducing the venturi effect of combustion in the liner. They used aromatic and strong tobacco blends which have much truer flavor in this kind of pipe than in others. Also, these pipes produce far less "goo" than briars or meerschaums, but do need to have a pipe cleaner run through them during and immediately after a smoke to control condensation.||When this was done, instead of a collection of several pipes being needed to allow time for moisture to dry out between smoking each one, only one or two were necessary to provide a satisfactory rotation.When not, one of the important advantages of the pipes was lost. Either way, the experienced pipe smoker was unlikely to buy very many of the pipes.
Venturi, of course, tried very hard to increase the appeal of the pipe to the traditional pipe smoker and attract more new pipe smokers. One such attempt was called "the rare woods" collection. Eight rare hard woods, teak, mahogany, cocobolo, purple heart, sycamore, rosewood, Tasmanian Oak, and an ironwood, were plasticized in a vacuum chamber and used for the shell. Not many of these were manufactured. In fact, only rosewood pipes seem to have been actually manufactured. The teak. purple heart, and sycamore in my collection are prototypes.
|Another attempt to improve sales was putting a pyrolytic graphite bowl liner in a genuine imported briar shell. Again, not many of these were made, apparently because "instant break-in" was not as popular as it had been hoped it would be. Both the Rare Wood and Imported Briar pipes prototypes were carved and machined in England before actual production was begun in a Los Angeles machine shop. Super-Temp also sent a few hundred pyrolytic graphite bowl liners to England for experimental installations. However, both models were ultimately entirely produced in the United States. There was also an attempt to market the bowl liners as a refurbishment and upgrade to traditional briar pipes.
In 1970, Venturi's lease on its third floor space in the Hearst Building expired. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system was being constructed right under Venturi's windows so, since most of its employees lived out of the city anyway, the company relocated to 1610 Rollins Road, Burlingame, California.
|Also about this time, Long sold his remaining interest in Venturi to Wes Myers and Bob Dailey moved on to found another marketing company.
A free-form pipe stand made of polyester resin was introduced in 1969. The PIPE ROCK, as it was called, was a pipe rest for one, two, or three pipes, sometimes with a hole for matches. The material is extremely light so the stands were weighted to about 2 pounds and then well-padded and leather covered on the bottom to protect the surface on which they rested. The hollows for the pipe bowls were smoothly finished while the exterior of the rack was a rough, rock-like finish. The PIPE ROCK came in a black and hot pink box with a holder/display stand and display card. The text on the card encouraged potential buyers to get this unique pipe rest. The one-position PIPE ROCK sold for $7.50 while the three-position cost $10.00. So far, there is no information about the two-position price.
|Yet another attempt to boost sales was the introduction in the first half of 1971, of The "feather ROCK" Collection, a free-form molded shell of the same polyester resin as the PIPE ROCK with a pyrolytic graphite bowl liner. Also priced at $15.00, there were at least three "feather ROCK" colors (green, brown, and grey) and at least two shapes of shell. They looked like a pipe stem stuck in a piece of granite, but were extemely light weight. Thus their name.
After a survey of college women showed that co-eds preferred dates who smoked a pipe over other smokers, another of style of pipe was introduced in 1971. It was called THE SMOKE and came in four vibrant colors (red, blue, yellow, and black) and four shapes (Village, Woodstock, Berkeley, and Graduate.) A fifth color (white) was added later. A gray Graduate has also been discovered but there is no documentation of the color with THE SMOKEs.
|Perhaps targeting the "flower children" alienated the traditional pipe smoker and may have done the product inestimable market-place damage. One observer said, "Who knows what they were smoking in those things." Its price of "seven dollars and change" was more competitive. THE SMOKE could be priced lower because there was less furnace processing of its carbon graphite bowl liner.
