Even though salt lost some of its strategic importance as a food preservative when innovations and advances in transportation, canning, and freezing processes gradually replaced the old “salting to preserve the food” processes, the modern era of salt is perhaps best exemplified by the Morton Salt Company.
Joy Morton — son of J. Sterling Morton, who created Arbor Day and served as Secretary of Agriculture under Grover Cleveland — founded Morton Salt Company in the earl 1900s through acquisition of Canadian and East Indian salt works, together with shipping lines on the Great Lakes.
One problem in the early days of table salt was that it caked during wet, or even humid weather. Morton experimented with various additives. In 1911, Morton found that magnesium carbonate, when added in small amounts to sodium chloride, resulted in a salt that did not cake. This became the hallmark of the Morton Salt ad campaign, showing a young girl walking in the rain with an umbrella, holding the Morton cylindrical container (with patented metal pour spout) and salt pouring out as she walked, under the ad bite: “When it rains, it pours.”
Created by N.W. Ayer and Company out of New York City, this proved one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time. A year later, Morton replaced the magnesium carbonate with calcium silicate, which was both cheaper and more effective at eliminating the tendency of salt to cake in humid conditions.
In 1929, Morton salt added iodine to their table salt, to prevent goiters, which were common at the time. Goiter is a swelling of the neck and larynx due to malfunction of the thyroid gland. An estimated 90 percent of goiters are caused by iodine deficiency.
To keep pace with the “new” uses for salt, Morton and other salt companies came out with salt for use on roads, driveways, swimming pools and sidewalks. Ice Melt is now a common product in super markets in the winter. Epsom salts are used to treat splinters and superficial infections.
A demand developed for softening hard water, as hard water was hard to wash with and clogged pipes. Salt producers saw a market for sodium and potassium salts to be used as ionic exchangers in softening systems. The main elements that cause hardening are calcium and magnesium ions, which are positively charged. Water softening systems replace the calsium and magnesium with sodium and potassium, which can then be flushed.
As health concerns developed regarding excess salt in the America diet, due to the fact that food providers put salt in foods to increase consumer consumption, salt began to associated with contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease. So salt providers came up with lite salt and salt replacements.
Health food advocates often claim that salt from various sources are superior, such as Hymalayan Salt, or Dead Sea Salt. And kosher salt has a sector of demand.
All in all, salt producers in modern times have adapted to the changes in the strategic status of salt and found ways to keep salt in demand. ❖