Dipping Snuff

homemade toothbrush

“My first experience with using snuff was when I was about seven years old. My grandmother, Nancy McClure, and her family and friends always seemed to enjoy getting together on the porch with their blackgum toothbrushes, dipping in snuff, and spitting it into the yard.

I kept asking her if I could use it. One day she said, “Ok, got get a blackgum toothbrush, and you can try it.” So I did. I started dipping in the snuff and spitting out into the yard. In a few minutes, everything seemed to be going around and around. I took off to a hill above the house.

Grandma said, “Where you going?”

“To play,” I answered. Of course she knew that I was sick. It took me a half day to get over being sick.

That was the end of my snuff dipping.”

—Hassell McClure – “Reflections On Mountain Heritage”


When I read the excerpt about dipping snuff from the book “Reflections on Mountain Heritage” published by the Gilmer County Genealogical Society, Inc., I was reminded of a story Pap told me.

One time a lady who lived down the road here in Brasstown told Pap “Jerry I’ll be all the way out yonder somewhere and a little dip of snuff will just bring me right back.”

“Reflections On Mountain Heritage” is a treasure trove of information about Mountain Life.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy you can find it here for a very reasonable price.


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  • Reply
    Sharon Brown
    June 17, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    My grandmothers and my mother dipped snuff. I remember my maternal grandmother adding a little flour and sugar to her snuff, I never asked her, but I assumed since she had raised her family during the depression, that this was her way of making her snuff supply last a little longer. She and my momma called it “resting powder”. They worked hard raising their families and this was probably their way of taking a little break from all their labor. Grandma lived to be 92 and momma lived to be 88, both dipped their snuff until they passed to their heavenly home. By the way, I did try it once and that was it, did not taste the way I expected, to say the least. I sure miss both of them.

  • Reply
    June 17, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    I tried a little dip to Tipper when i was young. I didn’t like it at all or how it made me feel. So i have a little story to tell you. At the time, when my oldest daughter was dating, at the time her boyfriend and herself was dipping. I couldn’t believe it. So after awhile they got engaged. They went fishing and what Josh, her husband now , did was put her ring in the scole can and ge ask her if she wanted a dip. She said not right now and he said yes you do. So she was getting her a dip and dscovered something in the can. She kept digging and found the ring. He ask her to marry him and of course she said yes. And happy to know she dosen’t dip no more. Good one today Tipper.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 17, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    I chewed tobacco for years but it only took one nose full of my Dad’s snuff to assure I avoided it from then on.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 17, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    My grandma, Delia, Mama’s mother use to visit us often when I was young, and she used Bruton Snuff. One day she told me to run over to Bigfists and get her some Snuff. She wore an apron with a Birch stick to put the Snuff in and distribute it to her liking.

    She had 16 youngins, 8 by her first husband who died, and 8 by her second husband who was Mama’s daddy. (Hugh died before I was born.) She had long hair, came down a long ways, like Crystal Gale, Loretta Lynn’s sister, only she kept it all balled up on the back of her head, unless she was sleeping.

    Anyway, when I got to Bigfist’s Gulf Station, he had Ambuer running out the corners of his mouth.
    He was about half-drunk and he handed me a Jar of Bruton. I was afraid he’d give me the wrong stuff, but he wasn’t that drunk. When I got back, grandma Delia asked me where she could get a Birch twig and I told her. Daddy had taught us Boys where we could find about anything. Both him and Mama smoked Prince Albert. Daddy had Mama a round, big can and he could fill-up his hip pocket can whenever he was low. Mama could roll ’em with one hand, almost like Taylormaids
    but Daddy’s always the Hump. …Ken

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    June 17, 2020 at 10:11 am

    Sweet memories. My Daddy smoked Prince Albert. I learned to roll them for him at a very young age. He used to tell me mine were better than “store bought”. I had annoyed Mama about wanting to smoke a Prince Albert one evening to the point of no return. She sat me down at the kitchen table, I rolled me one and she told me to smoke it. After the 2nd draw, the whole kitchen was spinning. I turned gray, and then sick. I never finished that smoke, nor have I had the desire to try. Satisfied my curiosity. I was better at rolling them than smoking them. LOL

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 17, 2020 at 9:59 am

    When I was a child, my best friend Patsy and I greatly admired the red spit of the old men standing on the corner by the bank every Saturday afternoon. They spit into the gutter, never interrupting their conversation one bit. When Patsy asked her mother how the men could red spit, while ours was plain white, she was told that the men dipped snuff and chewed tobacco. We decided to pool our allowances and savings and buy the product that would allow us to have lovely red spit. We went to the store, and Patsy picked out what she said was exactly what we needed: a little white cotton bag of Bull Durham. We went home and hid out behind her grape arbor and divided the contents of the little bag in half.
    Then we each took a generous mouthful and started chewing. It burned like crazy, and tears began flowing. Worst of all, when we spit, it was just the brown tobacco — not red at all. Our mouths were sore for days, and it was years before we discovered that we had bought the wrong type of tobacco.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    June 17, 2020 at 9:33 am

