by Delbert Trew
the history of snuff tobacco
the old days, there was one sin that no preacher ever mentioned, that
of dipping snuff. If snuff was mentioned the elders would say, "He
just quit preaching and went to meddling."
I won't say my grandparents dipped a lot of snuff but I will admit
that snuff glasses were the only drinking glasses I ever saw in their
I remember making wheels for my little wooden-block cars and trucks
using snuff container lids. I was careful to punch the center hole
right in the "R" of the American Tobacco Company logo or the
wheel would wobble off-center.
into snuff history
into snuff history we find the tobacco goes back to the 1500s in Wales
where coal miners could not strike a spark or flame because of explosive
gases and dust in the mines. This prevented smoking so they ground
tobacco fine for snuffing up their nose and coarse for dipping. The
nose application kept the nose membranes wet cutting down on dust
inhaled and odors.
Trademarks for commercial snuff date back to 1870 for Garrett's
Snuff made in Philadelphia. Other early-day popular brands were
Tops, Rooster, Railroad Mills and Square Snuff all made in
Ordinarily, snuff contains only caffeine as a pick-me-up, but at one
time some snuff contained opium. All cultures use snuff and Chinese
snuff bottles are highly collectible bringing big bucks for rare specimens.
Dipping snuff must have brought some degree of comfort thus coining
the term, "I'm right up to snuff today," meaning all is well. A controversial
film named "Snuff" opened in 1975 in which actresses were actually
murdered during filming, or so went the propaganda. Of course this
was not true but did swell the box office attendance.
Today, snuff brands include Skoal, Copenhagen and Kodiak with
advertised ingredients of clove oil, glycerin, spearmint, menthol
and camphor. Different grades and blends are printed on the little
round cans carried in the back pockets of jeans.
Most people don't know about the raised dots on the bottom of Garrett's
Snuff bottles. It was a mystery until explained by a man who as a
little boy, was sent to the grocery store for snuff. If he brought
home a bottle with less than four dots he had to go back to the store.
The number of dots signify the strength of the product. Four dots
is the strongest.
Grandma Trew never knew she broke me from dipping snuff when I was
a little boy. I snuck her little can of snuff out of her apron pocket
and tried it. The ordeal left me blinded and sick for hours and I
have never tried it since.
An old cowboy friend who dips snuff and whose wife does not dip, explained
how they compromised on his bad habit. He stated, "We made a deal
when we married. Any time I got amorous or wanted a kiss I had to
go brush my teeth first. This worked well when we were young. Now,
when I get the urge, by the time I brush my teeth I usually forget
my original plan of action."
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
- January 31, 2005 column
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