Rapé in Brazil
Snuiftabak in the Netherlands
Schnupftabak in Germany
"Snuff" in the U.S.A.
Burnuthi in the Republic of Georgia
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Brazil must be celebrated as the original home of tobacco snuff, from which it spread around the world. Portuguese explorers very early in the C16th came across Indians using snuff mills - presumably they had been doing so for ages before. Curtis quotes Billings quoting Ewbank as saying "... it was in the country discovered by Cabral (i.e. Brazil in 1500) that the great sternutatory was found. Brazilian Indians were the fathers of snuff and its best fabricators".
Brazilian tobacco for manufacturing snuff was the most prized in C16th Europe.
Nicot (a clever self-publicist) gave his name to nicotine, but what he introduced to France was an inferior rusticum Floridan tobacco he found growing in Lisbon: whereas André Theret was cultivating Brazilian tobacco at Angoulême in France twenty years before that, and it was Brazilian tobacco which became the staple of French snuff.
In Britain Brazil was long the country, more than any other, associated with the best snuff tobacco. Addison refers censoriously to the way in which a lady of fashion "pulls out her box of good Brazile" while in church. And Brazilian tobacco is still the main one used in German Schmalzler snuffs (by Pöschl).
David Geremberg, Jnr. tells me "Here, in Brazil, we don't have the term snuff but "rapé" (I do believe it comes from the french:râpé). It's sniffed, not chewed. Coarse tobaccos (the ones that come in moist long rolls) are chewed in some parts of the country. The aspect of the Brazilian rapé is a fine dry powder with a tobacco and peppery smell. I also saw some 1 inch tins of menthol rapé. The brand was Guarany."
(The etymology is correct (Fr., v.t., râper, to grind or rasp). One variety of snuff in Britain is called "Black Rappee" - marketed by e.g. Gawith.)
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Snuiftabak in the Netherlands
Jaap Bes writes that he was a "voluntary snuffmiller" in the last snuff windmills in Holland.
"There were two ways of manufacturing; first the rapesnuif, in which the tobacco leaves were sauced, stripped and fermented in"karotten"(carrots), and afterwards chopped fine and sieved in themill. The second method was easier to perform, the veins of the leaves were chopped fine with addition of rose oil, clove oil or menthol and sieved. This resulted in a cheap type of snuff, in Dutch `stelensnuif'."
He has sent me a picture of "the last two snuff windmills in the world": De Ster and De Lelie in Rotterdam - Kralingen. He has now restarted snuff production in these mills again - see his website.
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Schnupftabak in Germany
Herr Roland Heidrich, of the Technische Universität Clausthal very kindly informed me:France
"It is astonishing that all german kinds of snuff you have found are mentholated. In Germany the mentholated snuffs are known as the British style of snuff.
"In Germany are existing five snuff tobacco manufacturers:
"1) Bernard Brothers. **Founded 1733 in Offenbach, since 1812 in Regensburg. They are producing a lot of very fine traditional, ancient snuffs." ( BUT SEE BELOW )
"2) Lotzbeck. Founded 1774 in Lahr, today in Ingolstadt.
"3) Pöschl. Founded 1902 in Landshut. The greatest snuff manufacturer in our country. They are producing mostly modern mentholated, aromatic snuff and few kinds of Bavarian "Schmalzler", a traditional snuff.
"4) Sternecker. Founded 1900 in Straubing.
"5) Snuff-tobacco Wittmann.Founded 1955 in Konstanz. The descendants of Dr. John Rumney from Illingworth are producing modern style snuff and made the english snuff popular.
"In 1994 round about 330 000 kg snuff were sold in Germany. This are 30 mio. boxes with snuff. Estimations say that 1 mio. people in our country take snuff.*
(2008) BUT NOW BERNARD BROS. ARE, SADLY AND UNHAPPILY, DEFUNCT
THEIR SNUFFS WILL, AFTER 275 GLORIOUS YEARS, BE SORELY MISSED
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Jean-Pierre, Paris, writes:
The snuff situation here is pretty bad. All you can get from our "bureaux
de tabac" is about five or six blends - menthol flavoured, or Tunisian and
State monopoly has ruined not only the tobacco industry, but also the taste
of a whole nation. Seita, our national company, has total monopoly not only
over tobacco growing and blending but also on imports. A French tobacconist
can choose only among brands and blends imported by Seita. The problem is
that people in charge at Seita obviously haven't the faintest idea what
tobacco is about.
They import three or four heavy menthol snuffs; and a couple of "hot"
snuffs from Tunisia and Algeria (not only is the latter tobacco quality
pretty basic, but there seems to be an occasional accidental addition of
dust or sand in the manufacturing process).
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in the U.S.A.
