History of Charatan Pipes
The Charatan pipes brand was founded in 1870 circa. by a Russian immigrant to the UK, Frederick Charatan. At first he produced Meerschaum pipes but later produced briar pipes for the Russian market. He is known to produce exquisite handcrafted pipes. Dunhill acquired his business in 1907. After Frederick’s retirement, his son, Reuben took over the production and followed his father’s tradition of handmade high quality pipes. After Charatan’s acquaintance with Herman Lane, Lane became the sole distributor of Charatan pipes in the US. Lane later bought Charatan after Reuben’s death and saved the company from its struggling business. Again Dunhill stepped on the seen by buying the London production of Charatan. The company with its policy of handmade exquisite pipes effectively seized to exist when an American company bought the name in 1988 and mass produced pipes. When this company, James Russel closed in 2002, nothing was left of the famous Charatan pipes of old.
The grading of Charatan pipes was only applied after the 1930’s circa. The Rough had a rusticated shank and a sandblasted bowl finish dating from about 1930. Rarity were pipes with otherwise good grain but some tiny flaws. Perfection pipes were always cross-grained and were so named because Dunhills were most always cross-grained and was the lowest of the upper grade pipes. Belvedere had straightish but weak grain. This was Charatan’s lowest class of smooth pipes. Special pipes were generally unstained or lightly stained. They had better grain, but it was not perfect. Distinction pipes had better grain than the Specials and were often given a light stain to bring out the grain. Executive were made for the executive market and had a better grade than Distinction. After Hours pipes had a selected-quality grain. The design of the After Hours allowed the use of smaller ebuchauns due to the horn (later plastic) section screwed to the truncated shank. Selected pipes had even better grain and the Supreme pipes had the best straight grains they made at that time.
I managed to buy a probably 1960’s Charatan because of the ODC inscription, dating to the time it was produced by Dunhill. The pipe also had the so called “double comfort” tapered stem, which was introduced in 1960
Just after this one, I won a bid (which I actually didn’t thought I would), that of a Reuben-era Charatan 101 Special. Its still on its way though.
It seems that Charatans can be dated as follows:
- Charatan family eras (1873 – 1962)
Frederick designed a simple logo combining the initials of the words Charatan Pipes; “CP” with the P slightly lowered and the bottom part of the C linking with the P on the stem. On the pipe, CHARATAN’S MAKE LONDON ENGLAND” was engraved.
His son, Reuben (1910 – 1962) continued with the same markings. During this time, a L (indicating Lane imported, distributed in USA) was sometimes added. 4 grades were indicated from the lowest: Belvedere, Executive, Selected, and Supreme.
- Lane initially managed the company, but took it over in 1962. The “Lane Era” (1962 – 1976) can be dated with the dubious double comfort (DC) stems; Stamped DC and/or X. On the pipe, the words “CHARATAN’S MAKE – LONDON ENGLAND” was engraved. The grading was continued but Lane added some addition grades (from the lowest): Belvedere, Executive, Selected, and Supreme + Supreme S, Supreme S100, S150, S200, S250, S300, Coronation, Royal Achievement, Crown Achievement, and Summa Cum Laude
- Dunhill Era 1977 –
After Dunhill re-acquired the Charatan brand, it kept the “CP” logo on the stem and the “CHARATAN’S MAKE LONDON ENGLAND” was displayed in three lines on the pipe.