While searching for shakers this summer, we ran into this…

25 08 2012

This summer while traveling in Western New York we ran into a wonderful article in a local newspaper. The article is written by Terry Kovel who with her husband have written numerous books, articles and are even TV stars! To read more about them and their antique business please visit www.kovels.com.

And now for the article!



Ocean’s Salt Measured from Space

13 06 2012

We get many questions at the Museum and here is a great article about how salty the ocean’s are. Enjoy!!!

By OurAmazingPlanet Staff at LiveScience.com 

This week marks the one-year anniversary of a NASA mission designed to help answer an age-old question: How salty is the sea?

The Aquarius instrument aboard the Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC)-D is providing some of the first large-scale pictures of ocean salinity around the world, and how it changes from week to week — which influences everything from ocean circulation to the global water cycle.

The satellite was launched on June 10, 2011. Over the last year, the instrument has sent back data showing the sometimes striking variations in salinity in the world’s oceans and seas, and has also confirmed Earth-bound observations.Oceanographers have long known that the Atlantic Ocean is saltier than the Pacific and Indian oceans, and the satellite images show the same. It has also shown that the world’s longest rivers carry tremendous amounts of fresh water from land and spread plumes far into the sea. And in the tropics, extra rainfall makes equatorial waters somewhat fresher.

The satellite technically measures the “brightness temperature” of a tiny layer atop ocean waters — a slice just 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) thick. Land masses tend to be “brighter” than water, so any measurements near the coast are skewed by their proximity to land. But as the mission progresses, NASA engineers should be able to sort out the signals in the data caused by bright land, and get the true measure of salinity in coastal areas.

An overarching question in climate research is to understand how changes in the Earth’s water cycle — which encompasses everything from rainfall to evaporation to river runoff and other factors — is linked to ocean circulation and climate, Gary Lagerloef, the Aquarius principal investigator, said in a statement.

The instrument is the first designed to study ocean salinity from space. It takes 300,000 measurements per month, using three sensors, for a mission that is a joint U.S.-Argentina effort.

The saltiness of the world's oceans

The saltiness of the world’s oceans the week of May 27 to June 2, 2012. Red corresponds to higher salinity.

Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook 

American Profile Article

29 08 2011
Image taken by David Mudd from the American Profile article Aug 2011

Andrea & Rolf Ludden

Salt and Pepper Shaker Collection
Tennessee family assembles a sizable set of seasoning dispensers
by Nancy Henderson August 10, 2011

As a child growing up in Belgium, Andrea Ludden was fascinated by the little saltbox in her godmother’s kitchen. “She always gave me a little pinch of salt, and that was my ‘souvenir,’” says Ludden, 76.
Ludden, her husband Rolf, and children Alex and Andrea now own more than 20,000 of their own “souvenirs”—salt and pepper shaker sets in just about every shape, size and theme imaginable, which they display in their Museum of Salt & Pepper Shakers in Gatlinburg, Tenn. (pop. 3,382).

In the mid-1980s, when Andrea and Rolf, a jewelry designer from Argentina, moved to La Jolla, Calif., she started scouring flea markets and garage sales in search of a durable pepper mill to season their food.

None of the contraptions seemed to work properly so Andrea set them
on her windowsill along with a few salt shakers she’d bought because of their creative designs. “My friends and neighbors believed I was collecting salt and pepper shakers, so everybody came in with bags of them,” she recalls.

As her dispenser collection grew, Andrea’s passion spilled over to her family. “We would walk around [flea markets] and look for pepper mills,” says daughter Andrea, 38. “It was kind of like a scavenger hunt.”

For her mother, an archaeologist with a love for anthropology, studying containers that dispense salt and pepper is a way to study human culture. “You can trace the ’20s, the ’40s, the ’60s, and you can see how things and people change,” the elder Andrea says. “When you see the changes in color, in texture, in what people consume, you open another door on the world.”

By 2001, the Luddens’ collection had outgrown their basement, and the family set out for Tennessee to open a salt and pepper shaker museum in Cosby (pop. 5,201). In 2005, they moved 30 miles south to Gatlinburg and began displaying their dispensers in a 3,200-square-foot, chalet-style building.

The museum is a family project. Mother Andrea is curator and collector; Rolf, 71, builds the storage shelves; Alex, 56, maintains the museum’s website, and his sister Andrea handles publicity, which led to coverage in 2006 on the Food Network’s Unwrapped show.

