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Intriguing early French-made GBD

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  • Started 8 months ago by osiris01
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    osiris01

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    Good evening folks,

    I picked up this little GBD 3 or 4 weeks ago and I've finally got around to cleaning it up. I've done a fair bit of research on it but, as ever, I have a few unanswered questions and I was rather hoping that a guru or two might be able to pitch in and fill in a few gaps for me. First, the pipe:

    The ferrule has French marks so I guess it was intended for their domestic market. The marks are fantastically small and I ended up buying a cheap microscope. Anyway, it payed off and I think the silver work was done by a Albert Beaufort, a Parisian silversmith who registered his mark in 1886. Unfortunately, I've been unable to find out anything more about him. When I first saw a photo of the pipe, I guessed around 1910 - the French marks aren't dated - but I've been going through the 1895 Harrod's catalog and whilst this pipe is not listed, there are a number that are very close, just not in this Dutch billiard shape.

    I have not been able to find out much about the French GBDs but does anyone know if they produced their own lines specifically for the French domestic market and would that explain why I can't find it listed in any English catalogues? I'd also be very interested in how and who they used for their silver work. Is the name Albert Beaufort known in the pipe world and, if so, does anyone know when he was employed by GBD, Oppenhiemer, or Saint-Claude? I suspect this is a big ask, but I would be extremely grateful for your thoughts on the history of this pipe. Date-wise, I'm now erring towards the earlier dates - last few years of 1800s to 1910 ish, but would love to nail it down a bit closer but, unless someone has it in a catalog, I guess a retirement/death date of Albert Beaufort might do it, but I've not been able to find anything about the guy other than his registered address.

    The stem is horn and still has a whisper of the GBD stamp on it, so I'm fairly confident it's the original. The shank is stamped only 'GBD' and the only silver marks are the makers mark and the purity guarantee. Going by the Harrod's catalog, the pipe may well have been in a kidney case, but there are cheaper military mounts listed without. I'm not able to determine if this is a cheaper or pricier model. Condition-wise - it is beautiful. It has been used but not a lot. Alas, the previous owner hammered the pipe against, what I guess, is the edge of an ashtray. You can see damage on the rim and there is a section where the shank and bowl meet that has taken a bit of a beating. But, the bright side, he/she didn't ream it with a blunt hatchet and the chamber is in wonderful condition.

    As always, many thanks for getting to the end of another interminable, plea-ridden post by me.

    Cheers,

    Geoff

    As always, my thanks to all.

    Posted 8 months ago #
  2. aquadoc

    aquadoc

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    Nice looking pipe.

    "If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and sex, you don't actually live longer; it just seems that way."
    Posted 8 months ago #
  3. saltedplug

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    Hope you get your questions answered and that it is a sweet pipe.

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Thanks folks. It would be nice to nail a few of the details - I thought I had at least a rudimentary grasp of GBD until it arrived on my doorstep. I now know for certain that I know very little.

    Oh, few things I missed out: the ferrule is also stamped GBD - you can't really see it in the images. And the stem looks a bit odd on the pipe - a bit too straight. It is a GBD stem and I think it must be the original one, but it does look a bit odd to me. Does horn have a tendency to straighten over time?

    Posted 8 months ago #
  5. ssjones

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    That's a fabulous piece Geoff! That stem shape is a bit odd for the era, typically the bends were very dramatic. I don't know anything about horn stems, to know if they straightened over time. Perhaps Jon Gus will chime in on the silversmith, also a name I'm not familiar with.

    Al

    Posted 8 months ago #
  6. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    Mr. Guss is on his way to dinner.... (we are both at the West Coast Pipe show; just saw him)....

    And that is a splendid pipe. Agree the stem looks straighter than I'd have thought.

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 8 months ago #
  7. dmcmtk

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    I have nothing to add about the dating, but that is a beautiful old pipe!

    Dave
    Duke Street Irregular
    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Thanks Al. I've grown quite fond of the little fella. The stem is odd - I did wonder if it was a replacement and attempted to find out when GDB stopped offering horn stems, but I've managed to find so little ephemera that it was impossible for me to deduce anything useful other than they were offered for most pipes in 1895 and were absent in the catalogues by 1938. Which isn't very useful really. Pushed, I'd say by 1915/1920, but that would be a guess.

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Thanks Dave - it did clean up very easily.

