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Carol Litchfield collection on the history of salt

Creation: 1556-2012 Creation: Majority of material found within 1777-2012
Accession: 2012-219
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.


This collection includes ephemera, postcards, films, advertisements, photographs, documents and objects relating to the history of salt. The collection was assembled by Carol Litchfield (1936-2012), a biologist and biochemist with an interest in halophiles and salt history. These items document the history and development of salt manufacturing throughout the world. Historic and modern methods of salt harvesting are depicted from various areas around the world.

Additionally, this collection includes documentation of Carol’s personal research and participation in salt related conferences and programs.


  • Creation: 1556-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1777-2012



54 Linear Feet

Physical Description

274 photographs : color ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 429 photographs : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 6 photographs : color; oversize (larger than 8 x 10 in.). 24 photographs : b & w ; oversize (larger than 8 x 10 in.). 2,548 negatives: color ; 35mm. 69 negatives : b&w ; 35mm. 2 negatives : b&w ; 120mm. 6 view master reels. 1 contact sheet : color. 5 contact sheets : b&w. 748 postcards : color. 962 postcards : b&w. 85 pamphlets. 18 books. 38 transparencies. 86 stereoviews. 4 lantern slides. 9 reels : sd., col. ; 16mm. 15 VHS video tapes. 9 videodisks (DVD). 28 CDs. 118 bags of salt. 6 salt sample cases. 40 salt crystals. 70 containers of edible salt. 17 coins. 5603 items. 31 gigabytes.

Historical Note

During the 1800s many salt companies were founded in the United States; a number of these salt companies are strongly featured in this collection. Their brief histories follow.

The Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company was established in 1850 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with the purpose of producing alkalies from salt. The company found its success selling chemicals such as cryolite, liquid chlorine, and anhydrous hydrofluorine acid. The company grew quickly during WWII, it being the major source of cryolite for the government. With this boost Pennsylvania Salt continued to grow through the century, diversifying its investments into the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. The company was renamed Pennsalt Chemical Corporation in 1957.

Morton Salt began in Chicago in 1880 when Joy Morton (1855–1934) became a partner in the salt making company E.I. Wheeler & Co. Morton took over the company after Wheeler’s death in 1895, and the company was incorporated as the Morton Salt Company in 1910. Morton acquired a number of smaller companies such as Bevis Rock Salt Company in 1919, The Worcester Salt Company in 1943, and the Canadian Salt Company in 1954. The Diamond Crystal Salt Company was established in Michigan in 1886 by Charles Moore (date unknown–1912), Franklin Moore (1845–1915), Justin Whiting (dates unknown), and Mark Hopkins (1932–1914) as the St. Clair Rock Salt Company. They implemented a new salt making process called the Alberger Process which was found to generate the purest salt yet known, prompting the firm to change its name to Diamond Crystal Salt Co. within the year.

Diamond Crystal was sold to General Foods in 1929, which went on to acquire Colonial Salt in 1945 to make the Diamond Crystal-Colonial Salt Division of the General Foods company. In 1953 General Foods put the division up for sale, and it was purchased by the president of the division, Charles F. Moore (1906–1991) (the grandson of the founder). Diamond Crystal Salt purchased the Jefferson Island Salt Company in 1957. In 1987 Diamond Crystal Salt was bought by Akzo Salt, which was acquired by Cargill in 1997.

The National Salt Company was created in 1899, but due to poor management and business deals the company immediately suffered. The International Salt Company was founded in 1901 and absorbed the National Salt Company in 1902. International Salt was acquired by Akzo in 1968 and changed its name to Akzo Salt. Akzo Salt was acquired by Cargill in 1997 after the failure of its biggest mine, the Retsof Mine in New York, in 1994.

The Carey Salt Company was established as a salt mining company in Kansas in 1901 by Emerson Carey (1863–1933) in order to manufacture ice and salt. The last of the Carey Salt Company possessions, its rock salt mine, was purchased by the Hutchinson Salt Company in 1991.

Leslie Salt was established as a solar salt operation on the San Francisco Bay in 1903. Leslie salt merged with Arden Salt in 1936, and in 1948 the Leslie Salt Company was sold to Cargill Salt. The Cargill Company, established in 1865, entered into the salt business in 1954 by transporting salt up the Mississippi River. Cargill expanded its salt business by purchasing a number of smaller companies, for example the Gordy Salt Company in 1971, Barton Salt in 1973, and Leslie Salt in 1978. In 1997 Cargill bought Akzo Nobel’s salt division, which included Diamond Crystal Salt.

