Thursday, February 25, 2016

What was snuff?

History Extra

Poster from c1880 showing a barister during the stages of taking snuff. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It was introduced into Spain following Columbus’s second voyage to the New World in the 1490s.
The supposed medicinal properties of tobacco saw it spread around Europe, rising in fortune in the 1560s when the French Queen Catherine de’ Medici declared it a wonder for headaches (it had been recommended by John Nicot, who later gave his name to nicotine).
The fashion spread throughout Europe, and by the 1700s snuff was considered a luxury product and mark of refinement. Sneezes were common after a pinch of snuff but they would be mocked as the sign of a beginner.
Though the stereotypical image of the snuff-taker is the Georgian dandy, it was also popular among women – George III’s queen was so fond of it that she earned the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’.
As with most fashions it fell from favour, as new stimulants appeared.
Answered by one of our Q&A experts, Emily Brand


  1. I remember my husband's grandmother taking snuff - though I didn't realise it at the time! It was a very well-kept secret. She was in her nineties when she died so it can't have done her any harm. :)

  2. Thanks for replying. Interesting about your grandmother. Appreciate you taking the time to post this.