History of Saltworks on Cape Cod

Cape Cod sea salt production parallels the growth of America from its earliest days.  Sea salt was an essential requirement of colonial life and was the sole means of preserving food when refrigeration didn't exist.

The British blockade of the Revolutionary War forced New Englanders to produce salt for themselves and created an economic boom for Cape Codders who applied their ingenuity to the production of sea salt using the abundant resources of Cape Cod:  wind, sun and salt water.

881 saltworks existed on Cape Cod in 1832, the height of sea salt production.  But the advent of the railroad, the discovery of salt mines in New York and the expense of salt evaporation led to the business’ decline. The last salt vats were dismantled in the 1890s although saltworks wooden pipes are sometimes uncovered after a big storm.


       Photo Courtesy of Orleans Historical Society

“Salt is the only rock directly consumed by man.  It corrodes but preserves, desiccates but is wrested from the water. It has fascinated man for thousands of years not only as a substance he prized and was willing to labour to obtain, but also as a generator of poetic and of mythic meaning. The contradictions it embodies only intensify its power and its links with experience of the sacred.
  - Margaret Visser