you please pass the salt? by
of the elements we take for granted today have incredible histories. The most
outstanding of these is table salt. It is so common, plentiful and economical
we never give its use a thought as we sprinkle it across our food.
must have salt to survive. Many of the chemical reactions within our body requires
sodium with chloride - not always in granular form inside a salt shaker. Today's
people derive 75 percent of their daily intake from processed food.
examine some of the reasons salt is important in history as well. Salt was taxed
as far back as the 20th century B.C. in China and was one of the prime movers
of national economies and the cause of wars.
During the Roman Empire
period, the main reason for building the famous cobblestone highways was to enable
the caravans to haul salt to the Roman cities. Roman soldiers were partially paid
wages with salt, and the word "salary" is still used today. The phrase "worth
one's salt," meaning you have earned your wages, also came from this era.
played a part in the location and success of many large cities. Timbuktu and Liverpool
were places where salt was traded. Salt both created and destroyed empires. The
salt mines of Poland led to a vast kingdom only to be destroyed by the Germans
developing a sea-salt process that could be processed more cheaply. Venice won
success over Genoa in a salt war only to lose again when Columbus discovered America,
which had plentiful salt supplies.
The wars in American history were often
influenced by the deposits or uses of salt. The British tried to stop the trade
in salt used in preserving food during the Revolutionary War. The war of 1812
used salt to pay the soldiers because the new government had no money. One of
the main objectives of the Lewis and Clark expedition was to try to find new deposits
of natural salt.
In America, until the early 1800s, most salt was derived
from salty brines coming from within the earth and the ocean. When salt deposits
were discovered beneath the ground, mining salt provided more commodity at a much
cheaper price. The first petroleum exploration in Pennsylvania used salt-water
drilling and mining techniques in their search for oil-bearing sands.
Gandhi of India rose to nonviolent power by protesting the British monopoly of
salt production. Tax revenue to many governments in the world dropped after salt
production increased. The famous Erie Canal was first called ''the ditch that
salt built" because most early commerce involved carrying salt down its path.
The Land Act of 1795 providing homesteads for the public also established "salt
reservations" reserved for public use.
In Texas, we had "The El Paso Salt
War" of 1877 when greedy individuals tried to capture the salt springs and distilling
lakes north of El Paso
for private gain.
In the past, salt was used mostly in food and the preservation
of food stuff. By the late 1800s, salt was used in making numerous chemicals to
treat leather and making dyes for textiles and pottery. Today, manufacturers claim
more than 14,000 uses for salt.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
Food - more on salt