Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Anonymous Gift
This metal spittoon was known as a “Speaker spittoon” and likely spent its career near the Speaker’s rostrum. Hundreds of these receptacles dotted the Capitol, but despite their presence, tobacco juice dotted the floors and walls around them. Accuracy was apparently a challenge to Members of Congress. One reporter in 1880 remarked that “your average Congressman often disregards his spittoon and spits on the floor.” Chewing tobacco was the most popular form from the 1st Congress into the 1900s, when it slowly gave way to cigars and cigarettes. The Speaker spittoons, however, remained in the House Chamber into the 1980s, a reminder of earlier, messier days.