Their dispensers are fashioned from all types of materials—animal horns, eggshells, glass, plastic, porcelain and wood—and range from elegant to wacky. Shakers shaped like dachshunds and doughnuts vie for space near kings, queens and castles. A pair of shakers with compasses that point north sit on shelves crammed with sets shaped like bananas and beer steins, feet and flamingoes, hotdogs and hillbillies, teapots and toilets.

Not everything in the museum is quirky. Some high-end shakers are fashioned from silver, pewter and ceramic painted in 14-karat gold. When a fellow collector spotted the Luddens’ most valuable set, a 3-inch-tall pair made of pink Depression-era glass, he told them about one just like it that sold at a Sotheby’s auction for more than $3,000.

The largest, a 30-inch-tall wooden pillar set topped with pineapple finials, towers over the tiniest, a silver, bullet-size pair that holds a few grains of salt and pepper.

Daughter Andrea prefers the plastic sets with moving parts, such as a lawnmower with movable pistons, and a kitchen mixer with revolving blades and bowl. “They’re very Jetson-y,” she says.

The museum also showcases 1,500 pepper mills, Rolf’s favorites. “I like the machinery,” he says of the mechanisms that grind peppercorns.

Despite their enormous collection, the Luddens continue to search for shakers at antique shops and malls. “Even after so many years, we still run into some that we’ve never seen before,” daughter Andrea says. “It’s mind-boggling.”

In keeping with their European roots, the Luddens last year opened a second museum in Guadalest, Spain. “Spain is the Florida of Europe,” daughter Andrea says. “It’s a lot like Gatlinburg. It has 200 inhabitants, but there are eight museums, including ours.”

So what fancy shakers adorn the Luddens’ kitchen table? “At home,” Rolf says, laughing heartily, “we have plastic ones.”


The above article is from the American Profile Aug 2011 issue and can be seen in the link below.

The popularisation of the salt and pepper shaker

19 02 2011


Although the problems of salt solidifying in the pot or bag had been overcome when the Morton Salt Company added magnesium carbonate to their product in 1911, making it possible to pour salt from a sealed container, it wasn’t until the mid- to late-1920s that figural salt shakers began to be manufactured on a large-scale basis. One of the earliest producers, the German fine quality pottery maker, Goebel, introduced their first three sets of shakers in 1923, and by seven years later they had added a further fourteen pairs to their collection. (In 1935 they introduced the first of the famous Hummel figures, some of the most collectable in the salt and pepper shaker world.)

As every cloud is supposed to have a silver lining – in this case probably silver-plated – it was the Great Depression of the 1930s that gave a major boost to the popularisation of salt and pepper shakers, as both a household and collectable item. Ceramic producers worldwide were forced to restrict production and concentrate on lower priced items; an obvious product was the humble salt and pepper shaker. Colourful, bright and cheery, it could be bought for a few coppers at most local hardware stores, but it was an apparently unconnected development that really opened up the world of collecting salt and pepper shakers as a hobby.

“Morton’s development was the beginning of the salt shaker, but funnily enough, it was the automobile that lead to them becoming collectable items,” say Alex Ludden, whose family collection of over forty thousand different pairs, the biggest in the world, is on display at their Salt and Pepper Shaker Museums in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Guadalest in eastern Spain. “It was because people could travel more freely, either for work or on vacation, that the souvenir industry came about. Salt and pepper shakers were cheap, easy to carry and colourful and made ideal gifts. Imagine you lived in an isolated village somewhere and your son or daughter brought you a set in the shape of the Golden Gate Bridge when they came on their annual visit home. It wouldn’t get used, it would be carefully kept as a decorative item. That’s how, in the main, many of the early collections began.” 

Some of the world’s leading ceramics companies began producing salt and pepper shakers. Japan had a large share of the market from the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, as well as the late 1940s and 1950s. The disruption was caused by World War II, and the shakers produced by Japan in the post-war years, labelled ‘Made in occupied Japan’, or simply ‘Occupied Japan’ are extremely rare and highly sought after. Even the famous Art Deco designer, Clarice Cliff, produced a hand-painted range.

The hey-day of salt and pepper shaker production was between the 1920s and 1960s, with those made from plastic in the 50s and 60s being of special interest to some people. Plastic is breakable, so fewer of those examples exist, and there are specialist collectors that pay highly for models from that period.

