M9188.8.131.52 | Spittoon
1890-1910, 19th century or 20th century
Gift of Dr. Huguette Rémy
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Spittoon (4)
Keys to History
In the early 1900s, a serious illness struck city-dwellers in particular: tuberculosis. One of the symptoms of this bacterial disease that affects both children and adults is a painful cough accompanied by expectoration. Tuberculosis has gone by many names over the years, including phthisis, consumption and TB. A government booklet titled Principes d'hygiène [Principles of Hygiene], published in 1923, gives the following advice on protecting infants against tuberculosis and diseases in general: "Never kiss a child on the mouth. Never spit on the floor. Never give a child milk that has not been either pasteurized or boiled. Never stir up dust." Starting in 1953, efforts to prevent tuberculosis also included a vaccination campaign in Quebec schools, which helped to reduce the incidence of the disease.
With the high incidence of tuberculosis came an increase in the number of decorative spittoons in use, both utilitarian and pleasing to the eye.
Most TB patients were treated in sanatoria by means of rest, fresh air and controlled diet. Antibiotics and preventive vaccines would not be introduced until after the Second World War.
In 1923 the provincial public health department launched a far-reaching education, detection and treatment program to control the spread of tuberculosis in Quebec.
Canadian physician and microbiologist Armand Frappier (1904-91) was a recognized expert in the treatment of tuberculosis. He conducted research into the use of the BCG (bacille Calmette-Guérin) vaccine, developed in France in 1922, as a way of preventing the disease.