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Thursday July 20, 2006 6:00 am
History of the Salt Shaker and Salt Cellar
Salt shakers were invented in 1858 by John Mason, the guy who invented the screw-top Mason jar. He made little screw-top jars to keep salt in at the table and keep it from caking from the humidity. But these were short-lived. Just over a decade later, salt was more finely milled and ceramic containers with perforations in their tops were invented. In between these two salt containers, C. P. Crossman patented an agitator in his shalt shaker in 1871 that broke up the clumps that always formed so the salt would always be free-flowing. Before these inventors, there were salt mills like pepper grinders, that ground up the salt into small bits.
The salt cellar, also called the open salt, was a special dish that held salt. These were bowl-shaped dishes without lids. As early as the middle ages in well-to-do households, the head of the house was given a salt bowl called a master salt with a tiny silver spoon. He would pass it around the table to his guests, and each would help themselves. This custom continued until WW II in some households, but has since passed by the wayside.
Today, however, you can still find salt cellars, but these now have lids. These salt cellars come in porcelain, glass, or wood, but aren’t usually placed on the table for service during a meal. They are used at the stove or on the counter so that modern cooks can grab a pinch of salt as they prepare food.
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