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This sugar box served a decorative as well as a practical purpose. Sugar had been an expensive luxury beyond the means of ordinary people in the 17th century. As the output of the West Indies sugar cane plantations increased, so did the appetite for sugar. Sugar sweetened the chocolate, tea and coffee drunk by growing numbers of people. By the end of the 18th century, sugar in the cheaper liquid form of molasses and more costly "loaf sugar" had become an indispensable part of the American diet. This imported pearlware box kept the sugar it contained clean and dry. Its graceful ornamentation also hinted at the sophistication and refinement of its owner.