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History Of Snuff Tobacco

Snuff in the 15th Century

  • 1492: Christopher Columbus discovers America
  • 1497: First report of tobacco and use of Snuff by Taino-Indians on Haiti

During Christopher Columbus second voyage to America, he stumbled upon native Taino-Indians sniffing tobacco through large Y-shaped tubes.

The Italian monk Romano Pane is believed to have introduced this curious art to Europe!

Snuff in the 16th Century

  • 1548: Luis de Goes brings tobacco to Portugal, a relative of his, Damiano de Goes introduces them to them to a French Doctor called Jean Nicot
  • 1561: Doctor Jean Nicot sends tobacco leafs to the French Queen Catherine de' Medici
  • 1561: Catherine de' Medici grinds tobacco leafs and snuffs it, first production and use of Snuff in Europe

The origin of snuff tobacco can be traced back to to Catherine de MEDICIS (1519-1589) who was Queen of France during the reign of henri II. Her son François II suffered from terrible migraines that no Doctor had been able to remedy.

In 1561, the French ambassador in Lisbon (Doctor Jean Nicot), discovered the healing properties of tobacco and sent some tobacco leaf to Catherine de' Medici, who ground it into a powder. This was given to Francois to soothe his migraines and proved to be a remarkable success. Needless to say this was introduced to the whole Court where the first culture of snuffing is thought to have originated. Its use gradually increased across France and as a tribute to Jean NICOT, botanists named this tabacco plant : "Nicotiana tabacum".

It didn't take long for this medicinal remedy to take off as a pleasurable habit and develop into a fashion amongst royalty and aristocracy throughout the world.

Snuff in the 17th Century

  • 1620: Europe's first Snuff factory established in Sevilla, Spain
  • 1624: Pope Urban VIII threatens excommunication for snuff users; sneezing is thought too close to sexual ecstasy
  • 1637: France: King Louis XIII enjoys snuff and repeals restricions on its use
  • 1642: Pope Urban VIII issued a formal bull against tobacco,
  • 1643: Russia: Tsar Michael of Russia has declared smoking a deadly sin.
  • 1644: Snuff introduced in China
  • 1660: England: Charles II introduces Snuff in England
  • 1675: Snuff arrives in Germany (probably with the huguenots)
  • 1675: Monopoly on all tobacco and Snuff given to an Italian called Bignami by Bavarian elector
  • 1690: Bull against use of Snuff in St. Peter's Basilica
  • End of 16th Century: Snuff reaches China and the snuff bottle is invented

It was during the 17th century that snuff taking became more popular in Europe although this practice had a number of strong opponents often imposing severe penalties for snuff takers. Originally snuff shops were indicated by a wooden carved Scots Highlander in full kilt - similar to the Cigar Store Indian signs of North America
Snuff became increasingly popular, particularly amongst the aristocracy after Charles II introduced it in 1660 after returning from exile in Paris, where he had picked up the habit common in the French Court.
Snuff tobacco manufacturing was seen as early as 1670 in Paris largely due to Louis XIII of France who was said to enjoy a pinch of snuff or two. He did, however, forbid the use of snuff except when prescribed by physicians as a remedy against the common cold and for relief from catarrh. Manufacturing had also spread to the of Morlaix and Dieppe by 1680.

In Russia, however, things were not quite so liberal! In the middle of the 17th century Tsar Michael I of Russia ordered that snuff takers should have their noses cut off, whilst smokers should have their lips slit, be whipped for the first offence and executed for the second. Around the same time Pope Urban XIII ordered that anyone found guilty of taking snuff in church should be excommunicated. This makes the smoking ban coming in July look rather tame in comparison!!!
After having been banned, as in numerous other European countries, tobacco was re-introduced in China around 1644 under the Qing dynasty

Towards the end of the 16th century snuff arrived in China, introduced by Portugese tradesmen and Jésuit missionaries. It was here that the snuff bottle was invented due to the increased humidity and moist climate that rendered the snuff box impractical. Snuff bottles were originally used for storing herbs in Chinese medicine, but their use for storing snuff soon became apparent.

The Chinese believed that snuff possessed medicinal qualities and that its use helped to dispel colds, cure migraine, sinus and tooth pain, relieve throat trouble, cause sweats and counter asthma and constipation.