There are areas of the world that are known historically for their salt production. Some of these areas are especially represented in this collection.

Turks and Caicos

Bermuda’s main export was historically tobacco, but the island’s size restricted the amount it could produce. In the 1660s Bermuda turned to Turks and Caicos, islands with natural salinas, as another means of income through solar salt production.

The islands came under British control in the 1700s, and were annexed as part of the Bahamas in 1799. North America was heavily reliant on the Turks Islands salt trade; during the American Revolution illegal trading operations thrived. The United States remained dependent until the mid 1800s when domestic sources of salt were developed.


Brittany, a region in the north west of France, is especially known for its solar salt fields. France is known for its production of fleur de sel, or “flower of salt,” named for the shape of the salt crystals. Fleur de sel is the salt that develops on the surface of brine during the solar evaporation process, and due to its delicate nature must be harvested by hand.


Mining began at the Wieliczka salt mine in southern Poland in the thirteenth century and continued until 1945. Due to the length of time the mine was active, as well as the difficulty involved in removing machinery from the depths of the mine, means that many artifacts from various industrial periods still remain in the mine. Within the mine there is also a series of shrines, chapels, and sculptures carved out of salt. These were created throughout the mine’s history, at first by the miners themselves and in more recent time by professional artists.


There is a large deposit of rock salt under North West England, specifically in the Cheshire basin. Salt was discovered there during Roman times, but was not pursued economically until the 1700s. Salt works in Cheshire were established in Northwich, Middlewich, Nantwich, and Winsford. Salt was alternatively acquired through mining or solution mining, depending on location and economic feasibility.

The United States

In 1788 the New York State Salt Spring Reservation was established around the Onondaga Lake. It consisted of 20,000 acres purchased from the Iroquois Confederacy, with the intention of keeping the lands publicly held in order to prevent salt monopolies and provide revenue for the state.

Salt in New York was originally made through steam powered evaporation, but by the 1820s sources of wood became hard to find, and importing coal was expensive. Because of this, the area converted to solar production by the 1860s. The salt industry in the Syracuse/Onondaga area began to decline in the early 1900s when the brine of the region began to weaken and salt production began to develop further west.

In late 1884 salt mining began by the Empire Salt Company, which was renamed the Retsof Mine Company in 1885 in what is now Retsof, New York. The mine grew to become the largest salt mine in the United States, and the second largest in the world. In 1994, an earthquake occurred in the area which caused the Retsof salt mine to flood and collapse.

The Lower Peninsula of Michigan lies over a bed of salt. When deep drilling techniques were developed and population (and the need for salt) rose in the 1850s, the salt industry began to thrive. Salt production in Michigan grew hand in hand with the lumber industry, as the exhaust heat generated from the steam-powered lumber mills was used to fuel salt evaporation systems.

Ohio was, and still is, a large producer of rock salt. North eastern Ohio sits over the Salina salt formation, which was found by accident during the mid 1800s while drilling for natural gas. The first salt companies to establish themselves in the area were the Cleveland Salt Company and The Newburgh Salt Company. Later, the Union Salt Company, the International Salt Company and Morton Salt Company also began mining in the area. The most prominent salt mine in the Cleveland area was at Whiskey Island, a peninsula by the west side of Cleveland where the International Salt Company established a mine in 1957, while Morton Salt opened the Fairport Harbor Salt Mine east of Cleveland in 1958.

Much like in Ohio, Kansas’ salt deposits were discovered accidentally in 1887 while searching for coal. Salt in south central Kansas is mined from the Hutchinson Salt Member, which is the name of the underground geological formation where the salt is located. By 1888 a solution mining operation was established in Hutchinson, and by 1891 salt was being mined from the deposit. Important mines in the area included the Hutchinson Salt Company, the Lyons Salt Company, Barton Salt, and the Carey Salt Mine.

There are a series of salt dome islands on the Louisiana Gulf coast, the most well know being Avery Island and Jefferson Island. A salt dome is an upwelling of salt deposits, creating a large vertical dome of salt under the ground.

Salt springs were discovered on Avery Island in 1791, but the rock salt that formed the island’s salt industry was not discovered until 1862 by John Avery. The rock salt discovered was the first rock salt found in the western hemisphere and the salt from here provided salt for the confederacy during the civil war.

