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Circular pewter spittoon, England, 1771-1850

Circular pewter spittoon, England, 1771-1850

Credits: Science Museum

Spittoons are containers made for spitting into, especially for those chewing tobacco. They were often placed in the home or in public places such as inns and taverns. This pewter spittoon has a removable lid so it can be emptied – a particularly unpleasant job. Spitting was a socially acceptable habit in the United Kingdom until the late 1880s when it was realised that it was connected to the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis. Since then it has been actively discouraged– at times by law – and remains a habit that is frowned upon.

Object number:

A9472

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Glossary:

Glossary: tuberculosis

An infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium first identified by Robert Koch in 1882. The disease usually affects the lungs first, and is accompanied by a chronic cough.

Glossary: spittoon

Large containers serving as places to spit. Associated with chewing tobacco.