Keep It

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.

Worth: $12-$20

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

4 Oranges

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.

Worth: $10-$25

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.

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