M15909 | Snuffbox

 
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Snuffbox
1800-1825, 19th century
Ceramic: enamel; metal: copper (gilt); Moulded, assembled
5 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
M15909
© McCord Museum
Description
Keywords:  Snuffbox (5)
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Description

Snuff, or powdered tobacco, which comes from the plant Nicotiana tabacum, was introduced into Europe during the 16th century, having first been used by Native peoples of South America. Snuff-using quickly became very fashionable in Europe, and for the next several centuries elaborate containers were produced for men to carry on their person. This snuffbox, shaped like a globe, is a fine example of English Battersea enamel. It belonged to John Samuel McCord (1801-1865), father of David Ross McCord, the Museum's founder.

Keys to History

Snuff, or powdered tobacco, was introduced to Europe during the 16th century, after Europeans learned about it from the Native peoples in North America. Snuff-using quickly became very fashionable in Europe, and for the next several centuries artisans produced elaborate snuff containers for men.

This snuffbox, shaped like a globe, belonged to John Samuel McCord (1801-1865), father of David Ross McCord (1844-1930), founder of the McCord Museum. David Ross McCord incorporated his father's snuffbox into his collection of objects of historical importance. He considered artifacts to be subjects for research and integral to the finding of scientific truth. Well-instructed by his father on collecting and maintaining a collection, McCord kept meticulous documentation in order to establish the provenance of his artifacts.

Snuff-taking was considered to be a sign of a gentlemen in the mid-19th century. The sophisticated art of taking snuff involved inhaling a pinch of this special tobacco up the nose, then sneezing discreetly.

  • What

    This snuff box is an example of English Battersea enamel. White enamel is applied to the two copper hemispheres, and a transfer print of a map of the world is over-painted on it.

  • Where

    This snuffbox is applied with Battersea enamel, named after the factory in York House, Battersea, London, where such enamel was thought to have been originally produced.

  • When

    In the 19th century it was considered proper etiquette for a man to carry his snuff in a small, ornamented box such as this one.

  • Who

    John Samuel McCord (1801-1865), a Montreal lawyer and judge, was the father of David Ross McCord (1844-1930), founder of the McCord Museum of Canadian History.