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Side and top view of spittoon. On display at the National Museum of Cambodia. Spittoon (top and side).jpg
Side and top view of spittoon. On display at the National Museum of Cambodia.
A Chicago courtroom, mid 1910s. A spittoon is seen on the floor at bottom right. ChicagoCourtroomSpitoon retouched.jpg
A Chicago courtroom, mid 1910s. A spittoon is seen on the floor at bottom right.
Decorated Surinam porcelain spittoon. Note this type of spittoon has a spout hole on the side for emptying. Tropenmuseum Royal Tropical Institute Objectnumber 3430-3 Porseleinen spuwbak.jpg
Decorated Surinam porcelain spittoon. Note this type of spittoon has a spout hole on the side for emptying.

A spittoon (or spitoon) is a receptacle made for spitting into, especially by users of chewing and dipping tobacco. It is also known as a cuspidor (which is the Portuguese word for "spitter" or "spittoon", from the verb "cuspir" meaning "to spit"), although that term is also used for a type of spitting sink used in dentistry.


United States in the 19th century

Early 20th century toleware spittoon Spittoon.jpg
Early 20th century toleware spittoon
Janitors at the United States Capitol with stack of spittoons, 1914 CapitolSpittoonCleaning1914.jpg
Janitors at the United States Capitol with stack of spittoons, 1914

In the late 19th century, spittoons became a common feature of pubs, brothels, saloons, hotels, stores, banks, railway carriages, and other places where people (especially adult men) gathered, notably in the United States, but allegedly also in Australia.

Brass was the most common material for spitoons. Other materials used for mass production of spittoons ranged from basic functional iron to elaborately crafted cut glass and fine porcelain. At higher class places like expensive hotels, spittoons could be elaborately decorated.

Spittoons are flat-bottomed, often weighted to minimize tipping over, and often with an interior "lip" to make spilling less likely if they tip. Some have lids, but this is rare. Some have holes, sometimes with a plug, to aid in draining and cleaning.

Use of spittoons was considered an advance of public manners and health, intended to replace previously common spitting on floors, streets, and sidewalks. Many places passed laws against spitting in public other than into a spittoon.

Boy Scout troops organized campaigns to paint "Do not Spit on the Sidewalk" notices on city sidewalks. In 1909 in Cincinnati, Ohio, scout troops together with members of the Anti-Tuberculosis League painted thousands of such messages in a single night. [1] A mass-produced sign seen in saloons read:

If you expect to rate as a gentleman Do not expectorate on the floor

Spittoons were also useful for people suffering from tuberculosis who would cough up phlegm. Public spittoons would sometimes contain a solution of an antiseptic such as carbolic acid with the aim of limiting transmission of disease. With the start of the 20th century medical doctors urged tuberculosis sufferers to use personal pocket spittoons instead of public ones; these were jars with tight lids which people could carry with them to spit into. Similar devices are still used by some with tuberculosis.

After the 1918 flu epidemic, both hygiene and etiquette advocates began to disparage public use of the spittoon, and use began to decline. Chewing gum replaced tobacco as the favorite chew of the younger generation. Cigarettes were considered more hygienic than spit-inducing chewing tobacco. While it was still not unusual to see spittoons in some public places in parts of the US as late as the 1930s, vast numbers of old brass spittoons met their ends in the scrap drives [2] [3] of World War II.

A large public collection of spittoons can be found at Duke Homestead State Historic Site, [4] Durham, North Carolina. In 2008, the site's tobacco museum added 282 spittoons—claimed to be the world's largest collection—to its holdings of over 100. [5]

In Chinese society

Spittoon, 14th Century. The Walters Art Museum. Chinese - Spittoon - Walters 491585 - Profile.jpg
Spittoon, 14th Century. The Walters Art Museum.

