The 999 Rhodesian is our best-selling Peterson shape. You may have one sitting in your pipe rack right now. For many, the form's crisp beadlines, stout walls, and muscular transition epitomize the marque's signature aesthetic. But few remember its full history, the story of a shape that changed and evolved, and one that was very nearly lost to time.
The 999 first appeared in Peterson's catalogues in 1937. Stout, jovial, and masculine, it captured an essential Englishness for the Irish marque, and was later dubbed the "John Bull" after the national personification of England. For decades, the shape retained its name and distinctive character — chubby proportions accentuated by a stout, tubular shank, tapered mouthpiece, and more often than not, Peterson's signature P-Lip bit.
The mid 1980s marked an era of transition for Peterson, however, and the design was eventually retired and replaced with another, slightly leaner Rhodesian shape, the 998. The 998 assumed the John Bull's 999 stamp but preserved the former's lighter, leaner proportions. The original 999, it seemed, had been lost.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at Peterson's 2019 Pipe of the Year in this episode of Around the Burl
Then in 2018, Peterson made an important discovery: Amidst dusty boxes of stummels, darkened by time, sat an unfinished bowl from a classic John Bull. Recognizing an opportunity to honor the shape's storied history, the marque used that vintage stummel as the model for the 2019 Pipe of the Year, reviving the celebrated classic for a new generation to enjoy.
The 2019 Pipe of the Year celebrates the original 999 shape, complete with the old form's stouter shank, broad sterling silver band, and canonical P-Lip mouthpiece. It's available in Smooth, Ebony, Sandblasted, and Rusticated finishes, with the addition of extremely rare Natural finished editions (only 10 were made for the entire world). Whether you're a fan of Peterson's Rhodesians or simply a pipe history enthusiast, the 2019 John Bull would make an excellent addition to your collection, where it would never again be forgotten.