    Posted 8 months ago #
  10. craiginthecorn

    craiginthecorn

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    Beautiful pipe with lots of history. Nice sleuthing!

    I have what must be an early GBD in the mail from England at the moment. It has a threaded bone tenon with a Vulcanite stem. I half wonder if it was originally amber and replaced with the Vulcanite.

    Posted 8 months ago #
  11. upnorth1

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    Nothing to add but she's really nice!

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Many thanks for dropping by and posting your comments folks. Sorry jpm..., I missed your post.

    Craig: All I can tell you is that GBD offered vulcanite, amber, and horn on their higher grades pipes in 1895 (although I'm unsure on the fitting). Fantastic that the bone tenon is still intact - they're delicate flowers at the best of times; 100+ years on is quite incredible when you think of the abuse it has weathered. Do post some pics.

    Cheers,

    Geoff

    Posted 8 months ago #
  13. huntertrw

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    According to Richard Carleton Hacker in his book titled Rare Smoke - The Ultimate Guide to Pipe Collecting, "...it is possible to encounter GBD's with either French or English stampings up through 1981. Since that date, all GBD pipes have been made in England

    Incicentally, Messrs. Ganeval, Bondier, and Donninger were Frenchmen, and their firm was founded in Paris in 1850. A factory in England was established in 1903.

    Love Me, Love My Pipe
    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Thanks Huntertrw. I know their history is fairly complex. Oppenheimer bought in to the company to some degree, possibly outright, at the turn of the century. As the Oppenheimer universe grew, they consolidated much of the production, both in France and in London and you still see French made GBDs quite regularly on ebay.

    However, since Beaufort's registration dates back to 1886, and the average life expectancy for a Parisian male at that time was about 48, you can get a ballpark date range. I doubt he was younger than 25 at registration (although young men tended to be apprenticed by 14ish I guess, so possibly earlier), but he was doing well if he was still working in the 1920s.

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    armonts

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    "Je n’ai pas été en mesure de savoir beaucoup sur le GBDs Français, mais est-ce que quelqu'un sait si ils ont produit leurs propres lignées spécifiquement pour le marché domestique Français et qui expliquerait pourquoi je ne peux pas trouver qu'il mentionnées dans les catalogues anglais ? "
    -----------------
    Yes, during a period, and a little during the war 14, but the brand dated well before and sold also in the US, it is very complicated to find with GBD ...

    https://www.google.fr/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=15&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjO0tqCjc_eAhUM3xoKHbPTBmgQFjAOegQIAhAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fpipephil.eu%2Flogos%2Ffr%2Flogo-gbd.html&usg=AOvVaw2wUQbIl-pg4VMkBrAQq_Oz

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Thanks Armonts. I have been unable to find out what assay arrangements there were between France, other European markets and the US. I think that silver imported from France to the UK at the time would have the British import hallmarks (probably in addition to the French - or at least, it would have the makers mark, not sure about the Minerva/boar's head guarantee). The pipe came from a French seller, btw, so it is unlikely it was ever exported (not impossible, but...)

    The problem I have is that I have such a large gap between catalogues. There is quite a bit of French ephemera out there, but it just isn't early enough. The closest I have found are early flyers/ads mainly for the Xtra/Speciale lines. What I need is the French equivalent of the Harrod's catalog (which must have been a colossal undertaking - it's 100s of pages. To produce that in 1895 must have cost a fortune). I'm not going hold my breath

    Posted 8 months ago #
  17. huntertrw

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    Incicentally, Messrs. Ganeval, Bondier, and Donninger were Frenchmen...

    This information was per the Hacker book referenced above; however. I just checked the entry (GBD) for this company on the pipedia.org Website, and it states that Messr. Donninger may have been either Austrian or Swiss. My apology for the confusion.

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    armonts

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    It is very possible, at the time there was certainly very little "Donniger" in France, rather of origin Austrian or Swiss therefore.
    Especially since he worked in Vienna center of the meerschaum pipe which was the main specialty of GBD before the Heather/briar.

    The punch "boar head" French dates from 1838 to 1962 and is affixed to small objects (it is a hallmark of "title" ie 800 thousandth silver), the "neck brace/Minerva" covers the same period, to part of 1838 to the present day but for larger objects ...

    (We can assume that a pipe-ring is in the "wild boar" category at the time.)

