Kenly Bugg was an Indiana-based engineer who few might remember today. We do because in 1936, inspired by the clouds above him, he invented a pipe – the Falcon – that would revolutionise the industry. His design featured an aluminium body that was both light and also offering high-quality heat dispersion. The bowl he consequently crafted out of briar wood and then docked onto the aluminium body created a chamber called the “Humidome”. Smoke reaching this chamber cools down and creates droplets of humidity that sit at the bottom. Unscrew the bowl while smoking and you have the clean, dry smoke for which Falcon Pipes are renowned.
From prototype to production, the first Falcon came to the market in 1940. At the same time, the Second World War was unfolding, which meant heavy restrictions on the manufacturing of non-essentials products. The relatively small number of Falcon products made, as a result, were sold solely through American Armed Forces “Service” outlets.
With peace, the wider world was able to access the Falcon range thanks to George Hunt, whose Diversey Machine Works, took over the name. Sales of Falcon pipes steadily increased thanks to Hunt’s efforts at managing the signature designs. By 1954, sales in America of Falcon products topped six million and two years later, after a long legal battle, the patent rights passed to Hunt.
The year before this, in 1955, Falcon pipes finally arrived in the UK. David Morris, chairman and managing director at A. Lewis LDT, caught sight of a Falcon pipe during a football match at Wembley and organised a test run in the UK, which was a great success and cleared the way for domestic production.
At first, licensing problems limited the sales of Falcon pipes in Britain. In 1962, Morris purchased the world distribution rights (excluding North America) and a Falcon factory in Shepherd’s Bush was soon producing 10,000 pipes a week. A year later, production moved to Brentford, to accommodate the high demand, and by the end of the decade this was servicing global appetite for Falcon pipes, including North America, the rights for which Morris finally secured.
A final innovation in 1977 allowed Falcon users to detach their mouthpieces and insert a filter. The Alco Universal Filter Pipe arrived two years later. This was a pipe designed for the first-time pipe smokers, featuring a new mouthpiece with a grooved bite. Falcon pipes are interesting to own, especially if your tobacco of choice is aromatic. They are slim, light and highly customisable. Once you have a frame, you can change the bowl, depending on the occasion. I’ve seen briar bowls lined with meerschaum, or 100%-meerschaum bowls for an extra-dry smoke. I personally own a couple of Falcon International pipes, which never disappoint and are a statement pieces that will always be noticed. Head over to our selection, and you will see for yourself.
Enjoy choosing a new pipe, whether your first or adding to a collection.
Until next time.