The seed that grew into UPCA was planted when three American pipe smokers were invited by Alain Letulier, President of the Pipe Club of France, to attend the European Pipe-Smoking Championship in Dijon on October 7 & 8, 2000, organized by the International Committee of Pipe Clubs (ICPC or, in French, CIPC). It was an enjoyable eye-opening experience for Bob Page and Steve Gatschet of the Christopher Morley Pipe Club of Philadelphia and Vernon Vig of the New York Pipe Club, who saw first-hand how much fun the international event was and came home with the idea that the U.S. should join the ICPC. (See Innocents Abroad in the Summer 2001 issue of Pipes and Tobaccos.)
As Ben Rapaport explained in the Fall 2001 issue of P&T (See Attempt to-Smoking Team Create U.S. Pipe Launched ), American pipe smokers could not participate in international competitions until the United States formed a national federation of pipe clubs that qualified for membership in ICPC. With this in mind, the Philadelphia Club organized a first slow smoking contest in this country using ICPC rules in April 2002. Mr. Letulier, Barney Suzuki, President of the Pipe Club of Japan, Tony Pasquel of the Barcelona Club and other international representatives participated in the contest (which Tony easily won) and also made a detailed presentation on ICPC.
The assembled group from a number of American clubs also considered the Philadelphia Declaration drafted by Vernon Vig that concluded that, since tobacco pipes had first been used on this side of the Atlantic, it was only natural that the U.S. should take part in the ICPC. Representatives of several clubs who were present signed a statement of intention to form a national federation that would comply with ICPC rules and regulations.
In January 2003 UPCA was formed as an unincorporated not-for-profit social organization. The Charter stated that UPCA inter alia, to foster good fellowship among American pipesmokers, to promote smoking contests and related events, to encourage the formation of pipe clubs, to serve as a liason between them and to apply for membership in ICPC. About a dozen clubs from around the country signed on. The By-Laws set out the structure and operating rules for the organization. UPCA then submitted its application for membership in ICPC which was accepted in May 2003. Vernon Vig was elected Vice-President of ICPC with responsibility for the Americas.
A next key event in the short life of UPCA occurred when Frank Burla and the Chicago Club invited UPCA to organize the first U.S. national championship smoking competition at its Chicagoland International Pipe & Tobacciana Show on May 18, 2003. This gave UPCA added credibility and provided the support it needed to move forward.
The U.S. Championship has been held each year since and has become a fixture of the Chicago Show. UPCA has also sponsored regional championships at Richmond, Seattle, Kansas City and Hudson Valley and has plans for at least four regionals each year.