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Thursday 3 December 2015

Famous Pipe Smokers

Today's famous pipe smokers is not just a really famous pipe smoker, he's one of my heroes.

That said, he wasn't all that great at taking care of his pipe:

Dude ran that one into the ground!

In spite of what can only be called cruelty to pipes, he was well known for smoking one. So much so, that we know just what that pipe above is, a Peterson System brand (model 14), and it's a pipe you can still get today, that has been recently spruced up in his honor:

Though these days, the Peterson company has given it a newer and more descriptive name:


That's right, our Famous Pipe Smoker of this entry is Mark Twain!  And you can still buy (one of) his pipes.

Twain was one of those genius men who, from the late 19th century until the Western World lost its fucking mind, created the association between intelligence and pipes.

Twain was in fact one of the great quotable men of the English language.  And his opinions in life are a very close reflection to my own (which is how you know both he and I are very clever!):

All in all, Mark Twain was one of the great thinkers of our world. A quotable wit. And a... well, a kind of shitty pipe smoker, actually.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Half-Volcano + Gawith's Balkan Flake


  1. Consider Robert W. Wood, a world class prankster and a physicist as a runner up. There is a rare photo of him in a Signals Corps officer's uniform posing with his pipe in front of a gizmo that he invented. See if you can find it.

    1. Hmm. Not a bad choice but a bit obscure for the average reader I'd think.

    2. Well, here's a chance to educate the average reader!

    3. Robert Williams Wood (1868-1955) was an extraordinary experimental physicist. His genius was in finding problems in physics that can be best solved via experimentation and then framing them in vivid and spectacular experiments. He was a wizard of labwork, who built his own tools, and also a socialite and a scholar of a bygone era. He traveled widely and was a foreign member of both the British and the Soviet Academies of Science in the 1920's. He was one of the first people to own an automobile in rural Wisconsin and he used it to explore the rural parts of the state. He visited Australia and became a lifelong expert boomerang thrower. He visited Hawaii and was the first person to surf the waves off the coast of the New York's Long Island, long before surfing became part of California beach culture.

      As to his scientific work, he was fascinated with photographing the invisible. He photographed the front of a sound wave in a laboratory. I think that his surfing was the outgrowth of his life-long fascination with the waves. He wrote a textbook on Optics, which he kept current through four editions right up to his death. He was renowned for developing tools for spectography, now surpassed by newer technology. He worked with secret inks and uv light. During WWI he designed a modified semaphore for the infantry, it wasn't clearly written, but it either acted as a powerful strobe light, that could be seen from 1200 yards away or it threw light to a pinpoint location 1200 yards away, so that nobody else could see it. That was well before the fiber optics or lasers. In WW2 he developed a chemical, that would turn the water a bright color, that would aid in the spotting of the downed airmen in the Pacific. He worked as a forensics expert with the police department and was probably the first one in the US to conduct a successful explosion investigation, where a middle aged woman was blown apart by a stick of dynamite, that was made to look like a box of chocolates. Wood, reconstructed the bomb from the debris that he was able to recover, and based on the peculiarities of the design of the bomb, the police was able to identify the bomb maker, who was later convicted for murder. Wood may have been fascinated with the supernatural. Apparently he tricked people with one hand and debunked quacks with another (not 100% sure on that). He took hashish in an experimental setting and documented his hallucination a la gestalt. He tried the same thing when he has a heart attack and pissed off his physician. He published a book poetry in the Charles Dodgson vein, and also wrote a few science fiction stories with a co-author, before he gave up writing fiction. He went to Harvard, and played pranks on the University administration, his neighbors, the hired help, people on the street, and the hired help, and the War Department. He solved the mystery of the purple gold from the King Tut's tomb, and convinced the world that he has done so, by making a duplicate sample of the purple gold in his lab. He married a prominent socialite and remained married for 60 years. To make a film of this man is to let the Hollywood movie writers will inevitably take away from his greatness with their limited imaginations. They (he) published his biography in 1941 (The Wizard of the Lab), it reads like a boy's adventure tale, and it should probably be made a required summer reading for 9-12 year olds.

  2. Sands of time doing their thing. Once upon a time he went to a poor section of town, made a big show of coughing up and spitting phlegm into a rain puddle, while slipping a sodium pellet, I think. It reacted violently with water, exploding into fire and smoke. The terrified people ran in all directions screaming: The devil is here! The devil is here!