Late in 1971 or early 1972, manufacture of a pipe made entirely of phenolic resin without any bowl liner was begun in an effort to reduce the price of the pipes and increase sales volume. These pipes were named the Venturi models and were priced about $5.00. These all-plastic pipes were successful and began to assume an ever increasing percentage of sales. They were offered in three basic shapes (Bent, Billiard, and Pot) of five colors each: Blue, Ebony, Green, Red, and White. Many of these pipes were sold in various promotional packages consisting of a bubble card which included a 2 ounce roll-up pouch of tobacco and a small brochure.
|Meanwhile, the paint line employees at Super-Temp discovered that pipes which failed the drop test for paint could be repainted and buffed out again and again. When this was done with different colors, the resulting patterns were unique to each pipe reworked. Reworking faulty paint on the pipes became a favorite pastime of some employees and the pipes they produced are works of art using complex patterns and many colors. For several years, these pipes were known only to the factory workers, who competed among themselves for the most highly decorated pipe. At first called "psychedelic," these pipes were designated "California Style" when Venturi began marketing them. They were introduced in 1973 as a premium pipe selling at a premium price: $36.00. That price point was apparently too high and the price was reduced to $20.00 fairly quickly. Some traditional pipe smokers poked fun at these pipes, too, using the oxymoron "Hippie Camo," a reference to those people who wore bright colors and protested war in contrast to the army's camouflage patterns.||In keeping with the specialty pipe concept, the company also negotiated an agreement with Hirschl & Bendheim to manufacture corn-cob pipes in many colors under the marque "COLOR COB by Venturi." For a few months these pipes were so successful that Meyers persuaded Richard Hirschl, scion of the founder of H&B, to grant exclusive distribution rights for their entire line of corn cob pipes to Venturi. This lasted only a few months more because the COLOR COB pipes declined as precipitously in popularity as they had risen and marketing costs exceeded the profit margin in the other corn cob and native hardwood pipes. H&B quickly ended the relationship. So far pink, green, red, and blue COLOR COB pipes have been discovered.
Always on the look-out to make a buck, Venturi added other smokers' accessories to its stable of products; Fire Gard ashtrays (1966), the pipe Zippo lighters (1969), Venturi butane lighters(1970), the pipeTobaccos - Regular and Aromatic (1972), and the pipe cap (1973).
|the pipe's reputation among most veteran pipe smokers as being poor smoking did not improve (and hasn't to this day). Worse, although there are no statistics kept on pipe sales, the pipe had been attempting to counter a trend, as measured by pipe tobacco shipments, to fewer and fewer pipe smokers that had begun in the 1920's and continues to this day. the pipe, THE SMOKE, and the Venturi pipes were popular with ladies buying their man a pipe, with beginning pipe smokers who had no briar pipe smoking habits to unlearn, and with dealers who benefited from the pipe's eighty percent markup, but resistance to the product among briar fans remained high. This required continuing strong advertising and promotion to attract the fashion conscious and neophyte pipe smokers as buyers. Although the company continued to be profitable, the expensive advertising campaigns, failed product innovations, and heavy promotion expenses took a toll.||Macdonald-Stewart, a Canadian cigarette and tobacco manufacturer, became aware of Venturi's marketing prowess when Venturi began selling its products in Vancouver, British Columbia and approached Venturi about making an arrangement to work together. In November, 1972, they reached an agreement in which, because of the complexities of international marketing and manufacturing laws, Macdonald-Stewart would control all of the products and Venturi would be a marketing division for all Macdonald products in the United States and South America, including duty-free shops at border crossings. Another aspect of the agreement was that pipe tobacco blends would be developed that were specifically designed for smoking in specialty pipes.||The blends were still in the testing phase when, within eight months of the companies joining forces, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco bought Macdonald-Stewart. Actually, a "the pipe tobacco" was offered by mail order only for a very short time in both Aromatic and Regular blends.
R. J. Reynolds did not need another U. S. marketing division, was not comfortable selling the Tar Gard cigarette filters, and wanted to completely integrate Venturi into its own operations. Wes Myers was not comfortable in the large corporate environment and, recognizing that Venturi's little 4.5 to 5 million dollars a year gross was not important to the tobacco giant, offered to buy it back.
So, for the third time in two years, Venturi again changed hands. It was the first time RJR had ever sold a company.
A year or so later, Bissell Corporation approached Venturi about the possibility of utilizing some of Bissell's unused manufacturing capacity to make the Tar Gard cigarette filters. Negotiations led, in late 1975 or early 1976, to Venturi being sold (for the fourth time in as many years) to Bissell Corporation.