The design of salt and pepper shakers was limited only by the designer’s imagination – and that was totally unlimited. “There’s almost nothing you can imagine that hasn’t been copied as a salt and pepper shaker,” says Alex Ludden, “and many of them reflect the designs, the colours, and the preoccupations of the period. For example, a cooker from the 1940’s will look totally different from the cookers of the 1990’s, and it’s through using these differences and the materials they were made of that we can get an idea of how people lived at any given time.”

But the world of salt and pepper shakers knows no boundaries; from the Cellini Saliera, cast in solid gold (and sometimes referred to as the ‘Mona Lisa of Sculpture’), insured for $60million, to the prosaic plastic red pepper, a steal at only 75 cents at the local hardware store, there’s something for everyone.

For more information about the world of salt and pepper shakers, visit salt and pepper

All shook up – The history of the Salt Shaker

18 02 2011


Most British people still call the container of salt with the holes in the top that sits on the table a ‘salt cellar’ little realising that the name actually refers to a dish or box, or some other sort of container that holds the salt, which is usually served by way of a small spoon or a pinch of the fingers. The more widely used name is the ‘salt shaker’, usually accompanied by the ‘pepper shaker’. Even so, that much used and often ignored little piece of household utility has had a fair range of nomenclature.

For a period during the late 1850s to 1880s, the salt shaker was known by such names as spice box, dredge box or bottle, dredging box, salt bottle and condiment box. Less frequent terms for salt dispensers at the time were: box, cellar, cruet, cup, distributor, holder, package, receptacle, sifter, duster, sprinkler and vessel. (The terms ‘sifter’ and ‘duster’ were more usually used with sugar or flour when baking.)

Salt may be a common-or-garden product to us today, but historically its high value merited a container of equal standing, as they would have been symbolic of social standing and economic status not only among fam­ilies, but within a single household. The prestige and superstitions associated with salt holders in olden times were due in part to the scarcity and high price of salt. (When Leonardo de Vinci placed an overturned salt dish in front of Judas Escariat in his painting The Last Supper, he did so because he considered it an ill omen.)

During the Middle Ages in England, dishes for salt and other food were often made of pewter, horn or wood. Silver was more frequently used in cups and in the large and ornate salt holders. This salt holder, often an ornate and richly decorated affair, marked the boundary line on the table between those of honorable estate and the commoners, which gave rise to the saying, ‘below the salt’, signifying someone of little importance.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, English silversmiths made elaborate ‘Salts’, and, in his diary of 1625, Charles I commented on a ‘salt’ made of gold, weighing 150 ounces and studded with sapphires, rubies, pearls and emeralds.

Some of the early salt shakers were actually salt mills, with a variety of mechanisms used inside them to break up the rock salt, much like a pepper grinder today. (These are still produced today for those who prefer their salt, like their pepper, freshly ground.)

It’s sometime said that salt shakers were invented in 1858 by John Mason, the man who invented the screw-top Mason jar.  He created a receptacle to hold salt that would evenly distribute it on food, by shaking it through several holes punched into a tin cap. But these were short live, and it wasn’t until just over fifty years later, when the Morton Salt Company of Chicago added magnesium carbonate to their product to make it flow, that the salt shaker can truly said to have been born.

For more information about the world of salt and pepper shakers, visit salt and pepper

The History of Salt

10 02 2011


The next time you knock over a salt cellar and throw a pinch of the salt that spills out of it over your left shoulder to ward off bad luck, bear in mind that those few white grains would at one time have formed part of someone’s wages. The word salarium, salary, comes from the fact that Roman soldiers were paid part of their income in salt. It’s also thought that the word ‘soldier’ itself comes from the Latin sal dare, to give salt. If you look at common phrases such as ‘the salt of the earth’, ‘he’s not worth his salt’, ‘below the salt’, etc. you can get an idea of how important salt was. And it still is, because without salt in our diet we couldn’t survive.

It’s said that the ability to preserve food with salt was one of the foundations of civilization, and the salt trade was of major importance, not only because of its commercial value but also because it allowed foods to be preserved, letting people travel much greater distances than they could without having preserved foods, never knowing what fresh foods would be available. Salt was difficult to obtain, and so became a highly valued trade item. By the Bronze age many salt roads had been established, such as the via Salaria in Italy, which ran from Rome to the Adriatic coast, a distance of 242 kilometres.

By the late Middle Ages the expanding fishing fleets of the Low Countries, (Belguim, the Netherlands, and parts of northern France and western Germany) needed more salt than could be produced locally, so had to buy it from the Iberian Peninsula. It was said that Spain could have brought their northern neighbours to their knees at the end of the sixteenth century if they had blocked the sale of salt, such was its importance. But pepper was also important, and records show that when the Gauls invade Rome they demanded twenty thousand pounds of pepper as part of the ransom.

