A History of Snuff
The Natives of the Americas cultivated and used tobacco long before it came to Europe. However, the Indians consumed their tobacco as snuff instead of smoking it.
On his second journey to America (1494-96), Christopher Columbus noticed how the Indian of Haiti used this mysterious powder and brought some of this tobacco in powder form back to Europe.
At first, snuff became popular among the Spanish and French aristocracy. During his exile in France, King Charles II discovered snuff. Upon his return to England, he introduced it to the English aristocracy and snuff soon became popular among them as well.
Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, had such a passion for snuff that she soon earned the nickname "Snuffy Charlotte." It was in 1702 that snuff first reached the general population. The English navy had captured a number of Spanish ships and the sailors were partially paid with snuff seized from these ships. Shortly after their return to England, the sailors began to introduce snuff to the ports and coastal towns of England.
Into the 19th Century, the production of snuff was greater than the production of tobacco for smoking or chewing. Everyone was using snuff. The poet Alexander Pope used it; Charles Darwin used it; even the Duke of Wellington used it. Lord Nelson supplied himself with large quantities of snuff before he set sail with his combat ships and Napoleon was said to have used over 7 pounds of snuff a month. In addition, physicians prescribed snuff as a cure for headaches, sleeplessness, toothaches, coughs and colds.
During the 20th Century, snuff was pushed into the background by cigarettes and cigars. However, during the last few years, snuff use has been experiencing a revival - like every good lifestyle. Today, snuff is once again trendy. This may have to do with the negative attention that smoking has received over the past few years.
A Silver Box in Ancient Egypt
From three thousand years ago, in the period known as The New Kingdom (1570 - 1070 BCE) comes the tale of Princess Ahura and the Magic Book.
Princess Ahura was the daughter of King Merneptah and in the way of the ancient pharaohs was married to her brother, Naneferkaptah and they had a son, Merab.
Naneferkaptah was a seeker of knowledge and one day as he was studying the inscriptions on the wall of a chapel, a priest came to him and told him of a Magic Book that "Thoth himself wrote with his own hand, and which will bring you to the gods. When you read but two pages in this, you will enchant the heaven, the earth, the abyss, the mountains, and the sea; you shall know what the birds of the sky and the crawling things are saying; you shall see the fishes of the deep, for a divine power is there to bring them up out of the depth. And when you read the second page, if you are in the world of ghosts, you will become again in the shape you were in on earth. You will see the sun shining in the sky, with all the gods, and the full moon."
Naturally, Naneferkaptah wanted this book very much and he agreed to give the priest a hundred pieces of silver for his funeral, and to provide that he would be buried as a rich priest. After making the agreement, the priest told him where to find the Magic Book.
"This book is in the middle of the river at Koptos, in an iron box; in the iron box is a bronze box; in the bronze box is a sycamore box; in the sycamore box is an ivory and ebony box; in the ivory and ebony box is a silver box; in the silver box is a golden box; and in that is the book. It is twisted all round with snakes and scorpions and all the other crawling things around the box in which the book is; and there is a deathless snake by the box."
When Naneferkaptah told Ahura what the priest had told him, she was suspicious and begged him not to seek the Magic Book but Naneferkaptah was not to be dissuaded and he went to Koptos. After many miraculous spells and great effort, he found the place of the Magic Book.
"He uncovered a box of iron, and opened it; he found then a box of bronze, and opened that; then he found a box of sycamore wood, and opened that; again he found a box of ivory and ebony, and opened that; yet, he found a box of silver, and opened that; and then he found a box of gold; he opened that, and found the book in it. He took the book from the golden box, and read a page of spells from it. He enchanted the heaven and the earth, the abyss, the mountains, and the sea; he knew what the birds of the sky, the fish of the deep, and the beasts of the hills all said. He read another page of the spells, and saw the sun shining in the sky, with all the gods, the full moon, and the stars in their shapes; he saw the fishes of the deep, for a divine power was present that brought them up from the water."
He gave the book to Ahura and she too read from it and miraculous things happened.
However, the God Toth heard of this and was not pleased. Thoth discovered all that Naneferkaptah had done with the book; and Thoth hastened to tell Ra, and said, "Now, know that my book and my revelation are with Naneferkaptah, son of the King Merneptah. He has forced himself into my place, and robbed it, and seized my box with the writings, and killed my guards who protected it." And Ra replied to him, "He is before you, take him and all his kin." He sent a power from heaven with the command, "Do not let Naneferkaptah return safe to Memphis with all his kin." And after this hour, the little boy Merab, going out from the awning of the royal boat, fell into the river: he called on Ra, and everybody who was on the bank raised a cry. Naneferkaptah went out of the cabin, and read the spell over him; he brought the body up because a divine power brought him to the surface. He read another spell over him, and made him tell of all that happened to him, and of what Thoth had said before Ra. We turned back with him to Koptos. We brought him to the Good House, we fetched the people to him, and made one embalm him; and we buried him in his coffin in the cemetery of Koptos like a great and noble person."
So because of the Magic Book, Naneferkaptah lost his only son and eventually killed himself. The final words of Princess Ahura are... "I have now told you the sorrow which has come upon us because of this book."
You can read the complete story at The Fordham University Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. It is known simply as "The Magic Book" by Princess Ahura.
The History of Matches
The word “match” originally meant the wick of a candle and later came to mean a length of cotton cord that was dipped in chemicals to regulate the burning speed and was used to light fires and set off guns and cannons. Different formulations were used to make different burning speeds and such matches were named “quick matches” or “slow matches” accordingly.
