Dating salt and pepper shakers

Father sits by a kerosene lamp, tinkering with an idea to get salt out of the shaker.

Similar scenes must have occurred in many homes judging by the number of patents granted for agitators and combination shakers.

The best known agitators, and probably most successful, were the Alden Christmas Barrel Salts (pictured first, below).

The children keep straight faces so as not to upset Dad Further.

Later the kids finish their chores while Mother cleans up the kitchen.

One early castor bottle held a wooden agitator imbedded in a cork in its bottom and “rising through the center with a series of arms extended transversely through the stem in various directions.” It was meant to pulverize the salt when the bottle was shaken. George Richardson was granted the first patent for an unattached agitator in 1867 (Fig. A metal rod with points or projections at each end was to be shaken in the salt against a cork in the bottom which prevented damage to the bottle.

Charles Crossman’s 1863 patent does not specify the material to be used, but the agitator pictured in Fig. He claimed this formed no stationary obstruction to the salt.

The gasket which must have sealed the bottom is missing.

Charles Gilbert was granted a patent very similar to this.

This method looks more efficient than many of the others. Parker, who lived in Chickasha, in the Chickasha Nation, Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

There are several combination shakers of historical interest. He received his patent in 1904 for a composite condiment holder.

“Shaker” had been recognized as a container in which to mix drinks, so its slow acceptance as a bottle for dispensing salt was understandable.

Although salt shakers gained popularity from the mid-1860’s on, they were designated by a variety of terms such as dredge, cruet, sprinkler, bottle, distributor, etc. My grandmother always called them salt cellars and assigned me the chore of poking clear the perforations in their tops with a toothpick.

Picture a family dinner in their home over 100 years ago.