Whether on the table or on display, salt and pepper shakers add a touch of whimsy to your kitchen.
Spice things up with vintage salt and pepper shakers.
Featuring salt and pepper together at the table is a relatively recent phenomenon. Historically, seasonings were added during cooking—and long a luxury only the affluent could afford. French King Louis XIV is thought to have brought salt and pepper together, preferring his food only lightly seasoned with the two ingredients.
The invention of the shaker is credited to John Mason, of canning jar fame, in the late 1850s. Shakers did not prove very practical until 1911, when Chicago’s Morton Salt Co. added magnesium carbonate to keep salt from clumping. Its famous slogan became “When it rains, it pours.” In the 1920s, large-scale manufacturing of figural shakers began, including by the German firm Goebel, an early producer best known for the Hummel figurines.
During the Depression, glass and ceramic companies searched for new attractive, inexpensive items to sell. Salt and pepper shakers fit the bill, and soon companies were producing them in many novel, colorful forms. A further boost to the popularity of shakers was the rise of the automobile. Increasingly affordable cars fostered tourism, and shakers became inexpensive souvenirs for travelers to take to the folks back home.
1 Ceramic Chickens
Rooster and hen salt and peppers are popular novelty sets. This vintage ceramic pair is circa
1960. Chickens were all the rage because they were considered very French, in vogue at the time thanks in part to the fame of such tastemakers as Julia Child and Jackie Kennedy.
2 Three Face Pattern Glass
This lovely pair is made from early American pattern glass, also known as pressed or Victorian glass. Matching sets of shakers in this type of glass were manufactured by a number of American firms from approximately 1850 to 1910. George Duncan & Sons introduced the original Three Face pattern in 1878. The tops on these early examples appear to be pewter and, instead of standard round holes, the seasoning flows through star-shaped openings. Worth: $35-$50
3 Depression Glass
Ribbed green Depression glass is a 1930s version of pattern glass. These larger “range shakers” often were part of canister sets associated with the iconic Hoosier cabinet. These shakers are missing their original paper labels, while the tops are made of aluminum and show some wear.
Worth: $40-$50 in good condition
Anthropomorphic characters are common in novelty shakers, and these oranges are a typical example. They still bear an original price sticker marked “Florida Festival” and were probably made in Japan during the 1960s.
5 Wooden Souvenir
Rustic souvenir shakers such as these were made from a variety of woods, often local, and came in many shapes and sizes. These hand-painted, handcarved coffee pots hail from Corunna, Ontario, Canada, circa 1960. Worth: $5-$15
Joe Kenz, a certified personal property appraiser, and Sandy Garrison are co-owners of Rhubarb Reign, an antiques and design business. Together they bring more than 40 years of experience to their work. The authors wish to thank the Marshall County Historical Society in Indiana for access to its collection.