Big Grandma’s Snuff Glasses

A few of you mentioned drinking from snuff glasses on yesterday’s LOL in Appalachia post. I thought you might enjoy another blast from the past-about my Great Grandmother’s snuff glasses. (Portions of the post below was published here on the Blind Pig in November of 2008.)

Digging in the woods

Man has created trash in one form or another from the beginning of time. Before the days of dumpsters, landfills, and recycling centers people accumulated trash and were faced with disposing of it. Most items were reused in some manner; others were burned; many more were dumped in an area that became the family dump.

Searching through old dumps is one of our favorite pastimes. The girls and I feel like true treasure hunters never knowing what we’ll uncover.

Much of the items are broken or rusted beyond recognition, but every once in a while you find a true gem. Recently we found:

Rose patterned china

a lovely saucer with a pale pink rose in the center,

Searching for old bottles in dumps

A tiny figurine that looks kinda like a little girl or an elf (she’s been sitting on my bathroom medicine cabinet ever since),

Ball Canning Jar

and my favorite a huge 2 quart Ball canning jar. The jar only had one small chip. I just love thinking about what it held and how many of my ancestors touched it.

Snuff jars

The acreage surrounding my house contains a few dumps from past generations of my family.

A few years ago, we were digging at one of the dumps from my Great Grandmother’s days, we called her Big Grandma. I found 6 snuff glasses (in the picture above) all sitting side by side. None were broken each still had its metal lid attached. I assume someone set them down in a box or paper bag and over the years the container rotted away leaving the jars sitting neatly side by side under the leaves just waiting for me to find them.

We use the glasses to drink from. I can’t keep my mind from wondering: Did Big Grandma ever think anyone would find them? What would she say if she knew her great great grandchildren were drinking from her snuff glasses? Is it crazy that I feel her presence lingering in the glasses, crazy that I feel a closer connection to a woman I can barely remember?



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Debbie Nixon
    February 12, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    I too love to go through old dump places out at my grandma’s. They also had an old crib shed they called it they quit using it a few years or longer before they passed away. There is no telling what is still in there, it’s looks like a fine home for snakes now but maybe this spring or summer might get all the grandkids together and tear into it and see what’s all left inside.
    My other grandma dipped snuff and believe me you would never know she had it in her mouth. I too love the old snuff glasses they were our breakfast juice glasses growing up. My grandma kept her six children’s families stocked up on them. I sure miss getting them, ours have slowly disappeared or have gotten broken just a few left to this day.
    I can still see my grandma to this day even though she passed in 2008, taking a spoon she would scoop the snuff up on the end of the handle and pack it between her check and gum I tried it one day I had it everywhere I just didn’t see how she did it with such ease and no mess.

  • Reply
    Ralph Ware
    December 28, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    The older women on both sides of my family (in eastern Kentucky and middle Georgia) used a snuff glass to cut biscuits. So do I. I have a couple up on a high shelf that I don’t use for anything else.
    Turkey and dressing are for Thanksgiving but Christmas means Ham and Biscuits. No explanation needed; a benevolent Creator has so ordained. These days, I rarely make biscuits, except around the holidays.
    This Christmas, I decided to try gluten-free biscuits to accommodate a family member who believes that “gluten-free” is the way to go. My experience was less than satisfactory and I got into a conversation with her about why I’ve decided not to go gluten-free.
    Even my wife of 35 years was incredulous when I held forth that biscuits needed to be cut with a snuff glass instead of these antique steel or aluminum biscuit cutters. But, both those women are from money and except for “drop biscuits” and “angel biscuits” they never made biscuits under “real world” conditions.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    June 2, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Where are no snuff glasses in my past, not one.
    I do have several green half-gallon canning jars, one is on my kitchen counter right now. They were used to can peaches. A quart of peaches was not nearly enough for a family of 7 — 5 kids and both parents. I helped my mother and grandmother fill and process them many times.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    February 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I don’t remember snuff glasses, grandma’s snuff was in a tin.

  • Reply
    February 8, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Have enjoyed looking through old dumps in my time. Odd what people throw away sometimes! And with plastic lasting almost forever, can you imagine what archaeologists will find a thousand years from now? I’m thinking some of those Little Tykes toys might outlast uranium.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    February 8, 2012 at 8:07 am

    We found an old trash dump site on my property just last Saturday. Today MaggieGrace is showing off my find.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    February 7, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    If I only had a quarter for every snuff jar my grandmaw ever owned- Loved the canning jar-we have a huge collection of our own. Mitchell’s holy grail is the #13. They are very rare cause moonshiners used to break them-they thought they were unlucky. He finally found one in WV last year & you would have thought it was made of gold, he was so excited. For the price he paid for it, apparently the shop owner thought so, too!

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    February 7, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    I am SO excited about your book!!!!

