Friday, 18 March 2016

Carrying Salt.

I started researching salt because I have seen a lot of different horn salt containers being made by living historians & being sold by traders. I decided to find out if these were indeed copies of originals. So far I have found no evidence of these types of salt containers ever having existed. I have found two salt horns that are very plain in their design, & nothing like the ones I have seen for sale.
Even so, whether of not these salt horns were wide spread or popular, I can not say. Whether or not they were carried by woodsmen I can not say but I think it doubtful.
The most likely container used for salt in my opinion would be a lawn or linen bag or pouch. I will include many reference links below this article. There is very little information to find, which is really surprising seeing as salt was a valuable commodity. Salt that was mined was brought to the surface in leather sacks. Salt that was obtained from salt licks were I believe carried in leather sacks on horses. Salt was transported from salt works in linen bags sewn by bag stitchers & packed into wooden casks.
What salt was sold in retail I can't say at this writing, but certainly there are enough salt bags that have survived from the 19th century to suggest that this was also the method used in the 18th century. Linen bags have been used for containing many different items through the 17th & 18th centuries, so it is not unreasonable to assume that they were used to contain salt also.

This is the sort of salt containers being sold by some traders, there are also some double ones for salt & pepper.

This one claims to be an antique salt horn, as does the one below.

Certainly neither of these can be mistaken for a powder horn of the type normally carried on a strap.

This is a typical salt box. These boxes were normally kept near the kitchen fire & the cook would take what salt she/he needed from this box.
Antique Salt Box, Georgian Oak (Welsh, circa 1760 to 1800)

This is a lot of old cotton muslin fabric feed sacks, small sugar and salt sacks, early to mid century vintage. There are about 20 whole sacks of various sizes (some opened flat, some still sewn up as bags). These are all a light, fine fabric, much lighter than 'regular' print cotton feed sacking fabric.


A number of young women dressed in "showy prints" and with their hair tied up in "variegated kerchiefs," scooped the salt up into small cotton bags and sewed them up with "astonishing speed." The bags were then packed in barrels and shipped to market.[8]
Among the Salt Makers". The Syracuse Standard (Syracuse, New York). January 19, 1878.

Baskets were used exclusively for salt and cheese. “Basket salt” was such a common phrase that it obviously represented a type of salt; occasionally the phrase was reversed to “salt in baskets,” indicating that it was indeed sold in baskets: “Basket Salt is made by boiling away the Water of Salt Springs over the Fire . . . As to the various Kinds of common Salt, the Basket Salt is the mildest and weakest of all; the Sea Salt is of a middle Nature, and the Bay Salt is roughest of all” (Bradley [ 1770]: 120).

A bag stitcher: In the Cheshire salt industry, usually women, who closed the tops of filled bags of coarse salt ready for transport.

The lanes were travelled by pack horses. Galloways, hardy pack horses travelling in gangs of 12 to 14 horses, were each equipped with a broad webbing belt with great panniers strapped on either side. They each carried a load of up to 130lbs, walking in single file because of the restricted space, with the 'bell horse' at their head. The 'bell horse' wore a collar to which seven bells were attached serving the purpose of giving fair warning to gangs approaching from the opposite direction so that sufficiently wide places could be selected to allow passage.
"At this time my farm gave me and my whole family a good living on the produce of it, and left me one year with another one hundred and fifty silver dollars, for I never spent more than ten dollars a year which was for salt, nails, and the like. Nothing to eat, drink or wear was bought, as my farm provided all."
where, in the eighteenth century, casks of brandy and bags of salt sat waiting for the distributors to come and spirit them away. 
laden with about 300 Ankers of Spirituous Liquors, 50 bags of Salt &c. taken 11th April 1805 by his Majesty’s hired armed Ship Humber
When it was completely dry the salt was packed into smaller bags for sale.
It is first cut into thin slices and salted down in the skin. We always carried a bag of salt with us for that purpose.
Pioneer life or 30 years a hunter. By Philip Tome.
Salt was gray (from salt marshes around France) or white (largely from the seaside in Normandy). Sea-salt was made into loaves, twelve of which were tied together in a wicker holder called abenate. Probably as used it would have been fairly coarse, grated from the loaf by the buyer or seller. Some grocers who sold salt (among other things) were known asregrattiers, a word which suggests “re-grating”, so they may have done the grating for the customer. Salt was also sold by the bushel and fractions of a bushel.
 Lawton Saltworks is credited with the introduction of hessian bags for shipping salt in place of the old wicker baskets then still in use at Middlewich. Edward Salmon became proprietor of the saltworks through his wife, the last member of the Lowndes family who had made salt there since the 17th century.
LAWN-BAG: bag made of linen. (Sir Kenelm Digby, 1669)
PDF on food prices.

Cape Fear Museum artifacts mid 19th century.

From William Brownrigg's book on common salt 1748.

Artist's impression of the 18th century salt pans by Cathy Dagg.

If anyone has any more information on salt horns or other salt containers other than salt cellars, I would very much appreciate you contacting me.
Thank you.
Regards, Keith.


Fred Sinclair said...

Great read Keith.

Keith H. Burgess said...

Thank you Fred.
Regards, Keith.

The Doctor's Companion said...

sorry keith, but this only talks about how they harvested, shipped and sold salt or how it was kept at home. i didn't see anything in here on how it was kept on the trail or whatnot. any verifiable information on that?

Keith H. Burgess said...

We remained there undisturbed during the Winter; and on the first day of May, 1770, my brother returned home to the settlement by himself, for a new recruit of horses and ammunition, leaving me by myself, without bread, salt or sugar, without company of my fellow creatures, or even a horse or dog.
The Adventures Of Col. Daniel Boone
Regards, Keith.