Nearby Jefferson Island is another salt dome in Louisiana that was mined first by the Jefferson Island Salt Co., and eventually Diamond Crystal Salt Co. The Jefferson Island Salt Mine was the subject of the 1980 Lake Peigneur oil drilling disaster, where Texaco, while drilling for oil under Lake Peigneur, mistakenly drilled into the mine. The result was a massive whirlpool that filled the salt mine with fresh water from the lake. The disaster resulted in the freshwater lake turning into a saltwater lake, and its depth increasing by several hundred feet.

Biographical Note

Carol Litchfield (1936-2012) was a biologist and biochemist specifically interested in halophilic microbiology, that being, microorganisms that live in salt rich environments. Litchfield earned her Doctorate in Organic Biochemistry in 1969. She was a professor at Rutgers University in the department of microbiology for ten years, until 1980 when she moved to the DuPont Company to act as head of Environmental Toxicology at Haskell Laboratory and then worked as Senior Scientist for its bioremediation subsidiary. She then started her own consulting company and worked for Chester Environmental before beginning work at George Mason University in 1993, where she remained for the rest of her career working as a professor and research professor for the Department of Biology and Department of Environmental Science and Policy. She married Carter Litchfield (1932-2007) in 1960, a chemical engineer and organic chemist who studied and created a collection on collected edible fats. Litchfield was involved in a number of professional organizations, including performing as the president of the Society for Industrial Microbiology (SIM) from 2007 to 2008, and the North America National Representative for the Commission Internationale d'Histoire du Sel (CIHS).

Later in her life her interest in halophiles transformed into a fascination with the history of salt. She began collecting everything she could find that related to salt, from images of salt production and advertisements from salt companies, to salt shakers and actual pieces of salt rock.

Salt is essential in the human diet, but it is used in other essential ways as well: food preservation, road maintenance, water softening systems, detergents, livestock health, and chemical manufacturing. Salt is produced in two ways, the first is through the evaporation of salt water. This water may be from the sea or brine springs, or it may be gathered through solution mining (where water is sent through an underground deposit of salt, returning to the surface as a brine solution). One of the most traditional ways of producing salt is through the open pan method, where brine is heated in large shallow pans. In modern times this process has been superseded by vacuum evaporation, which heats salt water in a closed vacuum vessel. Solar evaporation is another common process, and works by placing brine in shallow outdoor ponds where natural evaporation occurs through the help of the sun and wind. This method of producing salt is still used today, but is only effective in warm, dry climates.

Salt is also collected through underground mining. Natural, underground deposits of salt can be harvested by removing the salt from the ground, much like coal mining.

Scope and Content

This collection is organized into twenty one series. The first twenty series were collected by Carol Litchfield (1936-2012) to represent a depiction of world salt history, while the final series is the personal papers of Carol Litchfield, are documents and notes generated by Litchfield’s research and study into halophiles and salt history.

Location series: United States, Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America

These series contain items relating to the history of salt and are organized by location, alphabetically. The bulk of the items date from mid 1700s to the early 2000s and are in regards to salt production and sale. Within these folders one may find business documents such as receipts and invoices for salt, images of salt production and farming, and advertisements. There is also an extensive collection of postcards with images of salt factories, various methods of local salt farming, and advertisements selling salt.

Researchers will find an especially rich amount of material regarding salt in the states of Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, England, France, as well as Leslie Salt Works, The Colonial Salt Company, The Wadsworth Salt Company, The Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company, and Alexander Kerr, Brother & Co.

These items were found in a partially organized state which has been kept intact as much as possible. Folders listed as “Removed from binder for preservation purposes” in their general physical description were originally organized in a binder divided by location, while folders without such a designation were generated from unorganized parts of the collection.

Unknown location series

This series includes items that are similar to those in the Location series (that being invoices, letters, advertisements, and images) but do not have any specified location, or the text of the document may be in a non western text, making the location, if present, indecipherable. The Unknown Location series dates from 1779 to 1993 and is organized by subject instead of location: business, correspondence, ephemera, images, estate records and postcards.

Salt Companies series: Carey Salt Company, Diamond Crystal Salt, International Salt Company, Morton Salt Company, Syracuse-Onondaga Salt, and Worcester Salt Company

These series include Carey Salt Company, Diamond Crystal Salt Company, International Salt Company, Morton Salt Company, Syracuse-Onondaga Salt, and the Worcester Salt Company. These series contain materials dating from 1839 to 2012 that are similar material to the location series above, but due to the large quantity of information on these topics, as well as the fact that many of these companies are or were national or even international, have warranted their own series. Each series is organized by subject, including business, correspondence, ephemera, images, publications, postcards, and films.

