M975.64.2 | Spittoon

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1875-1890, 19th century
8.3 cm
Purchase from Mrs. Nettie M. Sharpe
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Spittoon (4)
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Keys to History

This china spittoon is a reminder that at one time spitting was acceptable, even in polite society. It was not known that this practice could spread bacteria. Tuberculosis was one of the chief causes of illness and death amongst adults in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Rich or poor, young or old, no one was immune to this infectious disease. The heroines of novels and operas, like Mimi in La Bohème, often succumbed to it. Tuberculosis had far more devastating effects among the working class, however, where people suffered from malnutrition, and crowded living conditions facilitated transmission. Bacteriological analyses revealed that milk could also be a significant source of contagion. Veterinarians estimated that more than 10% of dairy cattle in Quebec had bovine tuberculosis and therefore produced infected milk.

  • What

    Like many objects that decorated Quebec homes in the late 19th century, this spittoon was manufactured by a firm in the Upper Richelieu valley.

  • Where

    The towns of Iberville and St. Jean in the Upper Richelieu were known as the main centres for pottery and china in Quebec at the end of the 19th century.

  • When

    This spittoon was made between 1877 and 1882, at a time when patriotic motifs like the maple leaf and beaver were very popular.

  • Who

    The Glasgow Pottery, which made this spittoon, was established in Iberville in 1877. The company produced a wide variety of chinaware until it closed in 1882.