"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."
What is a spittoon?
In the 19th century, chewing tobacco was extremely popular in America. Instead of smoking tobacco in a pipe (fiddly), lighting up a cigar (expensive) or rolling a cigarette (effeminate) lots of westerners chewed tobacco.
It was sold in bricks or twists (right) and some stores had a chopper so you could order as much or as little as you wanted.
When a spittoon was full of smelly yellow-brown spit, some unfortunate person would have to take it outside to empty it. Some spittoons had a hole in the side for pouring out the accumulated spit. Others had the simple hole at the top. You poured it out the same way you poured it in.
When I did a bit more research, I found out that over FOUR MILLION American teenagers chew tobacco today. Yes, today. In the 21st century. Many of them think it's less dangerous than smoking but as this excellent article tells, it's not. Chewing tobacco can give you sores, tumors, and even cancer.
I hope P.K. Pinkerton, the hero of my new Western Mysteries series, never starts chewing tobacco.