Salt Works Established to Support Revolutionary War Effort

Salt Works

On April 24, 1776, North Carolina’s Provincial Congress ordered that a salt works be established in the colony for Revolutionary War use.

Before the war, North Carolina and other southern colonies had relied largely on salt imported from Great Britain to preserve their meats, flavor their foods and feed their livestock. It was a vital commodity. At the war’s outbreak in 1775, Great Britain had severed all trade with the fledgling American government, causing fear of a salt shortage. To ensure availability, the Provincial Congress initially set price caps on salt, rationed the existing supply and offered bounties to encourage its manufacture.

Not until April 1776, when the colonial government authorized four men to spend up to 2,000 pounds of public funds to establish a salt works, did work begin. Robert Williams and Richard Blackledge, both began salt works near Beaufort that spring. Williams’ operation at Gallant’s Point, which used solar evaporation, soon failed. But Blackledge’s plant on Core Creek succeeded, using a furnace to boil saltwater in iron pans until the water evaporated and only the salt remained. Although Blackledge died in 1777, his salt works continued to operate throughout the Revolutionary War.

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2 responses to “Salt Works Established to Support Revolutionary War Effort”

  1. Cotton Boll Conspiracy says :

    Setting price caps on salt, rationing it and offering bounties to encourage its manufacture represent some rather disparate methods to ensure salt’s availablity.

    I suppose given that Adam Smith had only just published his economics masterpiece The Wealth of Nations a month before North Carolina authorized the creation of its first salt works, N.C. officials couldn’t have been expected to fully comprehend what would work and not work as far as keeping a supply of salt on hand.

    Very interesting post.

  2. Doramin says :

    Do tell, price controls guarantee shortages because the profit motive for making more of something is removed. If prices are allowed to rise to the level of demand (“profiteering”, “price gouging”, etc) you quickly have more people making more of the commodity in question and the price quickly goes down.

    Rationing merely encourages a black market and smuggling.

    Offering bounties can sometimes help but the profit motive should be the main mover.

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