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    February 7, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    The first day of my education career was spent at Young Harris Elementary School.
    I remember Mrs. Potts admonishing us to not drink from the dipper which stood in the big Fire bucket full of water. The water was carried from a neighbor’s house by the older boys in the upper grades.
    She showed us how to make drinking cups from notebook, or tablet, paper.She told us to bring glasses from home, and she would wtite our names on them
    Boy, the next day it seemed that everybody showed up with a snuff glass. Mrs. Potts wrote our names on the glass with fingernail polish. That was before magic markers.
    Drinking vesseks were also made from gourds.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Several of my aunts and uncles and my grandmother dipped snuff but all of them used Tube Rose and it came in a can. I’ve never seen or heard of snuff glasses. I’ll have to look them up. I used to save empty cans for one of my uncles who would pay me a nickel to get him a “spit can.” Believe it or not, we didn’t have a lot of cans except the ones from Pet Milk. (Ugh! The grownups used Pet Milk to cream their coffee.)

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    February 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    We always drank out of “Big G” brand snuff glasses at my grandmother’s house. I usually went to the grocery store for her and she would always pull me aside and whisper for me to get her some “Big G”. I remember my dad used to tease her about dipping snuff and she would always say that she very seldom ever dipped. But every week I would need to buy her more! 😀
    When I was little, Grandma always told me to never mess around with her snuff and to be sure and NEVER try to smell of it. Well, being the curious sort of child, I just had to sneak around behind Grandma’s back and SNIFF the snuff. OooOOooeeee! Burning flames up my nose could not have hurt any worse! Grandma came a-runnin when she heard me crying. Of course, I had snuff all over my nose and it didn’t take her long to figure out what was wrong. She just laughed and told me that the next time, I should listen to what she tells me.

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    February 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    This brings back very old memories. When I was a little kid in the mid-50’s, my grandmother had two old women who lived together next door. They were not related to us, but we called them Aunt Effie and Aunt Siney. Mostly what they did was sit on their porch all day dipping snuff. They had a large brass spittoon in front of their rocking chairs.
    I can remember exactly how their snuff smelled, almost like I’m smelling it now. I always loved the aroma, but no one in my family ever used it.

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    February 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    This brings back very old memories. When I was a little kid in the mid-50’s, my grandmother had two old women who lived together next door. They were not related to us, but we called them Aunt Effie and Aunt Siney. Mostly what they did was sit on their porch all day dipping snuff. They had a large brass spittoon in front of their rocking chairs.
    I can remember exactly how their snuff smelled, almost like I’m smelling it now. I always loved the aroma, but no one in my family ever used it.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I think your Great Grandma would be smiling down to see her great,
    great grandchildren drinking from
    her old Garrett or Bruton snuff
    glasses. Those are precious! I can
    remember mamma canning things in
    those big 1/2 gallon Mason jars.
    Life was very hard anyway in those
    days, but family was closer and
    more appreciative…Ken

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    on another note: i recalled your prior post “a” when i said “i’m a coming” . ha forgot say that all the time. and yes i do have too much education sometimes. don’t want to forget all the ole timey ways and sayings.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I can remember drinking from snuff glasses. They were just the right size for children. Like Miss Cindy I can also remember drinking from fruit jars and other glass jars. When we had a big family get together we didn’t have enough glasses to go around. The grownups drank out of the glasses and the kids drank out of jars. I also remember my mother collecting dishes from the oatmeal and dish towels from the washing powder. She saved coffee coupons which were attached to each bag of coffee that she bought. When she got enough she would take us shopping at the place that would redeem the coupons. You could find all kinds of wonderful things there from toys to household goods. I sure do miss those days sometimes.

  • Reply
    Brenda S 'Okie in Colorado'
    February 7, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I also grew up drinking from snuff glasses.
    My Granny’s brother and sister-in-law lived in Natural Dam, Arkansas in the old cabin home Granny and her brother grew up in. They both dipped and would always give my Granny lots of the glasses when she would visit from Oklahoma. She also made grape and plum jelly in them. She would top them with wax and cover with the tin lid. How I would love to drink from one again.
    I loved looking for treasure in the old city dump when I was a child. I think that is why my favorite children’s book was The Boxcar Children.
    I have a 2 qt. jar and a couple 1 gallon milk jars. I collect old milk jars and canning jars. I love to find milk jars from all over the US. I even have milk delivered from a nearby dairy farm in glass bottles. I feel blessed to still have that available to me.
    Thank you Tipper for another memory of the past.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Two quart mason is 1/2 gal in my day it was how you would buy moonshine two bucks would get you 1/2 gal GOOD.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

    would love to dig with you. i have never heard of or seen snuff glasses, the only snuff i ever saw was in a tin can.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 10:35 am

    We have a good sized dump in the wood behind our house, we’ve found all sorts of jars and bottles there….it’s so fun to find things from long ago!

  • Reply
    Billy J Foster
    February 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

    As a kid I made many trips to the local grocery to buy snuff for my grandmother. 10cents for a small tin and 25cents for the jars. She used them to can the best grape jelly I have ever tasted. Great memories!!!!

