Gold, agate, pearls, enamel
Gift of Howard F. Stirn 2009.61
This small, elaborate box held snuff, a form of powdered tobacco that was inhaled in tiny amounts.
Luxurious personal objects, like this snuff box, were an essential part of a privileged wardrobe during the 1700s and early 1800s, emphasizing their owner’s refinement and wealth. Their glittering surfaces, however, disguised a system based on the labor and suffering of enslaved or indentured people, whether in gold or stone mines, tobacco farms, or shops where these goods were made. Like cotton, sugar, and tea, snuff came from British colonies in America, India, and the Caribbean, where enslaved people were exploited to grow these crops under extremely harsh conditions. Slavery was not abolished in much of the British Empire until 1833. Britain and other European nations continued to pursue colonialism with a sense of superiority that found its way into all aspects of life, including decorative objects glorifying their conquests.
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