These types of matches are today called fuses and are still used to control the time of delay before an ignition of pyrotechnics or explosives. These industries still preserve the original meaning of the word in terms like “black match” which is a black powder impregnated fuse and in "Bengal" matches which are a type of firework that produces a long burning colored flame.
Small sticks of pinewood impregnated with sulfur were used by ancient Egyptians around 3500 BCE but these could not be lit by striking like modern matches.
In 1680, Irish physicist Robert Boyle coated a small piece of paper with phosphorous and coated a small piece of wood with sulfur. He then rubbed the wood across the paper and created a fire. However, there was no useable match created by Robert Boyle.
The first self-igniting match was invented in 1805 by K Chancel who was an assistant to the famous Professor Louis Jacques Thenard of Paris. The head of the match was a mixture of potassium chlorate, sulfur, sugar and rubber. They were lit by dipping them in a small asbestos bottle of sulfuric acid and they were not only dangerous but also quite expensive so they were never in widespread use.
English chemist John Walker invented the first "friction match" in 1827. The match head was a mixture of antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum and starch and could be ignited by striking against any rough surface. These were the first “strike anywhere” matches. Walker named his matches “Congreves” after the famous Sir William Congreve who was an early experimenter in rocketry. Walker never patented his matches which left the door open for Samuel Jones to do so and he called his matches “Lucifers.”
These early matches were unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. The flames were unsteady and the initial strike produced a rather violent explosion that could send sparks flying in all directions. Additionally, the odor produced was quite unpleasant but despite these problems, these new matches were quite popular and helped to fuel the growing popularity of smoking tobacco.
It was a French chemist, Charles Sauria, who added white phosphorus to match heads in 1831, which removed the noxious odor but these matches had to be kept in an air-tight container and the poisonous nature of white phosphorous led to many deaths, particularly among children because the match heads also contained sugar. Once the dangers became known, public outcry eventually led to a ban on these types of matches, but not for many years. The need for air-tight containers led to the development of Matchsafes (also called Vesta Cases) a common accessory for Victorian gentlemen.
In 1836, Hungarian chemistry student Janos Irinvi got the idea to replace the potassium chlorate with lead dioxide and invented the “noiseless” match so called because the ignition explosion was much less violent than with previous matches. Irinvi sold his invention to match manufacturer Istvan Romer and the production of matches became a big business. As is often the case in these situations, Romer became rich off Irinvi’s invention and Irinvi himself died poor.
The use of white phosphorus made early matches, including the Noiseless match, dangerous to both the users and the people making them.
Safer formulations were developed, but these types of matches were more expensive to produce than white phosphorus-based matches, and people continued to buy white-phosphorus based matches until laws prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches were passed. Finland banned white-phosphorus based matches in 1872; Denmark in 1874; Sweden in 1879; Switzerland in 1881 and Holland in 1901.
In 1861, Bryant & May started production of their matches called “Swan Vestas” named after the Roman Goddess of hearth and home. Their matches became so popular that “vesta” became synonymous with match and matchsafes became known as Vesta Cases.
In 1906, the Berne Convention, was reached at Berne, Switzerland, which prohibited the use of white phosphorus in matches. This required each country to pass laws prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches. By 1925, virtually all countries, including China, had outlawed white phosphorus matches
The first so-called “safety match” was invented by Gustaf Erik Pasch in 1844 and was improved by John Edvard Lundström a decade later.
Their safety is due to the separation of the combustible ingredients between the match head and a special striking surface, and the replacement of white phosphorus with red phosphorus. The striking surface is composed of powdered glass and red phosphorus, and the match head is composed of antimony sulfide and potassium chlorate. The act of striking converts some of the red phosphorus to white by friction heat. The small amount of white phosphorus then ignites, and this starts the combustion of the match head.
Two French chemists, Savene and Cahen, developed a safety match using phosphorus sesquisulfide. They proved that phosphorus sesquisulfide was not poisonous, that it could be used in a "strike anywhere" match and that the match heads were not explosive. They patented a safety match composition in 1898 based on phosphorus sesquisulfide and potassium chlorate. Albright and Wilson developed a safe means of making commercial quantities of phosphorus sesquisulfide in the United Kingdom in 1899 and started selling it to match makers.
In 1901 Albright and Wilson started making phosphorus sesquisulfide at their Niagara Falls plant for the U.S. market, but American manufacturers continued to use white phosphorus based matches. The Niagara Falls plant continued making them until 1910, when the United States Congress banned the shipment of white phosphorus matches in interstate commerce. At the same time the largest producer of matches in the USA granted free use, in the USA, of its phosphorus sesquisulfide safety match patents. In 1913 Albright and Wilson also started making red phosphorus at Niagara Falls.
Strike-anywhere matches are classed as dangerous goods, U.N. 1331, and are forbidden on aircraft.
Storm matches (also known as lifeboat matches), a component of many a survival kit, have a strikeable tip like a normal match but much of the remainder of the stick is coated with a combustible compound which will keep burning even in a strong wind. They have a wax coating to make them waterproof.
Bengal matches are small hand-held fireworks akin to sparklers. They are similar to storm matches in form but include compounds of strontium or barium in the compound on the stick to produce a red or green flame respectively.
The development of a specialised matchbook with both matches and a striking surface did not occur until the 1890s with the American Joshua Pusey, who later sold his patent to the Diamond Match Company. The Diamond Match Company was later bought by Bryant and May.
The hobby of collecting match-related items, such as matchcovers and matchbox labels, is called phillumeny.
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