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I have an old dump on my property that has likely been used for a hundred years or more. My house was built around 1920. Another house burned a few feet away before this one was built. When I bought the farm, I had two daughter in college and didn’t want to move them that far away from school. So, we immediately rented the house to an old codger not knowing the dump was here. He told my ex-husband about some of the things he found while digging through the snake infested pile. I remember one thing was an old gadget that was identified as an antique breast pump. There’s no telling what else he found along with the treasures he stole from the sheds and barns. My dream is to have someone bring in a backhoe and move some dirt where the house burned. I heard it had a basement/cellar and everything fell in there. I always find thick pieces of broken pottery in that area.
    I have never heard them called snuff glasses!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    February 7, 2012 at 9:49 am

    The elf is adorable. What a neat find! Many years ago I had several 2 qt. Mason jars and I used them for cooling my milk. I only have a few left now. My mother-in-law had dishes and silverware from detergents and oatmeal. What a neat bonus to get!

  • Reply
    Nancy Wigmore
    February 7, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Oh how I am reminded of my childhood by reading this story. I remember many times when we would go and visit my Aunt Effie and Uncle Victor and would go for walks in the woods. We would go digging through the old ‘trash piles’ as we called them and uncovered many treasures. Thanks for sharing your stories. What fond memories they bring back. Have a wonderfully blessed day friends.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    February 7, 2012 at 8:31 am

    You have found some true treasures. I especially like the little elf. It looks like it was sitting on a shoe. I was given some canned food from a neighbor who reminded me that he would like to have the canning jar returned. I love to find small treasures like you showed. I never knew those glasses were called snuff glasses; I would have thought they were for orange juice. Great information!

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    February 7, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Tipper, when you spoke of your great grandma’s snuff glasses it brought a smile to my face as I remembered my granny Proffitt’s cupboard and her can of Bruton’s snuff and her little stick in it that she got a pinch from. She also “used” Day’s Work plug tobacco . As a little boy I would watch her take her little paring knife, place the plug on the corner of the old wooden table and cut her off a little corner and put in her mouth. Man it smelled good. So….one Sunday afternoon in the summer when the old folks were all sitting out on the front porch I slipped in the kitchen and cut me off a little of the Day’s Work and ran out behind the smoke house and earned myself another small part of my country education. Not a pretty picture. Larry Proffitt.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 7, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Tipper, my great grandmother also dipped snuff as did my grandfather. My grandmother, Dollie, didn’t and she didn’t approve. After her mother died she didn’t allow anyone to smoke or dip in the house, even her husband. lol
    So for the rest of his life my grandfather had to do his dipping outside.
    There were always lots of snuff glasses at my grandmothers and she gave us lots too. More than the snuff glasses I remember drinking from the jelly and peanut butter glasses. I don’t think we had any bought glasses when I was growing up.
    Life sure was different then!
    I remember a few half gallon canning jars but I thought they quit making them because they were used for moonshine. They also quit selling sugar in 25 and 50 gallon bags for the same reason… least that was what I heard. I don’t know for sure if either of those things are true.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I have not been so lucky as to acquire snuff glasses but I am very lucky to have 11 2qt. ball jars in blue–which I keep my dried herbs in–so they get used almost on a daily basis….I too love to dig in old dumps but they seem to be getting harder and harder to find–getting filled in and built upon—I agree Bill most kids today will not know any of these old-treasured ways–that is why I strive to be the Wierd Granny so my grandkids will know —my grown children have had to go along with their mom so why not the grandkids too—Once I acquire a Cowden Crock from a dump and it is worth more than I would have been able to afford to buy and besides it is not more fun to get these treasures by way of your own will?

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 7, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Many of the children of today will never know the pleasure of drinking from snuff glasses, eating off plates from Duz detergent with silverware which came in Ouaker Oatmeal while wearing shirts made from flour sacks. We might have received a free toaster from the Bank but we had no money to open an account and it wouldn’t have mattered since we had no electricity to make it work. What changes we have seen in our lifetimes. We didn’t realize that we were poor since everyone else was in the same shape but I treasure the memories. Everyone worked hard but did so as a family.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    February 7, 2012 at 7:37 am

    @Ed, I recently found some brand new half gallon jars for sale at a local trift shop, still in the box. I bought them…
    I too love looking through old ‘dumps’ Tipper. Brings back memories and like you often I wonder about the things I have found.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 7, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Snuff Glasses were used in my community of Choestoe, too, as many of my elderly (women) relatives were (far be it from us to use this word then) addicted to “dipping,” and they got an over-abundance of snuff glasses and shared them around. And as to the half-gallon mason jar, was it green? I remember them being the old green Mason jars. We’d use them to can corn-on-the-cob and green beans, each of which we used in large quantities. I think it’s amazing that you got these valuable vestiges of the past from the dump and they were still in such good condition. We had our “family dump” too when I was young; but I think it has long since been covered over with the scrape, as I don’t ever see the site now when I visit the old homeplace.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 7, 2012 at 7:23 am

    I don’t think I ever saw a 2-quart Mason jar! Maybe I just don’t remember, but all I can think of are quart and pint jars.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 7, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Yep! Them’s the same snuff glasses I remember. Want to sell ’em. I’ll give you ten bucks.
    I heard you can’t get the half gallon mason jars because moonshiners like to use them to store their product. Is that true?

  • Leave a Reply