Professor Brad Radu of the University of Alabama has told me that "there is a lot of confusion about the term snuff between the Americans and the British. In the U.S. snuff almost always refers to moist snuff, which is more coarsely ground, such that a pinch can be transferred from the container to the mouth, to be held between the cheek and gum. Snuff products are all alkaline in pH, which facilitates transfer of nicotine directly across the lining of the mouth. A minority of users prefer moist snuff pre-packaged in pre-portioned pouches, which are milder and negate the problem of loose tobacco floating throughout the mouth. Dry or powdered snuff is available ... [but] inhalation is practically non-existent. Instead, the dry snuff is placed in the mouth with a moistened stick or finger. This practice is limited to white women in the Southeastern U.S."
V. R. Beasley III of Liberty, Mississippi, writes:
"Down in the deep south (Mississippi) where I grew up, Garrett was the only snuff I ever saw. There were still quite a few old timers who used it back then, and my dad, who has a small store, still sells it, just not very much anymore. As far as the dipping part, it is a nasal snuff, but in the US, people started dipping it, why, I don't know. But, there were two basic ways to do it. The first, just put it in your lip, like Copenhagen, the other, which was usually practiced by women, was to have a stick, typically hickory, which one would moisten with saliva and then dip into the snuff. Then, they would suck on the stick for a while. The practice of using a stick for snuff was not restricted to white women, but was common among black women as well: in fact, there is at least one lady who continues this practice in my hometown. I personally never observed a man using the stick, but I wouldn't assume that to be fact. The most common users of Garrett snuff were and still are men, at least according to my father, who has sold the product for close to 45 years.
"I received some history of Garrett snuffs from the kind folks at the Conwood Company L. P., in Memphis, Tn.: Garrett snuffs trace back to the efforts of John Garrett who built several mills (grist, lumber, and snuff) on the banks of Red Clay Creek near Yorklyn, Delaware in 1726. His son, Levi Garrett, inherited the snuff mill (the only one that made money). Levi is referred to as a tobacconist with offices in Philadelphia (if you look on the Levi Garrett chewing tobacco pouch you will see his store). Levi had two sons, Willams Evans Garrett and George Howell Garrett. The snuff business was renamed Levi Garrett and Sons, from where the name of the rappee snuff derives. W.E. stuck with the snuff, but George split. W.E. changed the name of the company to Willam E. Garrett Company, from whence the name of the Scotch and Sweet Snuff brand name derives. In 1857, with the maturation of his sons, the name is changed to William E. Garrett and Sons. The W.E. Garrett and Sons Scotch Snuff is trademarked in 1870, being one of the first ten tradmarks in US history, number 7, and the oldest trademark still in use in the US. After the death of Willam E. Garrett and William Garrett Jr., the remaining brother Walter sold the snuff mill to three of his employees for one dollar. That was the end of the Garrett name in ownership.
James "Buck" Duke bought up every tobacco producer in the US in the late 1800's, including the Garrett snuff brands, as the American Tobacco Company. His monopoly was busted up by Teddy Roosevelt in 1907, and the snuff side became American Snuff Company. The other companies were George W. Helme, who I've never heard of, and the United States Tobacco Company, which nowadays produces Skoal, Copenhagen, and related products. The American Snuff Company moved to Memphis in 1912. After buying up some small producers in North Carolina, the company changed names to Conwood Company, L.P., to reflect the new diversity in 1966. In 1975 Levi Garrett chewing tobacco was introduced as a tribute to the founder of American tobacco production.
So Garrett snuff is one of the oldest products ever produced on North American soil."
I managed to find some Irish High Dry Toast in Berkeley, California, in 1982. But when I revisited the same tobacconist in 1996, he no longer stocked anything of the sort. However, it is now possible to get addresses of retailers in the US & Canada who stock this and other varieties of Wilson's snuffs.
Snuff in the U.S. Senate
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Burnuthi in the Republic of Georgia
Philipp Brandenburg writes:
Some Georgian friends invited me to a party. Certainly I brought my snuffbox with me. But to my astonishment my Georgian friends were altogether quite used to seeing other people take snuff. Snuff in Georgia seems to be usual. It is called "burnuthi" and everyone seems to have at least one family member taking it.
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Snuff In Switzerland Back to top
Snuff has been taken in Switzerland for centuries. One of the earliest documents referring to snuff in in Switzerland was found scrawled on to a pouch made of a pig’s stomach. The pouch belonged to a so-called ‚Reisläufer‘ – a mercenary soldier.
Switzerland was infamous for the ferocity of it’s mercenaries, the major export of the country for centuries. Grateful clients for individuals or whole regiments of mercenaries under the command of swiss ‚noblemen‘ were the Kings of France, Germany, Austria, Italy and the rulers of many other larger all smaller fiefdoms principalities etc. The Swiss were even present in America, on the side of the ‚Hessian Regiments‘.
The Swiss were expensive. In fact so expensive, that the fortunes of many Swiss cities including it’s capital Berne were accumulated by such services to whoever paid well enough. These fortunes still exist and are privately owned by communities formed by the descendants of such mercenary families1. Many are aristocratic, there title having been obtained as part of the deal with their clients.
