The origin of the brand Merchant Service is obscure. The only information readily available recalls that iconic entertainer Bing Crosby, who was playing golf at the famed St. Andrew's course in Scotland, in 1938, noticed another golfer smoking a billiard with a long, pencil shank. Intrigued by the simple yet handsome design, Crosby approached the fellow golfer and inquired about the pipe, interested because it looked as though he could smoke that shape without it interfering with his swing while keeping the smoke out his eyes.
Bing learned that the owner of the pipe was Herbert Merchant, the brand name was Merchant Service, and Merchant was the manufacturer. The pipe was a standard quality factory production pipe and very reasonably priced. Crosby not only acquired these pipes for himself, but over the years ordered many of them to give as gifts to his pipe smoking associates in Hollywood.
We don't know if they were commercially distributed in the States, but we believe that by the early 70's or so, production stopped. We have reason to believe that Merchant had these pipes produced by a British company called Headley and French, and possibly others. The older Merchant Service pipes are quite rare today and command very high prices when they can be found. Evidently, there isn't much more information out there.
The current owners of the brand are devotees of the quiet, understated British shapes, and decided to bring back that model which is generally known to pipe enthusiasts as the "Bing". The two Bing shapes produced by Merchant Service pipes today truly capture the essence of the original, but we believe with more attention to fit, finish and airflow. Using nomenclature that was seen on original Merchant Service pipes, the Standard closely approximates the shape smoked by Crosby and the Special is a larger version produced for smokers who prefer the Bing shape but with more bowl capacity.
In addition to the Bing variations, Merchant service has branched out to include other interesting and rarely reproduced shapes. Of particular note is their large, bent billiard called the "1935." This bold and sinewy pipe hearkens back to the swan shanked shapes from English and French manufacturers of the 1910's through the 1940s, made famous by Dunhill's rare and ever popular "LC" shape.
Blue Room Briars is excited to be working with Merchant Service to bring you these iconic shapes. Whether you are already a fan of the Bing, or curious about the merits of the design, we know the combination of fit, finish, style, nostalgia, and value will make the Merchant Service pipe a great fit in your collection.