Spittoons have been used in China for a long time; the earliest porcelain spittoon was found in a tomb dating to Emperor Xianzong's reign during the Tang dynasty. [7] During the Qing Dynasty and later in Japan, a golden spittoon would be among the numerous objects displayed in front of the Emperor at major ceremonies. [8]

After China became a Communist state in 1949, the spittoon became much more prevalent: spittoons were placed at every conceivable public place, and were commonplace in homes as well. The mass introduction of spittoons was no doubt a public hygiene initiative, motivated by a desire to curtail the still common Chinese practice of spitting onto the floor. The spittoons used in China were typically made of white porcelain, sometimes with traditional Chinese art painted onto the exterior.

Spittoons were used even during official functions by the political leaders of China; especially when Deng Xiaoping had a frequent use of spittoon with other political leaders. [9] This eventually became a source of ridicule by the mass media outside China. As a response, the spittoons have largely been withdrawn from public spaces in China since the late 1980s.

In May 2015, the Spittoon Collective came into being, probably the largest English-language literary collectives in China. They publish the Spittoon [10] literary magazine.

Latter-day models

Spitting into a spittoon at a wine tasting. Crachoir by JM Rosier.JPG
Spitting into a spittoon at a wine tasting.

While spittoons are still made, they are no longer commonly found in public places (except as decorations). There are a few companies that currently make spittoons for users of smokeless tobacco, such as MudJug, Spitbud, and Mud Bud by DC Crafts Nation. Professions in which spittoons are commonly used are coffee, tea and wine tasting. A taster will sip samples and then spit them into a spittoon in order to avoid intoxication. [11] Makeshift spittoons, such as large mixing bowls, can be used by people with a cold who are frequently coughing up phlegm.

Spittoons remained in use in the Southern United States in public buildings at least until the 1970s. For example, the Georgia Capitol Museum in the Georgia Capitol Building in Atlanta, Georgia, has on display a spittoon of the type that was used in legislative sessions into the 1970s.

The United States Senate also has spittoons spread across the Senate Chamber as they are considered a Senate tradition. [12] Similarly, each Justice on the United States Supreme Court has a spittoon next to his or her seat in the courtroom. However, the spittoons function merely as wastebaskets; the last time the spittoon was used for its customary purpose was in the early 20th century. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Tobacco Agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in genus nicotiana

Tobacco is the common name of several plants in the Nicotiana genus and the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, and the general term for any product prepared from the cured leaves of the tobacco plant. More than 70 species of tobacco are known, but the chief commercial crop is N. tabacum. The more potent variant N. rustica is also used around the world.

Areca nut The seed of the areca palm

The areca nut is the seed of the areca palm, which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Southeast and South Asia, and parts of east Africa. It is commonly referred to as betel nut, not to be confused with betel leaves that are often used to wrap it. The term areca originated from the Malayalam word aḍaykka (അടയ്ക്ക) and dates from the 16th century, when Dutch and Portuguese sailors took the nut from Kerala to Europe. Consumption has many harmful effects on health and is carcinogenic to humans. Various compounds present in the nut, including arecoline, contribute to histologic changes in the oral mucosa. It is known to be a major risk factor for cancers of the mouth and esophagus. As with chewing tobacco, its use is discouraged by preventive efforts. Consumption by hundreds of millions of people worldwide – mainly with southern and eastern Asian origins – has been described as a "neglected global public health emergency".

Cough Sudden expulsion of air from the lungs as a reflex to clear irritants

A cough is a sudden expulsion of air through the large breathing passages that can help clear them of fluids, irritants, foreign particles and microbes. As a protective reflex, coughing can be repetitive with the cough reflex following three phases: an inhalation, a forced exhalation against a closed glottis, and a violent release of air from the lungs following opening of the glottis, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound.

Bar Establishment serving alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises

A bar is a long raised narrow table or bench designed for dispensing beer or other alcoholic drinks. They were originally chest high, and a bar, often brass, ran the length of the table, just above floor height, for customers to rest a foot on, which gave the table its name. Over many years, heights of bars were lowered, and high stools added, and the brass bar remains today. The name bar became identified with the business, is a retail business establishment that serves alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, liquor, cocktails, and other beverages such as mineral water and soft drinks. Bars often also sell snack foods such as crisps or peanuts, for consumption on their premises. Some types of bars, such as pubs, may also serve food from a restaurant menu. The term "bar" also refers to the countertop and area where drinks are served. The term "bar" derives from the metal or wooden bar (barrier) that is often located along the length of the "bar".

