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Cape Cod Salt: $27 A Bushel

Less than two-hundred-fifty years ago, on the Cape and elsewhere in America, salt was a very scarce necessity. Every effort was made to get enough to meet the heavy demand for it. Many Cape Codders built their own “salt works” to reclaim salt from the sea and they sold much of this.

To show how badly off Americans were for salt, let us scan these lines from “Society Proceedings,” for the years 1776-1777. In the chapter, “Scarcity of Salt in the Revolutionary War,” we read:

On the 28th of March, 1775, the convention made this unanimous resolution: As salt is a daily and indispensable necessity of life, and the making of it amongst ourselves must be deemed valuable acquisition, it is therefore recommended that the utmost endeavors be used to establish saltworks and the proper encouragement be given…

Salt was then selling for five shillings a bushel. In August 1777, John Adams wrote to his wife from Philadelphia that salt was selling there at $27 a bushel, so scarce and needed was it.

Because an experienced seaman was “well seasoned” at his art, he was called “an old salt.” Bold, tactless, impudent persons, we still say, are “too fresh”. When one begins to lay money aside for future needs, we say he is “salting” (preserving) away money.

It is estimated that if all the salt in the Atlantic Ocean were gathered together, there would be enough of it to make a layer of salt three feet deep over all of Europe.

There were two kinds of commercial salt: Turks Island salt, brought in sailing vessels and used for the table, and Attick salt used for preserving certain foods. A great deal of fish was salted during this period, for people relied on fish as one of the staple articles of their diet.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 03/04/06
Categories: History
Keywords: history


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