In medieval England salt was expensive and only affordable by the higher ranks of society. The nobility sat at the ‘high table’ and their servants at lower trestle tables. The salt was placed in the centre of the high table and only those of rank had access to it. The gave rise to the phrase, ‘below the salt’, describing someone of lesser importance, as that was where the servants sat, on the lower tables below their masters.

As valuable as salt was, it has a tendency to attract moisture and become lumpy. Originally small bowls or containers, usually with a spoon, had been used at the table, (the original salt cellar). In 1863 a US patent was issued for a salt shaker with a small built-in agitator to break up the caked salt, but the usual approach to creating a salt that was fine enough to use in a shaker was to try and remove the moisture-absorbing elements. Eventually researchers changed direction, and tried to discover an additive that would effectively cover each grain of salt and absorb moisture.

In 1911, Joy Morton, owner of the Morton Salt Company of Chicago solved the problem by adding magnesium carbonate to their product, which made it possible to pour salt from a sealed container. But it was to be more than a decade until the first sets of figural salt and pepper shakers were commercially produced.

From a Broken Peppermill a Museum is Born

10 02 2011

We should probably be thankful for some people’s obsessions. Without them we wouldn’t have some of the most delightful museums around the world, put together because someone couldn’t resist buying ‘just one more’. Many of the world’s major museums began as private collections…and also some of the world’s most weird, wonderful and winsome.

The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a perfect case in point. Wander around the museum and you’ll find it hard to believe that the twenty-thousand pair display of fat chefs, ruby red tomatoes, guardsmen in bear skins, The Beatles, Santa’s feet sticking out of a chimney, pistols and potatoes, a copy of the salt and pepper shaker cufflinks that Lady Diana wore, (which, fortunately, are sealed, or their contents would have sprayed everywhere when she shook hands), have any other reason for coming together than simply being someone’s idea of being collectable – but they do.

Far from being just a wacky Belgian lady with a fetish for salt shakers, Andrea Ludden’s collection began from a totally different direction than something simply to display on the shelves in her kitchen. As an archaeologist she had spent many years working in South America, where her main interest had been in how people travelled and communicated.

“When we moved to the States there was no work in archaeology so I began to look at social anthropology,” says Andrea. “It’s often by looking at the apparently more mundane articles in everyday life that you can build up a broad picture of a specific period.” And that’s what Andrea began to do.

Andrea’s collection of over forty thousand pairs, half in the family museum in Gatlinburg and half in their new museum in Guadalest in eastern Spain, started by the simple purchase of a pepper mill at a garage sale, shortly after the family moved to the US – but it didn’t work!

“When that first one didn’t work I bought a couple more. I used to stand them on the window ledge of my kitchen, and neighbours thought I was building a collection. Nothing could have been further from my mind! They began to bring me some beautiful ones, and eventually I had about 14,000 on shelves all over the house, even in the bedrooms. One day my husband, Rolf, said, “Andrea, you either find somewhere to put these things or it’s a divorce!” So we decided to create a museum.”

A museum like Andrea’s is different from a big municipal institution because it deals with things on a very personal basis. Even though there are so many shakers, you begin to recognise ones your grandmother used to have, or you saw when you went on vacation somewhere, or you gave as a gift once. “People come back over and over again and think that we are adding to the displays,” says Andrea, “but we aren’t, it’s just that they didn’t see them first time around.”

Displaying the almost endless selection of models in no mean feat, but Andrea has an excellent eye for how it should be done. “It’s almost impossible to categorise them, because you can work by style, age, subject matter, colour etc, but I try and do it to combine all these elements at the same time. I have a very visual memory, and I can walk into an antique shop or go to a garage sale and know instantly if I see one for sale that I have in the collection or not, even if it is just the salt or pepper shaker and not a pair.

And will the collection ever end? “Never! It’s the hunt I love, the hope that I’ll find something different, something special. And ‘special’ doesn’t necessarily mean the most ornate or the most expensive, it can be something quite simple that I fall in love with the moment I see it.”

So the next time you see a museum that’s full of the weird and wonderful, don’t immediately think, “What on earth is someone collecting this lot for?” because it might be yet another delve into social anthropology and not someone’s bizarre obsession – but there again, it just might!