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The History of Salt and Pepper Shakers

Salt shakers were first created in the 1920s. Before that, salt was usually served in a small bowl or container with a spoon because it would clump easily. However, when Morton Salt began adding magnesium carbonate to their product, clumping was reduced and salt shakers quickly gained popularity. Pepper shakers soon followed, since salt and pepper were – and still are – most often served as a pair. When the Great Depression hit, salt and pepper shakers were given a boost as ceramics companies were forced to manufacture lower-priced items that people could afford. As cars became more popular and people began to travel more widely, salt and pepper shakers gained a second function as collectible items. Companies began to make novelty salt and pepper shakers for people to purchase as souvenirs and gifts. In the 1950s and 1960s, plastic salt and pepper shakers hit the market; unfortunately, early plastics were very fragile, so few of these examples are left. Today, salt and pepper shakers from the past are collectible and highly sought after items. Andrea Ludden, whose family runs the Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, says that salt and pepper shakers often reflect the designs, colors, and preoccupations of the period in which they were made.

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