This is an antique "Patriotic" American decorated snuff box commemorating the war of 1812. I believe it is made of paper mache and decorated front and back with War of 1812 and American Eagle scene. It measures 3 1/2" diameter x 7/8". The box looks good, works great and has a good fitting lid, but the condition is only fair due to chips and wear related to use and age (approx. 200 years old). A nice old snuff box for your collection. See photos for more detailed condition.
The top depicts the battle between USS United States and HMS Macedonian (October 25, 1812). This battle took place five hundred miles west of the Canary Islands which ended when the British frigate Macedonian surrendered to the American Frigate United States.
The bottom is decorated with the American Eagle which was adopted as the American Seal in 1782. The Seal is a bald eagle with outstretched wings supporting a shield decorated with the stars and stripes and the eagle's claws holding an olive branch in one and a bundle of thirteen arrows in the other.
Papier-mâché literally means paper that has been chewed. The process was developed in England in the 1700s and was lacquered as a way to compete with Far Eastern lacquer ware. The making of the material entailed extensive sanding between lacquer applications using pumice stone to give it an unrivaled smoothness. The smooth surface resulting from the process lends itself to painting. Once lacquer is applied on top of the painting, it gives the artwork a beautiful sheen and appearance and gives the material a stability and strength, which rivals other materials such as wood and metals, but is lighter. Lacquered papier-mâché was used to make furniture, plates, drinking implements, and boxes. These items were initially decorated with Oriental designs. However, little by little artists started to decorate these items with their own designs, which included miniature portraits, reproductions of painting masterpieces, landscapes and erotic subjects.