Snuff in the 18th Century

  • 1702: George Rooke and Admiral Hobson capture two Spanish ships laden with Snuff on board
  • 1720: Fribourg & Treyer Snuff shop opens in London
  • 1724: Pope Benedict XIII repeals papal bulls against clerical smoking.
  • 1730: First American tobacco factories begun in Virginia - small snuff mills
  • 1733: First German Snuff Factory, Gebrüder Bernard, established in Offenbach on the Main
  • 1741: Frederick II bans import of Snuffboxes to foster domestic production
  • 1761: Physician John Hill publishes "Cautions against the Immoderate Use of Snuff
  • 1791: London physician John Hill reports cases in which use of snuff caused nasal cancers
  • 1794 First tax on tobacco implemented in the US.

It was during the 18th century when snuff taking rose in popularity and came into widespread use throughout the world and throughout the social classes. The sound of sneezing was common in many a European snuff parlor and snuff boxes became the latest fashion accessory. This century also saw the first warnings about the use of tobacco including a warning from the English doctor John Hill who highlighted the risk that overusing snuff tobacco could lead to nasal cancers.

During the 18th century snuff was sold in private shops but also from door to door by official grinders who would grind your favorite tobacco into snuff ready to be sniffed. This art was soon to die out with the introduction of snuffboxes. Snuffboxes in the 18th century were highly decorated, often made of precious metals and emblazened with jewels. This latest fashion accessory was often changed every day to match the costumes of their owners and would be exchanged as gifts offered as diplomatic or military presents.

Snuff became popularized in the UK largely due to a battle that took place near to Vigo in Spain in 1702. A French squadron and a fleet of Spanish galleons were harbored at Vigo and a detachment of fifteen English and ten Dutch men-of-war were ordered to enter and attempt the destruction of the enemy's fleet. Vice-Admiral Hopson in the Torbay led the attack but when he got close to the Spanish fleet the weather became calm and left the Torbay in a dangerous position. His rigging was set on fire by a French fire ship and would have been consumed with fire, but the fire ship that had been hastily prepared, was actually a merchant ship full with snuff, which extinguished a lot of the fire!!! Hobson received a knighthood for his part in this battle and the bounty of the Spanish galleons included a vast amount of snuff. This was sold in London, where it was referred to as Spanish, which soon became abbreviated to and gives its name to the best known stuff to this day.

Governments also saw an advantage with the increased popularity of snuff and in the US in 1794, the first federal tax on tobacco was issued, of 8 cents, on Snuff alone. This was equivalent to about 60% of the snuff's selling price
The 18th century also saw a number of high profile characters taking to snuff. George III's wife was known as "Snuffy Charlotte", Frederick the Great of Prussia was a big fan, Pope, Benedict XIII took up the habit and the biggest snuffer of them all was in fact Napolean who was said to use up to 7 pounds of snuff a month.

Snuff in the 19th Century

  • 1822: Jacob Frederik Ljunglof begins manufacturing snus.

During the 19th century snuff was still popular amongst many parts of society in Europe, although Victorian England became less tolerant of the habit that was started to be frowned upon in some quarters. Snuff did, however, remain popular amongst professions where it wasn't possible to smoke or to be seen to smoke such as Doctors, lawyers, judges, the clergy and of course miners.

During the nineteenth century, snuff was used so widely in the Chinese population that literally millions of snuff bottles existed.

Snuff in the 20th Century

  • 1902: Today's largest German Snuff factory, PÃschl, established in Landshut

The 20th century saw the end of widespread use of snuff. It can be said that the rise in fame of the common cigarette is largely responsible for the death of the snuff taking habit. Snuff did still remain popular in certain communities such as Ireland, Western Scotland, Iceland and Southern Germany.

After 1949, the communist revolution in China outlawed snuff as a decadent habit of the Qing dynasty.

Snuff in the 21st Century

  • July 2007 - Smoking Ban in the UK

With smoking being outlawed from public places in more and more countries around the world, the 21st century could see the return of this out of favour habit.

The health affects of snuff are seen to be significantly less than smoking cigarettes and more and more people are turning to snuff to get their nicotine fixes.