Phlegm is mucus produced by the respiratory system, excluding that produced by the nasal passages. It often refers to respiratory mucus expelled by coughing, otherwise known as sputum. Phlegm, and mucus as a whole, is in essence a water-based gel consisting of glycoproteins, immunoglobulins, lipids and other substances. Its composition varies depending on climate, genetics, and state of the immune system. Its color can vary from transparent to pale or dark yellow and green, from light to dark brown, and even to dark grey depending on the constituents. The body naturally produces about 1 quart of phlegm every day to capture and clear substances in the air and bacteria from the nose and throat.

Paan Preparation of betel leaf and areca nut

Paan is a preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut widely consumed throughout Southeast Asia, South Asia and East Asia. It is chewed for its stimulant effects. After chewing, it is either spat out or swallowed. Paan has many variations. Slaked lime (chuna) paste is commonly added to bind the leaves. Some preparations in the Indian subcontinent include katha paste or mukhwas to freshen the breath.

Snus Moist tobacco product placed under the upper lip, used in the Nordic countries.

Snus is a moist powder smokeless tobacco product originating from a variant of dry snuff in early 18th-century Sweden. It is placed inside the lip for extended periods, as in sublabial administration. Snus is not fermented. Although used similarly to American dipping tobacco, snus does not typically result in the need for spitting and, unlike naswar, snus is steam-pasteurized.

Chewing tobacco Type of smokeless tobacco product

Chewing tobacco is a type of smokeless tobacco product consumed by placing a portion of the tobacco between the cheek and gum or upper lip and teeth, and then chewing. Unlike dipping tobacco, it is not ground and must be manually crushed with the teeth to release flavour and nicotine. Unwanted juices are then spat.


Tableware are the dishes or dishware used for setting a table, serving food and dining. It includes cutlery, glassware, serving dishes and other items for practical as well as decorative purposes. The quality, nature, variety and number of objects varies according to culture, religion, number of diners, cuisine and occasion. For example, Middle Eastern, Indian or Polynesian food culture and cuisine sometimes limits tableware to serving dishes, using bread or leaves as individual plates. Cups are not dishes. Special occasions are usually reflected in higher quality tableware.

Spitting ejection of saliva

Spitting is the act of forcibly ejecting saliva or other substances from the mouth. The act is often done to get rid of unwanted or foul-tasting substances in the mouth or to get rid of a large buildup of saliva.

Chinese export porcelain

Chinese export porcelain includes a wide range of Chinese porcelain that was made (almost) exclusively for export to Europe and later to North America between the 16th and the 20th century. Whether wares made for non-Western markets are covered by the term depends on context. Chinese ceramics made mainly for export go back to the Tang dynasty if not earlier, though initially they may not be regarded as porcelain.

Dipping tobacco is a type of finely ground or shredded, moistened smokeless tobacco product. It is commonly and idiomatically known by various terms—most often as dip or chew. It is used by placing a pinch, or "dip" of tobacco between the lip and the gum. The act of using it is called dipping or sometimes chewing. Dip is colloquially called "chaw", "snuff", "rub", or "fresh leaf" among other terms; because of this, it is sometimes confused with other tobacco products—namely nasal/dry snuff. Typically, before dipping, the act of "packing" is performed, where the user places the "can" in between the thumb and middle finger, then flicks the index finger onto the lid of the can.

Coffee cupping, or coffee tasting, is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. It is a professional practice but can be done informally by anyone or by professionals known as "Q Graders". A standard coffee cupping procedure involves deeply sniffing the coffee, then slurping the coffee from a spoon so it is aerated and spread across the tongue. The coffee taster attempts to measure aspects of the coffee's taste, specifically the body, sweetness, acidity, flavour, and aftertaste. Since coffee beans embody telltale flavours from the region where they were grown, cuppers may attempt to identify the coffee's origin.

