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Snuff, a finely ground tobacco often laced with herbs, aromatic oils, or spices, was enjoyed by many Virginians in the eighteenth century. The small boxes in which individual supplied of snuff were stored were often given as gifts as a token of friendship and appreciation. Family lore suggests that George Washington gave this snuff box to Reverend Mason Locke Weems. Weems is best known as the author of the first Washington biography and the famous anecdote about Washington cutting down the cherry tree.


A silver fitted shell snuff box. The well of the box is made from the outermost layer of a conch shell. The shell is held to a silver face by numerous teeth cut from the outer edges of the face and bent inwards to hold the shell in place by tension. Extending from the face is an oval lip upon which rests an oval hinged lid; the top is decorated with an engraved outline, cross hatched lines on the hinge knuckles, and a fanned tip.


c. 1787-1799



Conch shell, silver, solder


Overall: 3 1/4 in. x 1 11/16 in. x 1 1/16 in. (8.26 cm x 4.29 cm x 2.69 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mary Ligon Richards, 1953

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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