    My grandfather dipped snuff. My grandmother made jelly and used the snuff glasses with a piece of wax on top to preserve it. I still use those snuff glasses for drinking glasses-just right for a cold glass of water. As a kid, the worst thing that could happen at my grandparents’ house was to knock over the spit can. It sat next to Grandaddy’s recliner so he could bend over and ptooey into it. Every now and again I forgot to stay on the right side of his chair and the disgusting brown liquid got toppled over. Of course it only happened when the can had a goodly amount in it. They never chastised me, but I sure felt bad about it.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 17, 2020 at 9:31 am

    My Uncle Wayne had a way with words. I remember him talking about a woman of questionable character in the community and referring to her as a “snuff-eating Jezebel”. I can’t remember her name but will never forget his description of her.

  • Reply
    June 17, 2020 at 8:37 am

    Daddy chewed Red Man and his mother dipped snuff. I didn’t have to chew it to get sick. Just looking at it was all it took.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    June 17, 2020 at 8:13 am

    I didn’t know anyone who used the powdered snuff although I did see it in some stores and at a news stand in Ashland KY. Most tobacco users here smoked or chewed it including some old women. KY. being a burley tobacco growing state many people made their own twist. I knew a man who made his own backer twist and I wanted to try it. I guess I was about 13 yrs. old at the time. He cut me off a big chunk and I was going to be the big man like him. After a few minutes of just letting it lay in my jaw I got puking sick. I never asked him for another chew.
    There is a lot of snuff dippers here in E.KY. now but it isn’t the powdered type. It’s a moist fine cut tobacco that comes in many flavors,
    I did wonder over what the lady told your Pap. It made me think of an article I read several years ago about taking test and using tobacco. They found out if they would allow a smoker or chewer to use nicotine during the test they performed better and faster. Something to do with the neurotransmitters in the brain.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    June 17, 2020 at 8:10 am

    My grandfather dipped snuff out of what I recall to be an orange box. He spat into a spittoon of brass indoors. Grandmother chewed Red Apple chewing tobacco in a square of moistness. I was forbade to disclose the matter to anyone period. Mommy would’ve been embarrassed I suppose of her “ not very ladylike” habit. In all my years tobacco in any form has never appealed to me. It’s gross I think. She always said “ a whistling woman and a crowing hen is neither fit for God nor man!”

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 17, 2020 at 7:58 am

    My maternal grandma dipped Burton. You never would have known it though to be around her. I remember the little round cans with the red and white paper label and the monogram stamped in the lid. I was much more interested in the cans than the snuff. However, the flat Prince Albert can worked better for carrying around this and that.

    I guess Burton snuff went out of business long ago. We miss those little links with our past.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      June 17, 2020 at 9:15 am

      I think it’s Bruton not Burton and I believe it’s still around. I worked for a wholesale grocery distributor until I retired a few years ago. They still sold it then.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 17, 2020 at 7:32 am

    My Great Grandmother (my grandmother’s mother) dipped snuff and my Grandfather dipped snuff. I remember more about my Grandfather than my Great Grandmother. He dipped outside because my Grandmother would not allow him to dip inside. She considered it s nasty habit. In most households at that time the man was in charge but not in my Grandparents house. My Grandmother was IN CHARGE, where ever she was. She did not allow drinking, smoking, or dipping in the house!

  • Reply
    John T
    June 17, 2020 at 7:24 am

    I can relate to this. I remember my first dip of snoose, as we call it here. Head spin and upset stomach. I chewed redman plug for some years but eventually quit that as well.

  • Reply
    Jim K
    June 17, 2020 at 7:23 am

    My Grandmother was my first experience with snuff also, I was responsible for carrying firewood and coal in the winter for her. She had one small fireplace for heat in her living room. She could sit 4 feet away and spit accurately into it without miss in the winter. For a boy of 8 that was an amazing feat. I still have one of her Burton cans that brings back the memories, I also remember how sick I got when I sneaked a dip.

  • Reply
    June 17, 2020 at 6:08 am

    I think it was my Daddy told me one time when he was little like most curious kids seeing the adults standing around with tobacco in their mouth ask for a chew or dip I can’t remember but he said after he got his mouth full and left it for a few minutes he ran and washed his mouth out in a mud hole trying to get the taste out and then was sick as a rabid dog.

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