Skip to content
Interpreting the Evidence

Sifting Salt

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Central New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Sifting Salt, near Syracuse, NY, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A mechanized salt sifting pan at a salt manufacturing plant near Syracuse, New York, circa 1900.
Historical Context
Salt was commonly made by evaporating salt water from brine swamps and fields or by evaporating ocean water. In central New York, areas like Syracuse became major salt manufacturing areas due to their brine swamps. New York City also had a salt manufacturing industry due to its ocean locale.

The evaporation method for either ocean or brine water is similar. First, the water is gathered in large, flat pans. Then, depending on the method used, the water is evaporated by solar heat or by heating the pans with small fires. The salt can then be scraped from the pans and distributed.

Essential Question
How does geography impact local economies?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of geography on the local economy.
Historical Challenges
Research how civilizations have harvested salt. How did the Egyptians, Romans, and Native Americans do it?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Why do animals need salt to survive? If you boiled salt water, what would happen?