It must be noted that Syracuse-Onondaga Salt does not refer to a specific company, but rather the area around the Onondaga Creek Valley where there are large natural salt deposits and brine springs. In 1788 the area around the Onondaga Lake was designated by the New York State legislature as the Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation. Salt production and sale in this area was regulated by the state in order to prevent monopolies and to generate state revenue. This area was important enough that Carol Litchfield considered it a significant area of research and kept items regarding Syracuse-Onondaga area salt together. Notable companies in the area include: The Onondaga Coarse Salt Association, The American Dairy Salt Company, and The Salt Company of Onondaga.

Of special note is the Morton Salt Salesmen’s training notes, which is a collection of inter-office correspondence sent out to Morton Salt Salesmen, including tips for improving sales skills, teaching stories, and inspirational quotes.

Researchers may also be interested in the correspondence of George M. Speaker (dates unknown) regarding Strickland vs National Salt, in the International Salt Company series. In 1901 George M. Speaker purchased preferred stock from the National Salt Company and in 1902 the company failed and was absorbed by the International Salt Company. This is the correspondence Speaker received from various stock and bond brokers and attorneys regarding the depositing of the stock and the lawsuit brought against National Salt.

Finally, those especially interested in ephemera may want to examine the collection of Worcester Salt Company coupons and paper dolls, used to sell salt. During the late 1800s and early 1900s containers of Worcester Salt came with coupons that could be collected and exchanged for merchandise. Within this collection is a sampling of these coupons, as well as booklets that include what coupons could be exchanged for. Worcester Salt also included collectable paper dolls in their salt containers to encourage customers to buy more salt. This series contains forty-nine of these paper dolls.

Cargo manifests series

A series of ship’s cargo manifests dating from 1833 to 1848. The documents list the name of the ship, where the ship originated from and the various ports the ship was visiting. The documents also include a cargo list, which in every case includes salt.

Stereoviews series

The Stereoviews series contains images of people making salt, salt farming, salt factories and people packaging salt.

Stereoviews were often numbered by their publisher. If the publisher and the number are listed on the card, it is noted in the scope and content for each item. The majority of this series is organized by location, and then each folder is organized by card numbers, if they exist. The exception is the Keystone Stereoviews folder which has been kept together instead of being divided by location because these cards were found together, in numerical order. The Keystone Stereoviews include images from all over the world, covering various parts of salt production, from collection to packaging and shipment. These stereoviews are not dated, but stereoviews were most common between 1860 and 1920.

Bettmann Archives series

These three folders contain prints of images in the Bettmann Archives that relate to salt. Each image is matted and backed. The majority of these prints are undated, but the rest are dated from the 1700s and late 1800s.

Account and scrap books series

The majority of this series consists of account books, which are arranged by date. If a title is listed on the cover, spine, or title page it is transcribed exactly in the title. The books cover information from the mid 1800s to mid 1900s.

A researcher of New York salt history, especially of the Ruffner family. The Ruffner family was prominent in the salt industry of the Kanawha Valley during the early to mid 1800s, and many of the books are account books from the Ruffner’s company.

The only book in this series that is not an account book is a scrapbook about Syracuse, New York. It is a collection of newspaper articles, mostly about various industries in the Syracuse area dating from the early 1900s to the mid 1940s. Much space is given to the Solvay Process Company waste flood on the New York State Fairgrounds in 1943. The Solvay Process is a method of producing soda ash (sodium carbonate). The waste produced during this process is calcium chloride, which is what flooded Solvay, New York.

Related media series

This series holds media that is about salt in general and is not location or company specific, therefore cannot be placed into any of the location series above it. It includes VHS tapes, DVDs, and film reels. The media ranges from 1980 to 2008.

Objects series

The Objects series contains salt related items collected by Carol Litchfield, dating from 1864 to 2008. Every subseries is organized alphabetically.

Salt bags subseries

The Salt bags series contains bags that salt would be purchased in. The majority of these bags are cloth, although a few are paper or plastic. There are a variety of sizes, and bags are stamped with all or some of the following information: the salt manufacturer, bag size, and type of salt.

Morton salt objects subseries

Morton salt objects are collectable objects generated by Morton Salt. It includes creamer and sugar bowl, mugs, and a storage tin. These objects are decorated with the Morton Salt Girl and Morton Salt logos. The mugs depict a variety of historical Morton Salt Girl logos.

