Canada’s Salt Historian
Recounts 150 Years of
Surprisingly Spicy Salt History
MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (April 24, 2017) – As the country celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday, Scott MacEwan, Canada’s Salt Historian, is recounting a rich tapestry of how salt has played a major role since the very beginnings of the nation. For 150 years, salt has been an essential Canadian commodity and for 150 years, Sifto® Salt has been a significant part of its history and innovation.
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“Striking salt in the small Ontario town of Goderich began as an unexpected discovery, but would go on to significantly impact Canada’s economy and international trade,” said MacEwan. “It put our salt on the international map and truly changed the course of Canada’s history.”
1867 – Canadian Confederation
1867 – (Not) Striking Oil Creates a Billion Dollar Salt Boom
The history of salt in Canada and the fortunes of entrepreneur Samuel Platt and his Goderich Petroleum Company took a surprising turn in 1866 while drilling for oil. Later described as a wonder of “go-ahead-iveness” by a local paper, Platt’s Goderich-based drill operation was initially the butt of many jokes from the town’s locals, including a prank of pouring oil down the drill hole to have Platt believe he’d struck black gold. At the 964 foot mark, only 36 feet from his goal, he shockingly struck salt, inadvertently tapping into the great Michigan Salt Bed, one of the largest and purest salt deposits in the world. Platt, recognizing the opportunity he stumbled upon renamed his company the Goderich Salt Works and salt well and boiler pan operations began in 1867. Goderich Salt Works was folded into Sifto Salt 87 years later.
1867 – Salt from Canada Wins Worldwide Kudos
A chemical analysis conclusively proved the salt discovered in Goderich was the purest known at the time, and the most concentrated possible. It was also deemed most useable in chemical composition for meat and dairy processing.
Platt’s salt was entered in an international competition at the 1867 World’s Fair Paris Exhibition and came out on top, winning a coveted award for taste. Salt from Canada was now on the international map.
1871 – The Salt Boom Mints a Middle Class
At the time of Platt’s salty discovery, Goderich was a desolate place rife with typhoid, thick dust, and no sewers or standard town utilities, with some residents having to travel a half mile to retrieve water for their families.
The salt boom had an almost immediate impact on the town and created many middle-class spin-off industries like cooperages to build salt barrels, harness shops for horse-drawn wagons, stores and a school house. The salt industry also modernized the town of Goderich by paving streets, adding boardwalks and permanent lighting. By 1871, the town of Goderich had over 17 active salt operations that produced thousands of barrels of salt each day to keep up with demand from America, predominantly for preserving and curing meat.
“In many ways, Platt’s discovery of salt turned out to be a more valuable discovery than oil,” added MacEwan.
1890 – The Salt Bust
By 1890, high American tariffs on Canadian salt and cheap English salt brought into Canada duty-free (as ballast on ships) negatively impacted production and sales. Combined with a local wood shortage (needed to fuel salt evaporators) and a series of fires among salt operations in Goderich, many companies shut down for good. By 1900, only two salt works remained in Goderich.
1940 – Salt History Repeats Itself in Saskatchewan
Similarly to the Goderich salt strike, a large deposit of rock salt was discovered in the Unity district of Western Saskatchewan in 1940 by a drilling crew searching for oil. Two wells were swiftly created to extract the salt, signaling the tentative comeback of Canada’s salt industry, and operations continue by Sifto to this day.
1940-1960s – The Salt Industry in Canada Innovates
Initially tested in New Hampshire in the winter of 1938, the city of Detroit became an early adopter of using salt for melting ice on slippery winter roads in 1940. This innovation quickly spread across North America and was of great value to Canada due to our weather conditions.
The company that would become Sifto continued to innovate, identifying other opportunities for the vast supply of salt available. In the 1940s they began to produce cattle blocks of salt, essential to sustain livestock and in the early 1960s, Sifto began to produce water softening salt for homes in areas where hard water is present.
1954 – Sifto Revives the Salt Industry in Canada
Further drilling in Goderich confirmed a vast bed of rock salt with exceptionally high quality and Sifto invested millions to sink a shaft for a new mining operation.
1965 – Canada Reaches a Salty Milestone
By 1965, world production of salt grew to a record one hundred million tonnes a year, with approximately 4% mined in Canada.
1981 – Canada’s Most Prolific Salt Packer Retires
Ruby Anna Howey, a salt packer at Sifto Canada’s Unity plant in Saskatchewan retired after having personally packed 43,000 tons of salt over her 28-year career. Laid end-to-end, the packed packages of salt would span a distance of 5,000 miles and would reach from Halifax to past Vancouver.
2007 – The Salt Industry in Canada Starts Producing Salt for Pools
Though it took longer to catch on in Canada, salt water pools gained in popularity and Sifto began producing pool salt.
2017 – 150 Years of Salt History in Canada
Today, as Sifto celebrates 150 years of salt history and innovation in Canada, Canadians continue to rely on Sifto to provide quality salt and mineral products for winter snow and ice removal, animal nutrition, water softening, swimming pools, chemical, industrial and food applications