Snuff, pulverized tobacco often laced with herbs, aromatic oils, or spices, was enjoyed as a luxury among many Virginians including the Washingtons and was often carried in small containers. This particular example is smaller than most, likely because it is made of gold, a rare commodity in Federal America. Yet, even with limited resources, its maker produced an elegant box. Family history suggests that it was owned by Martha Washington, whose penchant for snuff and stylish accessories was well known.


Gold cylindrical snuff box with independent lid and body. The box is made from a cylindrical seamed body attached to a disk of rolled gold with an interior application of solder (likely tin based with some silver) plated with a thin layer of gold. The friction-fit lid is similarly formed but is ornamented with horizontal reeding on its seamed walls. The interior of the base features the maker mark: "IL".

Associated with the snuff box is a small circular pouch made from two disks of spilt brown leather. The disks have a finished edge, sewn with a buttonhole stitch. They are joined at their outer edges with a running stitch in red thread, their selvedges visible on the interior, leaving an opening to receive the box.


c. 1775-1802


  • IL - Maker



Gold, solder


Overall (box): 1/2 in. x 1 9/16 in. x 1 9/16 in. (1.27 cm x 3.96 cm x 3.96 cm)
Overall (pouch): 2 1/4 in. x 1 1/8 in. x 5/16 in. (5.72 cm x 2.87 cm x 0.79 cm)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds donated by Mr. and Mrs. James C. Meade, 2008


Maker's mark stamped in the center of the interior of the lid: "IL".

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.
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