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Yes, it is the boar stamp. But the stamps are incredibly small - no bigger than 1 sq mm - thus the microscope. The advantage to this stamp is that it is not in a cartouche of any sort. There is very little detail left but the shape of the mark is very distinctive - had it been framed, I wouldn't know what is was. Creating the stamp detail must have been a feat in itself back then - the stamp I used as a reference has very intricate detail.

    I don't know how often Harrod's produced a catalogue, but I know they produced one in 1910. That may hold the missing link, although I suspect that this particular shape was domestic only. In the 1895 catalogue, there was only one Dutch billiard listed, sadly not the one I'm looking for, so it seems a reasonable theory that the shape was not particularly popular in the UK at that time (although the Oom Paul could be described as one I guess, and I think the Peterson 4s/309 was around by that time).

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    armonts

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    It's not easy, I asked on 2 forums, 1 guy answered me but it had to exist here in France because he said:

    "Hey it's funny I got one on a flea market not long ago.
    It's a bit of a hassle to be in all this. I managed to date mine thanks to the gadgets engraved on the ring. "

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    armonts

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    He added this:
    "after visibly it is according to the two letters on each side of the hieroglyphs For mine it allowed me to situate it between 1913 and 1938"

    https://servimg.com/view/19575108/2140#tabs-3

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Hi armonts. Yes, that is a Birmingham mark - English marks were date stamped in that period. Most still are as a general rule. The French mark is not date stamped. I shall upload it later today when I get home.

    Cheers.

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    The site has disabled right-click and I can't find another example of it. But if you follow the link, it is the third one down.

    Albert Beaufort

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Found one. Mine doesn't have the Minerva head but the boar instead.

    Posted 8 months ago #
  25. craiginthecorn

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    osiris01, thanks for the information about my new old GBD. It arrived today. The surprise is that what looked to be oxidized Vulcanite was actually orific-style horn, and in quite nice condition. I have to believe some refurbishment has already been performed. I tidied up the rim, polished the mouthpiece, and gave it a coat of wax, but it took all of ten minutes.

    Also remarkable is that the oval shank and mouthpiece are in perfect alignment. No shims needed to prevent overrotation. The stummel is in great shape, too. One unusual feature is a small "11" stamped in the center of the front of the bowl. I'll post photos tomorrow.

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Craig, it sounds absolutely wonderful and likely from roughly the same era. It will be interesting to see if your one is in the 1895 catalog. They were numbered, but it may have been an internal numbering system for Harrod's. Looking forward to the images.

    Cheers,

    Geoff

    Posted 8 months ago #
  27. craiginthecorn

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    Here are some photos from my phone. Sadly, in better light I'm seeing that the back wall of the chamber is perilously close to burning out. It's surprising that there isn't more darkening on the outside of the bowl. I've had good success with pipe mud in these situations, though, so not all is lost. The pipe was still a pretty good bargain. I was purchased from the UK eBay site, by the way. The only nomenclature is the GBD logo on the top of the shank and the "II" in the front of the bowl.




    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    Wow, looks wonderful. Shame about the chamber, but taking it easy with a bit of pipe mud or stove mortar or similar and I reckon it'll be fine. That stem still fits like a glove. This is from the 1895 catalog. bottom one looks closer, but it looks like it may have an angular shank (which would be odd) it's not easy to tell from these images, but a definite maybe. These are the only two in the catalogue that arn't silver mounted. No idea on the 'II' stamp.

    Posted 8 months ago #
  29. skaukatt

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    Outstanding catalog grab!

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    It is an incredible catalog from an incredible resource, and is in the pubic domain. A 1500 page catalog produced for 1895 - I can't even comprehend the effort (and cost) that was required to produce it. I don't know how well Harrod's is known outside of the UK, but these were the glory days of the up-market department store.

    I should have cited this earlier, but the url: Digital Library wisc

    Back to the pipe - that bowl looks huge for that time period.

    Posted 8 months ago #
  31. craiginthecorn

    craiginthecorn

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    That catalogue is fascinating! Thanks for the help dating my pipe. I think its safe to say it’s 100+ years old. I love the history of pipes.

    Posted 8 months ago #
  32. ssjones

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    Thanks for sharing that catalog, it's certainly the oldest GBD ephemera I've come across.

    Posted 8 months ago #
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    osiris01

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    It's a wonder of the modern world. You have to hand it to the Victorians - what they lacked in moral flexibility, they made up for in class. (And the nameless soul that made it open source has my undying gratitude.)

    Posted 8 months ago #

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