This is an original cast iron spittoon shaped like a turtle that opens when its head is pressed. These turtles were used apparently in high-class hotels, saloons and brothels from the 17th – 19th century. This wonderful piece measures 14″ long from tip of the tail to the nose, and at the widest point is 10 3/4″ wide. A special feature of this particular turtle spittoon is that it is marked with embossed letters and it reads, “Royal Products – Chicago”.
Chewing is one of the oldest ways of consuming tobacco leaves. Native Americans in both North and South America chewed the leaves of the plant, frequently mixed with the mineral lime.
Chewing tobacco is made from leaves of an ordinary or inferior quality by pressing, twisting, or cutting. Liquorice, syrups, and various flavoring matters are used, and sometimes leaves of other plants are mixed in.
In the late 19th century, during the peak in popularity of chewing tobacco in the Western United States, a device known as the spittoon was a ubiquitous feature throughout places both private and public. So common is the custom of chewing tobacco in the United States that the spittoon is a piece of furniture scarcely less requisite than the chair or the water bucket. No house is complete without it. The habit of chewing tobacco was so common that cuspidors and spittoons were found even in the nation’s ritziest hotels, like the Plaza in New York or Chicago’s Palmer House. The purpose of the spittoon was to provide a receptacle for excess juices and spittle accumulated from the oral use of tobacco.
In almost every saloon, one could depend on seeing the long paneled bar, usually made of oak or mahogany. Encircling the base of the bar would be a gleaming brass foot rail with a row of spittoons spaced along the floor next to the bar.
These containers came in all sizes and shapes and where made of many different materials. The materials used to make these early containers ranged from brass to cast iron to nickel and porcelain.
After World War I, smoking cigarettes became very popular in America and the habit of chewing tobacco and dipping snuff declined. Today, baseball players still chew tobacco, as well as others, such as hunters and fishermen, who spend a lot of time outside. To this very day spittoons are still present on the floor of the U.S. Senate, though they are no longer used by members.
by Langston Hughes
Clean the spittoons, boy.
Clean the spittoons.
The steam in hotel kitchens,
And the smoke in hotel lobbies,
And the slime in hotel spittoons:
Part of my life.
Two dollars a day.
Buy shoes for the baby.
House rent to pay.
Gin on Saturday,
Church on Sunday.
Babies and gin and church
And women and Sunday
All mixed with dimes and
Dollars and clean spittoons
And house rent to pay.
A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord.
Bright polished brass like the cymbals
Of King David’s dancers,
Like the wine cups of Solomon.
A clean spittoon on the altar of the Lord.
A clean bright spittoon all newly polished-
At least I can offer that.
James Mercer Langston Hughes, (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the new literary art form jazz poetry.
During his life, Hughes devoted his poetic genius to the realization of that dream deferred, the dream of racial equality. It was a dream that pervades most of his writings -his poetry, plays, short stories, novels, autobiographies, children’s books, newspaper columns, black histories, edited anthologies, and other works.
Hughes knew well the language, literature, and customs of Spain and Spanish America. He translated much Hispanic literature, including the poetry of Gabriela Mistral, Federico García Lorca, and Nicolás Guillén, into English. These volumes reflect his pioneering efforts over thirty years to bring Spanish writers to the attention of North American readers.