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Historical Notes on Salt and Salt-Manufacture

Historical Notes on Salt and Salt-Manufacture

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HISTORICAL
NOTES
ON
SALT
AND
SALT-
MANUFACTURE 
By
Dr.
L.
G.
M.
BAAS-BECKZNG
JACQUES LOEB LABORATORY, STANFORD UNIVERSITY
"SALZ
und Brot gebet Gott "-saltand bread are gifts of the gods andbelong to the most primitive economicgoods known to mankind. The drinkingwater, inade more or less immortal as aneconomic good by von Bohm-Bawerlr, thegrains and cattle, pet objects of the his-torical econon~ist, nd salt may be con-sidered to be material bases of humansociety.But while our knowledge of water, bycontinuous efforts of chemists and hy-gienists, has becoine increasingly deeperand fuller, while we hare bred cattle andgrains with scientific methods for quitea while, whilewe have studied theirfitness and their value as economic goodsby eliminating disease, by selection andby a study of their environment, our1mo~vledg.e of salt is scant. Fromscores of laboratories information be-comes available on our agriculturalproducts; our water supplies are con-sidered the very hearts of our cities, butthe manufacture of salt is still, withminor modifications, at the same stageas it ~vas t the time of the EmperorHuang, about
2,500
years before theChristian era.The technologist might get impatientwith this state of affairs-if he insiststhat there is a great opportunity here foreconomic improvement he is doubtlesslyright-but to the student this stagnationin development has its great charms.In studying this archaic salt-makingpyocess we meet often with things thathave been tlie property of mankind forthousands of years. TJTe feel as the en-cyclopedists did when towards the au-tumn of tlie eighteenth century theytook stock of the French technology in
43
their beautiful "Dictionnaire des artset des n16tiers." While they struck thearchaic in almost every tecliniqae, thehistorical harvest novadays would bemeager. It is not fitting to deplore thisstandardization of industry, for it wouldbe the saine as denouncing our very ex-istence in modern society.But vhen after Lavoisier the practicalman began to employ the scientist as hishelot, salt manufacture was fortunatelyforgotten. It remained forgotten until1849, when for the first and the last timeUsiglio evaporated sea water at Cettenear the Mediterranean under uncon-trolled conditions with the primitivechemical means of his clay. Kotvith-standing all the shortcoinings of thiswork it \\rill always remain a classic, asit inspired van't Hoff in his phase rulestudies on the Stassfurt salt beds,gathered in two voluines in 1909 underthe title "Zur Bildung der ozeanischenSalzablagerungen.
"
In the following paper
I
shall try toemphasize the historical conservatism inthe salt industry and shall endeavor toshow that a great many methods used inthis industry are very old. Special ein-phasis mill be placed on the organismsliving in salt solutions of high concen-trations, their influence on the industryand their antiquity.
I
am painfully aware of the very in-coinplete account
I
have been compelled
to
patch together, and
I
sincerely hopethat this paper may entice others to con-tribute their information oil a mostinteresting topic.The existing treatises on salt are, onthe whole, economic in nature and
do
not give the technological and bacterio-
The Scientific Monthly
, Vol. 32, No. 5. (May, 1931), pp. 434-446.
 