Edible salt subseries

The Edible salt series contains salt that was manufactured and packaged to be consumed by humans. It includes salt shakers, bags of salt, salt in jars, salt packets, and boxes of salt. Many of these containers contain salt, although some are empty.

Ephemera subseries

Ephemera contains items used as advertising material by salt companies. For example: pins, matchbooks, key chains, and pencil toppers.

Coins and medallions subseries

The Coins and Medallions series mostly consists of coins. The coins are either made by the salt company for internal reasons (i.e. Worcester Salt Don’t Worry Club), or in celebration of a salt related event or place (i.e. anniversary of a company or town, salt museum).

Salesmen samples subseries

Salesmen Samples contain product samples that salesmen would bring to a customer to demonstrate different types of products. This series contains five sample cases, which contain multiple vials of different varieties of salt. Other items in this series are samples of water softener salt, and also vials, blocks and packets of salt used as example and display rather than for consumption.

Salt crystals subseries

Salt Crystals are examples of salt in their natural rock state. Some of the crystals were purchased by Carol Litchfield, and others were collected by her from natural sites. Many of the crystals are labeled by location, while a handful are unlabeled which is noted in the title.

Salt related items subseries

Salt Related Items is a miscellaneous subseries that contains salt materials that do not fit into the above subseries. It contains items that distribute salt, such as grinders and salt holders for livestock. There are also decorative household items in this subseries such as a souvenir jar of salt from the Dead Sea, an hourglass, a candleholder, and a commemorative tile. There are also salt company related items, such as seal embossers, a Detroit Salt Company mason jar, and an advertising linocut. Of note is a slab of salt gathered by salt collectors in the Sahara Desert, and a Twareg Salt Crusher, also from the Sahara.

Researchers interested in marketing, advertising and design history will be especially interested in the Salt Bags, Ephemera, Edible Salt, and Salesmen Samples series.

Carol Litchfield papers series

These are the personal papers of Carol Litchfield. Many of them are tangentially related to salt, but some are not salt related to all. They date from the 1960s to 2001. Researchers interested in Carol Litchfield, or salt research will be interested in this series.

Conferences subseries

The Conferences subseries contains information about conferences that Carol Litchfield attended. These conferences were either directly or tangentially related to salt. Information for each conference may include conference programs and abstracts, notes on presentations Litchfield prepared for the conference, travel information, notes, and personal accounts of trips. Research subseries

Research refers to research done by Carol Litchfield. Items are in their original folders, and contain their original folder name if one existed, but there was no clear order to the folders so they have been rearranged at the folder level. The first part of the subseries is organized by location and contains notes, photographs and annotated articles created by Carol Litchfield. Files that are titled with “Academic article” are articles or partial articles that were not written by Carol Litchfield but were collected by her for research purposes. Some of these articles are annotated, presumably by Litchfield. Files titled “Experiments” contain data relating to a project Litchfield completed for the International Salt Company. “Miscellaneous” files contain notes, images, and presentations that are not about a specific location or were otherwise poorly labeled. “Paper” relates to papers or presentations that Litchfield wrote or presented. These files may contain drafts of the papers, copies of presentation slides, or related notes and research. It should be noted that it is possible that the location files at the beginning of the subseries may also contain notes that relate to these papers, yet are not clearly labeled as such. “Sources” indicate files of resources relating to salt. Brochures subseries

Brochures contain brochures Carol Litchfield collected during her travels. They were found in her collection without context or organization, and have been organized by location. Most, but not all, brochures are related to salt. Personal subseries

Personal subseries

The Personal subseries consists of Litchfield’s personal papers, and is the subseries least related to salt. It contains items such as personal correspondence, photographs from vacations and photo logs. This subseries is organized chronologically, when dates are available.

Slides subseries

The Slides subseries contains a variety of images from Carol Litchfield’s travels. Some of the images are from personal trips, while others are from her experiences at conferences. There are also slides of salt samples, presumably used for presentations. The slides were originally stored in binders and have been transferred to folders. All slides are in their original order, and the binder they were removed from is listed in each folder’s General Physical Description note.

Existence and Location of Copies

View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

There are no viewing or listening stations for analog audio, video, or film in the reading room. To access this material, please place a digitization request for the item(s).

Film material (film cans 1-9, boxes 19, 48, 49 and 50) is located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at

Access to view lantern slides is at the discretion of the conservator. Please inquire in advance of your visit.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Carol Litchfield collection on the history of salt
Becky Koch
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Repository Details

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