a snuff coloured beaver

Not long after tobacco was introduced to Europe, snuff taking was developed.

making snuff

A huge snuff user was the Emperor of France, Napoleon I (1769-1821). It was estimated that he would use three kilograms of tobacco monthly. He did it often during the day, as in his time, there was not yet a way of consuming enough tobacco to last a whole day. It was a year before his death that the snuff double barrel pistol was invented . The amunition chamber was filled with tobacco and the barrels were placed under the nose, the trigger was pulled, and the shot delivered enough tobacco to the nose to last for an entire day.

snuff bottles

Not everyone was taken with the pistol up the nose method and different social classes used different ways to inhale.

The French historian Henri d’Allemagne aptly describes this:

“To take snuff, people of noble birth were meant to tap on the lid, take a few grains with the tip of their slender fingers, to make a slight gesture and to inhale the powder with ecstasy.

On the contrary, the countryman digged his thumb and forefinger inside the snuff box in order to take out a large pinch of tobacco, putting it on the back of his left hand and snorted it in a noisy way while rubbing his nose.”

Record of a Sneeze

In 1904 Margaret Thompson demonstrated her love for snuff by including these instructions in her will

“I Margaret Thompson being of sound mind etc. do desire that when my soul is departed from this wicked world, my body and effects may be disposed of in the manner following: I desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may have unwashed at the time of my decease, after they have been got together by my old and trusty servant Sara Stewart, to be put by her, and by her alone, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be made large enough for the purpose, together with such quantity of the best Scotch snuff as will cover my Deceased body.

But I strictly charge that no man may be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and as it is necessary to carry me to my burial which I order in the following manner: Six men to be my bearers who are known to be the greatest snuff takers in the parish of St. James, Westminster.

Instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff coloured beaver hat which I desire to be bought for the purpose and given to them. Six maidens of my old acquaintance to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff to take as their refreshment as they go along.

modifications of the beaver hat

I desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stewart, to walk before the corpse and to distribute every twenty yards a large handful of Scotch snuff to the ground and upon the crowd who may possibly follow me to my burial place on which condition I bequeathe her £20. And I also desire that at least two bushels of said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle Street.”

No snuff was required at King George V’s funeral cortege

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 8:21 am  Comments (34)  
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