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Snuffbox

Dark wooden box in the shape of a narrow shoe with heel and long toe, facing right. Sliding lid on top, half open to reveal void. Pattern on toe and to mimic laces. To magnify click now
What was it used for? Container for snuff
Where is it from? England
When was it made? Early 19th century
How was it made? From sections of wood
What was it made from? Wood
Size: H 57mm, L 146mm
Museum number: G.3577

This small wooden box, in the shape of a woman's shoe, was used as a container for snuff. The latter was a finely powdered tobacco. People used to sniff it through their noses, for both pleasure and health reasons. In the 19th century, a box like this was often given as a good luck present on particular occasions.

Snuff was placed inside the hollow space at the top of the shoe. It was kept in place with a sliding lid. Snuffboxes came in a variety of shapes and materials but wooden boxes were often shoe-shaped. People sometimes carried snuffboxes in their pockets. However, due to the size and shape of this particular snuffbox, we think the owner put it on a mantelpiece or table. Decorative snuffboxes were often passed round the table on social occasions.

Both men and women used snuff in the 19th century. On the other hand, people thought smoking tobacco was an unfeminine activity. People 'took' snuff by sniffing it from the back of their hand or pinching it between their fingers. They enjoyed taking snuff for the taste and smell as well as the hit of nicotine. They also thought it was good for their health and could keep colds away! Addiction to snuff was often called 'nose hunger'.

Shoe-shaped snuffboxes were a popular design. This particular choice of design might indicate that the owner of the item was a woman. Couples also often received them at their wedding as a good luck token, as they set out on their 'journey' of marriage.