The Swiss were also very good soldiers, the call ,the Swiss are coming‘ was often enough to strike terror into the hearts of their victims. They were – at the same time – not known for their gentlemanly behaviour,2 rape and pilferage were a common reward for the rank and file.
This heritage is reflected in the taking of snuff quite clearly. There are four distinct areas where intensive snuff taking can be detected. All four may be characterised by a strong ritualistic – even magical - character - Snuff taking is not a solitary affair, is mostly taken with a toast and serves as a binding element in ‚elite‘ groupings.
Snuff taking rituals are usually very boisterous, naughty – even quite obscene, always elitist and quite in the tradition of the mercenaries who probably brought snuff to Switzerland in the first place.
Quite in the tradition of the mercenaries, all four areas are considered as ‚not quite ‚comme il faut‘ but greatly admired by romantically inclined young ladies.
However, if a young female happens to be a member of one of these areas, she will quite naturally participate in the snuff taking too.
Snuff in Switzerland today
Snuff in the Army
Snuff taking is very popular in the swiss army. Particularly in elite units such as the ‚Fernspäher‘, airborne reconnaissance patrols of two persons infiltrating enemy lines by parachute, Mountain, especially elite mountain troops, i.e. the renowned ‚Gebirgsgrenadiere‘ but also in other grenadier units, say the ‚Panzergrenadiere‘ or the regular ‚Grenadiere‘.3
Another part of the Swiss army where snuff is extremely popular is the Swiss airforce. Here it is mainly the fighter and recon pilots involved, but others participate too.
It is interesting to note, that snuff taking is popular throughout ranks. Snuff rituals are performed together, without regard of rank or gender.4
Snuff in Alpine Sports
Snuff is heavily used in the alpine sports community, again in a very ritualistic manner. Here too, snuff taking is combined with a mostly quite unacceptable toast and communally taken. Both genders, cross genders as well as transvestites etc. are welcome. It goes without saying, that snuff taking is usually combined with (excessive?) alcohol and many a time with smoking substances usually considered illegal but handled quite generously today by the swiss authorities.
Snuff in academic life
Snuff is quite popular among students. As mentioned, some fraternities have also imbedded snuff taking in their beer rituals. Competions are held too, say who can finish off the most snuff in the shortest time. The party involves the use of intricate snuff cannons and snuff machines. I think the record today is held by a mixed group of 4 or 5 youngsters travelling by air to the US. It is said, that they finished off some 500 grams of snuff on that flight (sic) between them.
As to the academic fraternities, I am not at liberty to comment on their beer drinking and sometime sword duelling pastimes
Snuff in rural life
Snuff taking is still quite popular with many an old-timer from the mountains. However, the taking of snuff is less ritualised than in other areas and is not a social custom. I would speculate, that it is considered a typical tradition passed on from uncle to nephew7
As we have seen, snuff taking is not quite the refined pastime as itwas in other countries, say England or Holland. There might have been some snuff snobbism in the 18 th and 19 th century in aristocratic circles, due to it’s history however, no snuff implements such as snuff boxes were produced in a significant scale. Most Swiss items were and are imported,typically from England, Holland and Germany.
The oldest document referring to snuff in Switzerland (vi.supra) is the following Poem, Ditty, magial invocation or whatever. It was found in a Satchel made of a swines stomach (!) owned by a swiss mercenary and is written in middle swiss-german of the mountain areas in the village of Kerns, central Switzerland (dated ca 16 Century).
D'Händ zämä, s'flieht e kännä,......
Hands together, none shall flee
Say the words and God shall bless them.
Line it up, then pull it up
don’t go and puke
Screw it hard
and show the spirits.
Now fare thee well and take thy leave
But not for long,tThe next is waiting
Contemporary use of snuff is usually accompanieds by toasts, often with the character of a small invocation, and ethnologically therefore to be considered part of folk magic. This theme is picked up in my article on shamanic and Mongolian snuff taking. More than 400 Snuff toasts are documented.
Here some samples, the translations are mine. The texts are quite rude, but for the sake of authenticity, I have adhered to the original. All texts are in rhymed.
All toasts are finished by the communal shout: ‚Priiiiiiiiiiiiiiis‘8 (loud, with rising note).
Apricot und Alpeluft .........
Apricot and alpine air
Thou knowst, we love thy odour fair.
All my head thou mayest fill
And evil spirits thou shalt kill
snuff, drink and make jest
We..we are the very best
Dedicating your snuff
Whoever thricely masturbates
and then a virgin fragmentates
to him who still wants porno stuff
I dedicate this snort of snuff
es ist verboten.......
It is strictly forbidden
to tie knots
in the balls
of a corpse
lieber eine zviel suffe,......
One too many
Better drink one too many
than pay one too many.
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© Patrick B. Ludwig. Zürich, 2002