Men and women in colonial Virginia enjoyed taking snuff, a preparation of finely ground tobacco often enhanced with aromatic oils, herbs, or spices. Household accounts indicate Martha Washington favored "best Violette Strasberg," a scented snuff popular among women. She probably stored her snuff in this exquisite gold snuffbox with agate lid. Gold snuffboxes were a rare luxury item in 18th-century America. Almost all were imported from England, including this box. There, specially-trained gold chasers expertly hammered lively rococo designs into its flat sides, while an engraver deftly executed the Custis coat of arms on its underside.


Rectangular gold box with polished agate lid mounted in gold. Lid is hinged along one side and has a small crenulated lip or finger hold on the other. Chased and embossed or repoussé designs on the box's four sides feature asymmetric C-scrolls, shells, and flowers on a stippled ground. Three sides have undulating top edges. The box's underside is engraved with the Custis coat of arms inside a lozenge framed by foliate designs of asymmetric C-scrolls, shells and flowers. Clouded agate has indistinct bands ranging in color from cream to warm brown.

Accompanied by note (in object file) on torn and folded wove paper inscribed in script (in ink): "Gold snuff box/ given to me/ by my beloved/ Grandmother/ EPC_".


c. 1755



Gold, agate


Overall: 3/4 in. x 1 15/16 in. x 1 1/2 in. (1.91 cm x 4.92 cm x 3.81 cm)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds donated by Christopher Sargent, G. Paull Sargent, John Sargent, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Gannett, Courtney Hagner, and Mrs. Walter Benson in honor of Mrs. Randall Hagner, Jr, 1981
Conservation courtesy of Mrs. Omer L. Hirst

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
Buy Tickets What to Do Calendar Shop Restaurant Support Membership
Estate Hours

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

iconDirections & Parking
buy tickets online & save