In 1858, John Mason, inventor of the screw top Mason jar, created the first salt shaker. A receptacle with holes punched into a tin cap to distribute the salt evenly over a meal. This cleaver invention didn’t catch on immediately; it was still much more common to use salt cellars, small salt dishes with spoons for dispensing. It was not until 1910, when Joy Morton incorporated the Morton Salt Company in Chicago, Illinois that the true salt shakers emerged. In 1911, Morton began adding magnesium carbonate, an anti-caking agent, to the salt to combat moisture. Previously, moisture caused the salt to clump together; adding this anti-caking agent to the salt allowed it to flow freely from the shaker. In 1914, Morton created advertising featuring the slogan “when it rains it pours” with a little girl holding and yellow umbrella and pouring salt out of a Morton salt canister. The ad said that it will pour in any weather and not cake in the bottom of your salt cellar.
Morton Salt was the first to start prepackaging the salt in cylindrical containers. Salt, prior to this point, was dispensed by a clerk at a general store using a scoop out of a barrel or large bag. Morton’s canister was convenient and incorporated a handy spout for pouring and keeping dust out. Now that salt poured easy from a sealed container it was not long before salt and pepper shakers became common dining table decorations. Pepper never had a moisture issue; however, it is traditionally served with the salt and people want matching containers.
The invention of the automobile coincided with the growing popularity of salt shakers. This may seem like an odd connection; however, with people beginning to travel more tourism became a major industry. Tourists wanted unique souvenirs from every destination they visited and artful salt and pepper shakers were small, easy to carry and made excellent keepsakes. Today, these antique and vintage souvenirs have become highly collectible and beautiful dining room decorations. The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has hundreds of antique, vintage and retro salt and pepper shakers in artful and fun designs. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.