|In the midst of all this organizational turmoil at Venturi, Inc. and as the all-plastic Venturi models took an ever increasing proportion of production, Dr. Smith felt that this was not following Super-Temp's business plan of being the preeminent manufacturer of pyrolytic graphite products. At one point he exclaimed, "I'm not going to make bubble pipes!" Moreover, Venturi began falling behind in paying Super-Temp's invoices. Smith ordered the entire line abandoned. The molds for the shells were repossessed from the suppliers and were eventually destroyed. Since Super-Temp held the patents and the molds for the pipes, another supplier for the pipes could not be found and they ceased to be produced. Employment at Super-Temp plunged from 145 in 1975 to 98 in 1978.||Between two and three million pipes were produced altogether. The biggest month of production was eighty-five thousand, but the typical month's production was fifteen to twenty thousand. That would average two to three hundred thousand pipes made per year. By the end of 1973, there had been one and a half million customers buying the pipes since their 1965 debut. A 1974 marketing study for S. M. Frank & Co. estimated that in that year alone, Venturi sold about eight hundred thousand pipes. It seems to the author that this is an unlikely number considering that it would amount to a quarter to a third of almost ten years total production sold in that one year. Even if that is the case, and given that some customers purchased more than one pipe, probably fewer than half a million pipes were manufactured that were not sold.||Apparently, the arrangement with various tobacco producers was continued to sell off those pipes which remained in inventory after Super-Temp stopped manufacturing the products. The arrangement was expanded to offer pipes as premiums in coupons. Bissell continued to sell Venturi pipes in these promotional packages until the inventory was exhausted. Super-Temp had a couple of cases of pipes that were given away by their sales representatives as "ice-breakers" to potential customers. Pipe shops continued to sell from their own inventory until as recently as 2002. There may still be some long established shops which have a few new the pipe, THE SMOKE, and Venturi pipes in stock.||By 1977, Tar Gard pipes were being sold in Venturi pipe promotional packages, presumably in an attempt to continue to include pipes in the product line. The Tar Gard pipe was made by S. M. Frank from Frank's trademarked material, Brylon, which is similar to the Venturi pipe's. It had a cake accelerating coating lining the bowl and a smoke filter in the stem but the high-cost pyrolytic graphite bowl linings were not available.
In 1978, Super-Temp was sold by Ducommun to B. F. Goodrich. In 1991, when Bissell sold the Venturi name and Tar Gard products (which, by the way, had continued throughout to have steady, at times even spectacular, sales), no pipes remained in the product line. Venturi, Inc. is now located in Traverse City, Michigan and still sells Tar Gard products.
|Here is a summary of the important events in the History of the pipe from its invention in 1963 to the changes of ownership in 1973. The decline of the pipe began the following year and there are a number of uncertainties about the sequence of events after that so I have decided that the wisest course is to not attempt to include anything after 1973 here.|
|Yr/Area||Corporate||Advertising||Shapes||Colors of the pipe||Products & Pricing|
|1963||Super-Temp invents||Tar Gard cigarette filters $2.95|
|1964||Tar Gard markets|
sales begin 1/1
Tar Gard moves to San Fransico
Wes Myers joins as Marketing VP
|1st "Story of *the pipe*" brochure||Apple, Bent, Billiard, Bulldog, Pot||black||the pipe $9.95|
Tar Gard becomes Venturi, Inc.
|Giant Pot, Dublin introduced||Ebony (replaced black)
the pipe $12.50
Fire Gard ash trays
|1967||Falcon Group markets in England||Father's Day & Christmas Ad campaigns||Fashion Stripes introduced:
All-American stripes first,
then White & Orange
|Fashion Stripes $15.00|
|1968||Father's Day & Christmas Ad campaigns||Bulldog Buff Designs introduced|
Father's Day & Christmas magazine ad campaigns
Year around TV ad campaign - 201 placements
|Giant Pot discontinued||
Rare Woods & Imported Briar $20.00
Pipe Rock $7.50 & $????? & $10
the pipe Zippo lighters
Wes Myers acquires Venturi, Inc.
