When someone mentions salt what do you think of? Most people begin to think of the white crystalized substance (known as sodium chloride), which is commonly used and known for seasoning food. Salt has a wide range of purposes and can be used for melting ice off your driveway on a cold snowy day or even as a peace treaty in many cultures. During the eighteenth century, salt mining was helpful in building the economic development of many countries. But what most people don’t know is the long, dangerous process in making salt, or the history from where it comes.
Many countries made money through tourist attractions of salt mines or sculptures that brought people from all over. Countries who highly benefited with salt productions or mining during the eighteenth century include Spain, France, Austria, England and many more according to the article, Salt History- Millions of years in the making. Salt was so important to some countries that the Turks Island was not colonized until after Bermuda helped build the first permanent settlement on the island (wikipedia – History of bermuda). But this process was not easy considering the time period. Over time, the routine has evolved, but during the eighteenth century this job was mostly done by hand. In Salins, salt mining was done by “drawing brine springs and extracting the salt which is stocked and sold in which then the brine was channeled through hollowed out logs” (saltworks and salt museum). Salt is produced as brine and salt rock which was dewatered by wooden tools (salt mining tools M). These clumps of brine were to be collected by laborers which collected from either the ocean which was the main place or from salty lakes. Brine was not always only pure salt, but also contained other elements which needed to be separated by hand and panning. What made this process so dangerous for laborers was that they were often required to be submerged in the water collecting the brine. Salt is known for deteriorating items ranging from plastics to metal that are left in it over long periods of time. As you can imagine, this was not a safe working condition for anyone and caused a lot of physical damage.
So what type of person would choose to do this type of dangerous job? Few were lower class civilians desperate for any job, but the majority of the laborers did not “choose” to do this but were forced because they were slaves of salt pond owners. During the eighteenth century, owning slaves was still legal, and it was not till after the eighteenth century that this was no longer legal. According to Prince, slaves were used in this dangerous industry from late eighteenth century “in 1764 until Emancipation on August 1, 1834” (Prince 1). The life of a salt miner was anything but glamorous and not only destroyed ones spirit within the process, but also literally destroyed the body as well. The salt pond was no clean environment and lead to many of the workers becoming extremely sick and covered in boils due to the high contact with the salt. Most laborers had parts of their bodies (which was in contact with the salt) become very sensitive and the skin, very thin and deteriorating. The salt literally began to peel off layers of their skin revealing blisters and open wounds which were hardly taken care of medically. After these sores became open wounds, the laborers were still required to work the next day as well which caused further damage now that the salt was actually able to get into the body. Mary Prince is a very well known African woman who lived during this time period as salt mine worker for ten years who detests to this subject. The people who did these jobs worked literally till death. “Though we worked from morning till night, there was no satisfying Mr. D—-. I hoped, when I left Capt. I—-, that I should have been better off, but I found it was but going from one butcher to another” (Prince 10). Working in the salt mines was a dangerous job and was mainly worked by the slaves of the salt mine owners who made double profits. One profit was from owning the salt pond, the other was from owning the salt. “Mr. D who was one of the owners of the mine Prince worked made a profit for every slave he had working” (Prince 11).
After the eighteenth century this cruel trend was put to an end in 1834. While the physical labor may have been no longer forced, the scars from working in the salt mines will forever haunt those who worked the mines. Not only did those who worked the mines suffer physically, but mentally as well.
Bibliography for: Salt Mining
1. “Vous Ne Disposez Pas Du Dernier Flash Player, Veuillez Le TÃÂ©lÃÂ©charger ÃÂ Cette Adresse.” MusÃ©es Des Techniques Et Cultures Comtoises. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://www.musees-des-techniques.org/Jura_39_/Les_musees/salines-AADA.html?langue=ANG>
2. “Salt History.” Salt History. The Detroit Salt Company, 2010. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://www.detroitsalt.com/salt-history.html>.
3. “Gabelle.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabelle>.
4. “Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Saltworks_at_Arc-et-Senans>.
5. “Salt Mining: Mining Part.” Salt Mining: Mining Part. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.geo.msu.edu/geogmich/saltminingM.html>.