435
ALT AND SALT-MANUFACTUR:E
logical information which would makethese worlrs :interesting to the scientist.As late as
1665l
we find a statelllentthat the salt could be separated from thesea water by means of a '(bladder madeof wax.
'
'
This "bladder made of wax" wasprobably never tried experimentally be-cause it mas obviously cited after Aris-totle, who, according to modern schol-ar~,~epended upon an error made by acopyist, who substituted
K~QL~OS
(wax)for the K$Q~ELLYOSclay) in Democritus'writings
!3
Similar fanciful methods are still re-corded in various seventeenth centuryjournals. We shall pass, however, fromalchemy to chemistry and start with thefathers of all culture-the Chinese.The oldest Chinese treatise on pharma-cology and pharmacognosy is the Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu, which may be translatedas the man-plant-classification. In thistreatise, which dates back, according tosome authorities, to about 2700
B.
C.,
we find in Volume
XI,
on "Stones,"part of Book
V
devoted to the descrip-tion of "20 kinds of salt," and "27additional kinds.
"
The kind of descrip-tions and the style, especially of thechapter headings, are analogous to thoseof Dioscovides and Plin~.~n this bookwe find references to solar as well as topit or rock salt (Fig.
1)
manufacture.One fact is, however, apparent.
Thesolar
salt
is
the oldest known
in
China.
The subject of the Emperor Huang,
1
Phil.
Trans.,
1:
127
(anonymous).
2
Compare,
fo~
nstance,
E.
von
Lippmann,((Abhandlungen
u.
Vortrage
zur
Geschichte
der
~aturwissen.," Chapter
fl,
pp. 98, 99,
162-
199. 
1913.
3'~his
might
be
the earliest (though slightly
warped)
~eference
to
"
zeolithe"
action!
4
Compare
Chapter 41,
Book
31,
of
Pliny:
'(The
various
properties
of
salt:
one
hundredand twenty historical
remarks
relative thereto.
"
named Shu-Sha or Sou-cha, invented theart of extracting the salt from sea water.This must have been prior to 2200
B.
C., for we find that the Emperor
Yu,
of the Hia dynasty, which flourishedduring that era, levied the first salt-taxin the province of Tsing Tau.Other processes
of
salt making inChina are apparently more modern, forhi-ping, prefect of the province ofSe-tchuan (300
B.
C.), "well versed inthe arts of' stones," discovered in theearth the salt deposits. Exploited bymeans of salt-pits they enriched the in-habitants who previously got their saltfrom Chan-Si in exchange for their tea.5The latter procedure is analogous tothat employed in the Staffordshire brine-pits.
5
See
also
le
pkre
Pierre Roang, "Expos6
du
commerce
public
du
sel,
'
'
Tarie'te's Siltologiques,
Number
15,
1898, imprimerie
de
la MissionCatholique.FIG
1.
MANUFACTURE
OF
LAKE SALT
BY
BOILING.
AFTER
A
FIG~E
THE
RAWING
IN
PENG-TZAO-KAN-MU.
 
436 THE SCIENTIFIC
MONTHLY
FIG.
2.
MANUFACTURE OF SEA SALT
BY
BOILING.
DRAWING
AFTER A
FIGURE IN THEPENG-TZAO-EAN-MU.
According to Hoang and to the Peng-Tzao two methods were used to extractthe salt from the sea water.
1.
In the province of Chi-Li ash fromsalt-plants is boiled in a kettle with seawater over a fire made of salt-weedq.The liquid is evaporated until an eggfloats. Grains of the lotus, "che-lien,"are also used. Twenty-four hours ofboiling is sufficient to "grain" the salt.(See Fig.
2.)
2.
In
the province of Yai-cheau thefollowing procedure is followed
:6
An embankment is made and ditches to drawclear sea water.It is left for
a
long time untilthe color becomes red.If the south mind blowswith force during summer and autumn the saltmay grain over night. If the south wind doesnot come all the profits are lost.7
6
Literal translation by Mr. T. Rashimoto.
compare
his statement with pliny, ~~~k 31,Chapter 41: "North-easterly minds render the
The few citations above suffice as astarting-point for our considerations, forthey contain a great number of points ofgeneral interest.In the first place it is worth while toconsider the pictograms used by theearly Chine~e.~ n Fig.
4,
a, the archaic
formati011 of salt more abundant, but, whilesouth winds prevail, it never increases," andalso an anonymous letter to the Philosophical(later Royal) Society at London, dated Sep-tember
20,
1669, and concerned with the solarsalt process on the island of RhB;'' 'Tis ob-vious, that the hottest years make the mostsalt; where yet it is to be noted, that besidesthe heat of the sun, the Winds contribute muchto it, in regard that less salt is made in Calme,than in Windy weather. The West-and North-west Winds are the best for this purpose."Neither the recent papers of Tressler (seelater) nor Peirce mention this factor
(G.
J.
Peirce, ((The Behavior of Certain Micro-organisma in Brine," Carn. Inst. of Wash.Publ. 193, 1914).
8
The following information was obtained
from
Mr.
Ninomya.
FIG.
3. SODIUM CHLORIDEHOPPER-SHAPED
DRAWN
A
PIG-
RYSTALS
AFTER
URE
IN THE
PENG-TZAO-EAN-MU.

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