Venturi, Inc. moves from Hearst Bldg. in S.F. to Burlingame, CA
Feather ROCK introduced
Author & Canadian shapes introduced
Feather ROCK $15
Venturi butane lighters $10-$17.50
|1971||Falcon Group manufactures the pipe - MADE IN ENGLAND||Regional & National Ad campaigns||THE SMOKE introduced
Shapes: Berkeley, Graduate, Village,
Colors: Black, Blue, Green, Red,
|THE SMOKE $7.95|
|1972||McDonald-Stewart acquires Venturi||New packaging for the pipe introduced.||
Venturi pipes introduced
H&B Color Cobs briefly
the pipeTobaccos - Regular or Aromatic - 8 oz tin $3.50
R.J.Reynolds acquires McDonald-Stewart
Wes Myers re-acquires Venturi
the pipe $15
the pipe cap - free for pipe registration
|"Between Clenched Teeth," Time. 30 Nov 1962, 71.|
|Briese, Don. Daniel J. Edelman Public Relations. Letter to Thomas A. Dunn, 19 Feb 1974.|
|Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. Sir Walter Raleigh Tobacco Coupon for THE SMOKE pipes, 1973?|
|"Carpet Sweeper Firm Buys The Pipe," Smokeshop, Mar 1976, 24.|
|Congos, Dennis H. "The Professor's Pipe Sweetening Treatment", essay, 4 Nov 2003|
|Criswell, Eleanor. "The Criswell Survey #1: A study on the Social Image of Pipe Smoking." San Francisco, CA. Humanistic Psychology Institute
(Commissioned by Venturi, Inc.) Sep 1973.
|Douwe Egberts Royal Tobacco Factory - Coffee Roasters - Tea Trader s, PLC. Amphora Tobacco Coupon for Venturi pipes, 1973?|
|Fader, Jr., Ira B., Executive Director. Retail Tobacco Dealers Association. Letter to the author, 13 Apr 1999.|
|Feuerbach, William, Vice President, S. M. Frank & Co.. Electronic Mail to C. Baker Egerton, 27 Apr 1999.|
|-------------------------. Electronic Mail to C. Baker Egerton, 8 Jun 1999.|
|"A Friendly Rivalry Goes Up in Smoke." Business Week, 20 Jun 1970, 32.|
|Haselton, Susan, Customer Service Coordinator. Venturi, Inc. Electronic Mail to the author, 2 Sep 1998.|
|Heiser, J. S., Vice President, Ducommun Corporation. Letter to the author, 10 Feb 1999.|
|Hirschl, Richard, Owner, Hirschl & Bendheim, 196?-1991. Telephone interview with the author, 6 May 2003.|
|Hunt, George L., President, Falcon International. Letter to Charles S. White. 17 May 1965.|
|Huntington, Arnold and Joe Gurule, Managers (Purchasing and Special Projects respectively), Super-Temp Corporation.
Conference telephone call with the author, 10 Mar 1999.
|-------------------------. Interview with the author, 6 May 1999.|
|Huy, Charlie, Ed. "World's First Venturi Pipe Smoking Contest." Scoop. San Francisco Press Club. 22:2, 14 Jan 1974, 3.|
|Jackson, David R., National Sales Manager, Venturi, Inc., 1971 - 1973. Electronic Mail to the author, 13 Apr 1999.|
|Kidd, Peter D., Managing Director, Falcon Pipes, Ltd., 1986-1995. Electronic Mail to the author, 5 Sep 2005.|
|-------------------------. Electronic Mail to the author, 22 Sep 2005.|
|Kirk, Vern, Regional Sales Manager, Venturi, Inc., 1973 - 1975. Telephone interview with the author, 22 Apr 1999.|
|Lawrence, L. Edward. "A Brief History of 'the pipe.'" The Calabash Papers. Calabash Cavaliers Pipe Club. 3:2, Jun 1999, 2.|
|-------------------------. Letter to the author, 15 Jun 1999.|
|Merton, Roger L. H., Owner, Merton & Falcon, Ltd. Electronic Mail to the author, 9 Jul 2005.|
|Morris, David E., Managing Director, Falcon House Group. Letter to Charles S. White. 12 May 1965.|
|-------------------------. Letter to George L. Hunt. 12 May 1965.|
|Myers, Wes, Sales Manager, Vice President, and President, Venturi, Inc., 1965 - 1974. Letter to Thomas A. Dunn, 21 Feb 1974.|
|-------------------------. Telephone interview with the author. 15 May 1999.|
|-------------------------. Telephone interview with the author. 1 Jun 1999.|
|-------------------------. Telephone interview with the author. 23 Aug 1999.|
|Peschke, Alan. "Venturi blue bent abomination." eBay online auction, item #6136130611. 3 - 10 Dec 2004.|
|Rathburn, Larry A. The History of the Fort Wayne Falcon Featherweight. Privately published. 1994.|
