Salt in the USA

History of Salt Production in the United States

Reports from Onondaga, New York in 1654 indicated the Onondaga Indians made salt by boiling brine from salt springs. Colonial Americans were making salt by boiling brine in iron kettles during the time the U.S. Constitution was drafted. By the time of the Civil War, 3,000 workers produced over 225,000 short tons of salt by boiling. Settlers reported that Native Americans made salt at Kanawha, West Virginia before 1755 by boiling brine from salt springs. Large scale salt production from brine springs was underway by 1800, and the process of drilling for more concentrated brine began within a few years. The Kanawha valley supplied the Confederacy with salt during the Civil War, when production peaked.

Similar events occurred at Avery Island, Louisiana. Historians believe that Native Americans produced salt from salt springs more than 500 years before the arrival of Europeans. Salt produced by boiling brine supplied salt during the war of 1812. Full scale production in open pits or quarries began in 1862, during the Civil War, and the first underground salt mine was started in 1869 with the sinking of a shaft.

Solar salt was produced during the early 1800s in less than ideal climates, by building movable, covered sheds over the evaporating pans, protecting the salt and brine from precipitation. Solar salt making began on San Francisco Bay, California in 1770 and at the Great Salt Lake in Utah in 1847. During the 1830s on Cape Cod there were 442 salt works.

Mechanical evaporation in multiple effect open "grainer" pans began in about 1833, along with methods to purify the brine before evaporation. Salt makers could produce a clean, white, desirable salt product. Further developments during the 1800s at Silver Springs, New York, produced the concept of crystallizing salt in enclosed vacuum pans.

Salt was produced between 1790 and 1860 in Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri by boiling brine in salt furnaces. Waste wood products from the lumber industry supplied low cost fuel to produce salt from salt springs at Saginaw and St. Clair, Michigan during the mid-1800s. Drillers found a rock salt deposit at St. Clair, Michigan in 1882, providing nearly saturated brine to feed the evaporators. Solution mining of rock salt deposits spread rapidly throughout the salt producing states. When rock salt deposits were reached by drilling, conventional underground mining soon followed. Salt mining continues today throughout North America in Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio, New York, Texas, Ontario, New Brunswick (potash and salt), Quebec, and Nova Scotia.

Salt production in Kansas, Utah, Louisiana, New York, Ohio and Michigan in the U.S. has enriched local history and culture. Branding by Morton has made it a highly-recognized name in American commerce. Salt mining under the City of Detroit, Michigan has been a long-standing activity.

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