Personal Possessions


James Monroe's telescope

James Monroe’s telescope

Telescopes were often used by military leaders during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Early telescopes were often very large, but by the War of 1812 telescopes were often much smaller. This telescope is one of two such pocket telescopes that James Monroe owned. It is likely that this telescope was used by James Monroe in 1814 when he went to scout British troop placements near Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. There are no marks on this telescope but it is likely that it was made in England, possibly as early as the 1770’s.1



James Monroe's snuffbox.

James Monroe’s snuffbox.

Snuffboxes were common items used by both men and women in Colonial and Early Republic America. Snuffboxes were used to store small amounts of ground tobacco, the “snuff.” Snuff was so named because the ground tobacco was inhaled through the nose through the use of a small spoon; this action of inhaling snuff was called “dipping snuff” because the spoon was ‘dipped’ into the snuff.2 Monroe owned several snuffboxes of wood, tin, tortoiseshell, and silver. This particular snuffbox is made of a wood burl – a knot carved out of the trunk of a tree where the wood grain has deviated from the grain of the rest of the trunk. Monroe also had a wide collection of match boxes, lighters, cigar cases, and flint boxes.3

For more information about this scan, see the Snuffbox collections page.

1. The James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library,  “Telescope,”  Object report, accessed Feb 13, 2014.
2.  Victoria and Albert Museum, “Snuff box,” Object report, (accessed April 11, 2014).
3. The James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, “Snuffbox,” Object report, accessed Feb 13, 2014.