William S. Holman

William Steele Holman was a lawyer, judge and politician from Dearborn County, Indiana. He was a member of the Democratic Party who served as a U.S. Representative from 1859 to 1865, 1867 to 1877, 1881 to 1895, and 1897, spanning sixteen Congresses. He is known for originating the Holman Rule, allowing amendments to appropriations bills to cut a specific program or federal employee salary. He died in office in 1897, a month after his last election.

Saint-Cloud porcelain

Saint-Cloud porcelain was a type of soft-paste porcelain produced in the French town of Saint-Cloud from the late 17th to the mid 18th century.

Tobacco products

The following is an incomplete list of tobacco products.

History of tobacco

Tobacco was long used in the early Americas. The arrival of Spain introduced tobacco to the Europeans, and it became a lucrative, heavily traded commodity to support the popular habit of smoking. Following the industrial revolution, cigarettes became hugely popular worldwide. In the mid-20th century, medical research demonstrated severe negative health effects of tobacco smoking including lung and throat cancer, which led to a sharp decline in tobacco use.

The Painted Skin

"The Painted Skin" is a short story by the Chinese writer Pu Songling collected in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio in 1740. Literary critics have recognised it as one of the best and best-known entries in Strange Tales; in particular, its textual detail and in-depth characterisation are lauded. "The Painted Skin" has also received numerous adaptations in popular media, especially in film. The story's original title has become a common phrase in Chinese vocabulary, "a synonym for duplicity that wears an outwardly human face but is inwardly demonic".

History of tuberculosis

Throughout history, the disease tuberculosis has been variously known as consumption, phthisis and the White Plague. It is generally accepted that the causative agent, Mycobacterium tuberculosis originated from other, more primitive organisms of the same genus Mycobacterium. In 2014, results of a new DNA study of a tuberculosis genome reconstructed from remains in southern Peru suggest that human tuberculosis is less than 6,000 years old. Even if researchers theorise that humans first acquired it in Africa about 5,000 years ago, there is evidence that the first tuberculosis infection happened about 9,000 years ago. It spread to other humans along trade routes. It also spread to domesticated animals in Africa, such as goats and cows. Seals and sea lions that bred on African beaches are believed to have acquired the disease and carried it across the Atlantic to South America. Hunters would have been the first humans to contract the disease there.

Railway Exchange Building and Hubers Restaurant

Huber's is a restaurant in Portland, Oregon that bills itself as the city's oldest restaurant, having been established in 1879. Known for its turkey dinner and Spanish coffee, Huber's is often listed as a recommended restaurant to eat at in Portland. The establishment has also been featured in a film by Gus Van Sant. Huber's is within the Oregon Pioneer Building, also known as the Railway Exchange Building.


  1. New York State Department of Health Bulletin, 1909, 294
  2. "Make It Do - Scrap Drives in World War II". www.sarahsundin.com.
  3. "BBC - WW2 People's War - Supporting the War Effort - Recycling and Saving". www.bbc.co.uk.
  4. "About". dukehomestead.org.
  5. Deborah Straszheim, "Griswold Man May Have World's Largest Spittoon Collection". Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin. June 16, 2008.
  6. "Spittoon". The Walters Art Museum.
  7. Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky (1995). Court Art of the Tang. University Press of America. p. 147. ISBN   978-0761802013.
  8. Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing and Lu Yanzheng, Life in the Forbidden City, 2006 Commercial Press (H.K.) Ltd., page 30
  9. Kaphle, Anup (May 17, 2013). "Chinese tourists' bad manners harming country's reputation, says senior official". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  10. "Spittoon literary magazine". Spittoon. 2017-01-05. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
  11. "Wine Tasting". RedWines.net. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  12. "Senate Traditions" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  13. Chicago-Kent College of Law. "Advocate's Lectern". The Oyez Project. Retrieved 15 January 2012.