Enjoyed as a luxury among many eighteenth century Virginians including the Washingtons, snuff was often carried in small containers such as this one. Its elegant design belies the indecorous ritual of snorting the powder through the nose and sneezing to clear it out. Martha had a penchant for snuff, much to the chagrin of some of her relatives. In 1799 her grandson-in-law Tomas Law wrote: "I have to thank Mrs. Washington & to be angry at her sending snuff to Eliza-such an attention tho' it envinces her kindness yet it encourages a bad habit."


Hinged ellipsoid horn and gilt copper alloy snuff box. The ellipsoid body is made from pressed horn shaped into a shallow walled tray. The two trays are joined to form a box via a gild copper alloy walled lip and hinge that fits on the interior of the horn body; secured by eight metal pins. The five knuckled hinge, also gilded, is fixed by a copper alloy pin. Piqué decoration in gold and silver of a neoclassically inspired urn and foliage adorns the top of the lid.





Horn, gold, silver, copper alloy


Overall: 7/16 in. x 2 15/16 in. x 15/16 in. (1.09 cm x 7.44 cm x 2.36 cm)

Credit Line

Purchase, 1932
Conservation courtesy of the Life Guard Society of Historic Mount Vernon

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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