Silver snuff boxes, United Kingdom, presented in 1832 and 1850

Made:
1832 in Birmingham

Creative Commons LicenseThis image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Creative Commons LicenseThis image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Creative Commons LicenseThis image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Creative Commons LicenseThis image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Top object: 1980-1324, Silver snuff box, presented to Matthew Whitehill for attendance during outbreak of cholera,
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Snuff container presented to Robert Fortescue for work during the cholera epidemic in Plymouth, by Mills of Birmingham, silver partly gilt, 1832

Should a doctor risk his or her life for the public good? Is caring for highly infectious patients with deadly and untreatable diseases a professional duty or a personal sacrifice? These questions have vexed society for centuries.

Take cholera during the 1800s. Europe was hit by six cholera pandemics that century, spreading not just illness and death but also anxiety and alarm. Tens of thousands of people in Britain died, and everyone lived in fear of becoming its next victim. Imagine then being a doctor called to care for a patient with severe diarrhoea, or a sanitary inspector told to check the quality of water supplies. Was this simply occupational risk?

The compassion, even heroism, of those who faced such hazards did not go unnoticed. These silver snuff boxes were presented to two men for their work during the first and second cholera pandemics. Can you read the inscriptions? One is dedicated “To Robert Fortescue, Surgeon, in testimony of the gratitude and esteem of his fellow townsmen for his humane and unceasing attention to the Poor during the awful visitation of malignant cholera at Plymouth A.D.1832.”

Society’s debate on the duty to treat continues with the emergence of new lethal viruses and bioterrorist threats. Most seek a balance between professional and moral obligations and risk to life. But what these snuff boxes show is that regardless of codes of ethics, outstanding individuals have been willing to put the public health above their own.

Details

Category:
Smoking
Object Number:
1981-1608
type:
snuff box
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • snuff container
credit:
Hull Grundy, A.
status:
Permanent collection

Cite this page

Rights

We encourage the use and reuse of our collection data.


Data in the title, made, maker and details fields are released under Creative Commons Zero


Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence

Using our data

Download

Download catalogue entry as json

Download manifest IIIF

Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website.