Salt Manufacture at Syracuse

Salt Large@2x.jpg

Dublin Core


Salt Manufacture at Syracuse


This engraving shows four views of the Onondaga Salt Company, located in Syracuse, NY. Due to an unusual geologic formation, salt springs located near the south end of Onandaga Lake had been an object of interest from the beginning of European cultural contact--so much so, that the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784 had forced cession of these lands as the Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation. Salt was a necessity in food preservation, and construction of the Erie Canal in 1825 meant that evaporated salt could be transported inexpensively.

As of 1860, when this engraving was published, the scale of production had grown dramatically. We see the older "salt block" method, whereby wood- or coal-fired boilers heated banks of iron kettles 24 hours per day; and we see the newer "solar" evaporation vats. At this time three major salt operations in the Syracuse area were producing more than seven million bushels of salt every year, leading to the drilling of wells or (as is shown here) the pumping lake water into evaporation tanks. Salt operations at Syracuse declined after the Civil War with competition from western sources and rail transportation.

The Onondaga salt formation had a toxic second life, however, with its mining for use in the Solvay manufacturing process of sodium carbonate--"soda ash" used in a variety of manufacturing processes. Waste products from the Solvay Process Company and later Allied Chemical, millions of tons every year, were deposited as "waste beds" in marshes alongside Onondaga Lake. Despite partial remediation they remain a toxic legacy.


Ira J. Friedman




Cooper, Ken


J.H. French, Gazetteer of the State of New York (Ira J. Friedman, 1860): 480.

Courtesy of Internet Archive


jpeg, 852 KB


Still image

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format


Physical Dimensions

4 x 6 in.