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Multicoloured spittoon, Europe, 1701-1900

Spitting was a common and socially acceptable habit in Europe until the 1800s. Pottery spittoons like this one were used as containers for spit and could be found both inside and outside of public places, such as inns and pubic houses. From the late 1800s, spitting was discouraged as it was realised that the habit could spread potentially fatal diseases. These included tuberculosis, or consumption as it was then known, one of the biggest killers of the period. The hole in the side was used to empty the spittoon – not a pleasant task.

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Glossary: spittoon

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