Spice Boxes

DATE: 1850-1870s

The Consumer Culture exhibition at the Benton County Historical Society's Philomath Museum contained a number of photographs that show how goods were sold before the development of our consumer culture. Unbranded items were measured out of larger store containers for sale to individuals. Spices were no exception. Because spices were expensive, households needed a way to keep them safe and avoid loss of freshness.  Some wealthy families had special, furniture-like cabinets with drawers for individual spices. More modest households used spice boxes like this bentwood box from the museum's collection.

The larger box contains 7 small containers, labeled for individual spices: cloves, mustard, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, mace, and nutmeg. A slightly larger canister for pepper fit in the center.  Mary Jane Golden reportedly received this spice box as a wedding present and used it to carry spices to Oregon by wagon train.

19th C. metal spice boxes

Some spice boxes were made of metal. Both date from the 1850-1870 period.

I found it interesting that similar spices boxes are used in India where they are a common item in a brides' trousseau.

other finds

From our collection

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