|Retail Tobacco Dealers Association.The Tobacco Retailers' Almanac. 1968, unpaginated.|
|-------------------------- . The Tobacco Retailers' Almanac. 1969, 120-121.|
|-------------------------. . The Tobacco Retailers' Almanac. 1970, 129.|
|Russell, Jim, Vice President/General Manager, Carbon Products Division, B. F. Goodrich Co. Electronic Mail to the author. 13 Mar 1999.|
|Santa Fe Springs (CA) Chamber of Commerce. Business and Industrial Directory. 1973, 42.|
|-------------------------. Business and Industrial Directory. 1975, 9.|
|-------------------------. Business and Industrial Directory. 1978, 12.|
|"Space Age Smoking." Wall Street Journal. 28 Jan 1965, 1.|
|"Space Magic in the Marketplace." Time. 24 Sep 1965, 95.|
|Spaniola, Paul, Owner and Manager, Paul's Pipe Shop, Flint, MI, 1946-1999. Interview with the author. 6 Apr 1999.|
|-------------------------. Interview with the author. 24 Apr 1999.|
|Stephens, Karen, daughter of Dr. William H. Smith, Electronic Mail to the author. 5 Mar 2014.|
|"the pipe: And How It's Made." Distribution Executive. May 1970, 30-31.|
|U. S. Patent Office, "Smoking Element." Edgar C. Buckingham. Patent No. 3185163. May 25, 1965.|
|U. S. Patent Office, "Liner for Smoking Pipe." John T. Rodgers, et al. Patent No. 3420244. Jan 7, 1969.|
|U. S. Tobacco Journal. Dec 20-27, 1973, 1.|
|VENTURI, INC. COMPANY PUBLICATIONS:|
|Note: Except for the advertisements in magazines and newspapers, none of the Venturi documents have Copyright Dates.
An interrogative (?) indicates that the date is based on the sequence of location, products, and ownership of the company which was known variously as:
The Tar Gard/Venturi Companies
The Venturi Company
Venturi Company: A Satellite of Tar Gard, Inc.
Venturi Company: A Satellite of Macdonald-Stewart
Venturi, Inc.: A member of the Macdonald-Stewart Companies.
A range of dates indicates the years of probable use.
|Advertisements in magazines and newspapers.
"the gift for Dad June 18." Playboy, Jun 1967, 10.
the pipe: World's driest and coolest." Life (regional editions)?, 1967, R14.
"The Space-Age Gift " Esquire, Dec 1967, 76 and Playboy, Dec, 1967, 30.
"Make pipe smoking easy for that man of yours." Playboy, Jun 1968, 22.
"Here is the full story...." The Tobacco Retailers' Almanac. 1968, unpaginated..
"a pipe that smokes more like a cigarette." Playboy, Dec 1968, 99.
"Always Something New." . The Tobacco Retailers' Almanac. 1969, 120.
"From Tar Gard/Venturi." The Tobacco Retailers' Almanac. 1969, 121.
"Put this in your washer and smoke it!" Playboy, Jun 1969, 75.
"Find his personality in The Pipe." The New Yorker, 29 Nov 1969, 148
"You've seen a lot...." The Tobacco Retailers' Almanac. 1969, 129.
"The Smoke. It doesn't try to span the generation gap." Life (regional editions), 1971.
"Expensive taste." 1971?
"Expensive taste." Wonderful World of Pipes, Vol 1: No 2 (cover says Vol 2), 1971, 88.
Sales and Marketing to Distributors and Dealers.
Camera-ready Art for retailer catalogs and brochures.
Sales brochures for customers.
Brochures enclosed with the pipe pipes.
Brochures enclosed withVenturi pipes.
|Venturi, Ltd. Company Publications|
Sales brochures for customers.
|"Venturi Founder Offers Pipecap." Smokeshop. Aug 1976, 12.|
|Wells, Donald, Production Manager (Retired) and Consultant, Super-Temp Corporation. Telephone interview with the author, 12 May 1999.|
|-------------------------. Letter to the author, 18 May 1999.|
|"What is the pipe" Pipe World. Mar 1971, 33.|
|White, Charles S., Export Manager, Tar Gard Co. Letter to David Morris, 7 May 1965.|
|Whitworth, Diana, Sales Department, Venturi, Inc. Letter to L. E. Lawrence, 30 Jun 1971.|
|Worth, K. A. Back from the Ashes: Uncovering the Lost History of G. L. Hunt and the Falcon Pipe. Studio City, California, USA:
Worthy Works Press, 2007.
|Zanutto, Mike. Operations Manager, SuperTemp Corporation. Electronic Mail to the author, 6 Jul 2010.|
Last update: 2015-11-10