Spittoons are canisters that act as receptacles for chewing tobacco. This is a bit of information that my wife wished she knew before picking it up out of the box of miscellaneous collectibles.
In late 19th century America they were quite common. Spittoons were typically found anywhere adult men were found. Adult men were the majority who chewed tobacco and spittoons could be found in places like banks, saloons, or courtrooms.
The most popular spittoons were made of brass and had a basic cylindrical shape and design. Others were more elaborate and creative. To no one’s surprise, the elaborate ones are more desirable to collectors.
Brass was the most popular material; however, fine porcelain, cut glass, and cast iron were also used. In most cases, the finer the material and craftsmanship, the finer the location in which it was used.
Our cast iron spittoon was cast into a turtle. Quite nice details, I might add. Its head, when stepped on, opened the shell and revealed a heavy, removable bowl that acted as a receptacle for the tobacco. As in many antiques with removable parts, the bowl often times goes missing either from transport or years of storage.
Our antique spittoon was fortunate enough to still have the original bowl; however, it did not manage to avoid a fracture on the underside frame. As can be expected, the brittle cast iron would break under the constant abuse of stepping on the head to open the shell. The spittoon had a weld repair on the frame but was done professionally and it was underneath, out of site.
I’m sure the original owners never thought their spittoon as a desirable collectible especially when considering what it was used for. One of the many reasons we love being around antiques and collectibles.
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