February 7, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Joy Morton

The Mortons are one of the oldest families in America. The first Mortons arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1623. Julius Sterling Morton brought his young family to Nebraska in 1855 as one of the territory's earliest pioneers. He became well-known as a newspaperman and Democratic party leader, eventually going to Washington to serve as Secretary of Agriculture under Grover Cleveland.

His son Joy was born in his mother's home in Detroit just before the family emigrated in 1855. He was educated in Nebraska City schools until the age of 16 when he went to work in the Merchant National Bank in town. Morton stayed at the bank for five years before going to Illinois to work as a supply agent for the Chicago-Burlington-Quincy Railroad.

Shortly afterwards he entered the Chicago salt business as a member of the firm of E.I. Wheeler & Company. The company had started in 1848 with the opening of the Illinois-Michigan canal. It served as the agent for the Michigan Salt Association, a co-operative of lumbermen who made salt as a byproduct.

In 1885 Wheeler died and the 30-year old Morton assumed control of the newly named Joy Morton & Company. Under Joy Morton the company grew into the largest, most important salt producer in the country. In 1902 Morton merged with other salt manufacturers to form the National Salt Company. In 1910 Joy and his brother Mark bought out the western properties of the combine and formed the Morton Salt Company.

Factories were established in Fort Hutchinson in Kansas and Port Huron and Ludington in Michigan. Brine was pumped from wells into settling tanks where all insoluble matter drifted to the bottom. The salt was purified in a second set of tanks. Coopers built barrels to ship the salt. There were also rock salt mines in New York, Michigan, Kansas and Louisiana. The companies owned gigantic lakefront storage houses in Chicago, Milwaukee and Superior, Wisconsin.

By the 1920s Morton employed over 1000 people in his salt factories. Each year he produced 600,000 tons of evaporated salt and 400,000 tons of rock salt. He remained in charge of the firm until his death in 1934. Shortly thereafter the Morton Salt Company passed out of the hands of the Morton family.

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