From the July 14, 1936 edition of the Gazette:

When the salt industry which flourished on Martha’s Vineyard a century ago finally disappeared, as salt taken from the earth displaced that from the sea, scarcely a trace remained of the enterprise which had once been so important to the Vineyard. Shrewd Islanders found new uses for the timber and tools of the old salt works, and moving sand covered the unused remnants of the buildings which necessarily stood near the water’s edge.

The only authentic vestiges of the two salt works of Vineyard Haven and the two or three which were operated at Edgartown are two spool-shaped pieces of wood, rather elementary mechanical devices which were used to roll the roofs back and forth - to cover the brine vats in rainy weather and to leave them exposed to the sun when it was fine. A miniature one-gear windmill was used to pump water from the sea up to a tank from which it was fed into huge vats as needed. The big roofs were so balanced that they moved easily on the small wooden rollers, each of which was turned on a lathe out of a single piece of wood. Recent evidences of the mutability of Vineyard weather would indicate that the rollers once saw a great deal of use.

Although some of the salt thus made on the Island was used commercially and as cooking and table salt in the United States, a large part of the output was used in connection with the fishing industry. With any means for long time refrigeration lacking, it was necessary for all fish not consumed nearby to be cured, and salt was the most common preservative. Fresh seafood was unknown to those who lived inland more than a few decades ago.

One of the Edgartown salt works was out by Planting Field Point, near the end of Planting Field Way, the oldest road in Edgartown, another was on the marshy ground north of the lighthouse bridge, and possibly a third was situated near the “Swimming Place” at Snow’s Point.

The first of the two identical wooden rollers, like stunted spools about eight inches in diameter and about ten in length, was brought to Marshall Shepard, president of the Dukes County Historical Society, by a Vineyard Haven man who had recognized its real importance. The device hadn’t been preserved through the years by someone who cherished a souvenir of a past era, but by a farmer who saw in it a good makeshift milking stool. The solid flat bottom made it much more substantial than the traditional three-legged stool and it was just about the right height. Quite incidentally, it probably cost the dairyman who rescued it from the abandoned factory nothing.

A short time later, Mr. Shepard was told by a friendly old-time Vineyarder of a curious little knicknack that was lying around in Manuel Swartz’ boat shop. Upon investigation, Mr. Shepard discovered a duplicate of the improvised milking stool. The one that had evidently seen service in an Edgartown establishment was not in so good a state of preservation as the Vineyard Haven relic, but was unmistakably the same type of mechanism. Someone other than a farmer was the first to find a use for this single bit of physical evidence of Edgartown salt manufacture. Some housewife or handy man had seized upon it for a footstool. Carpeting had been tacked upon one end of it and when that carpeting was worn through, the stool had apparently been turned upside down and given a covering on the other end. When the old roller finally came to light again, all the fabric had disappeared; only the tacks remained. By such curious courses, the two remaining slim evidences of the salt business have come down to the historical society.

The number of states represented by automobiles on Martha’s Vineyard this season is not much different from the tally of a year ago. Just what significance this fact has we do not know. Probably it has none. But at any rate the noting of licenses on passing cars seems to be a contemporary pastime, and there are many scouts who inform the Gazette when a new state license plate appears.

Last season, up to July 16, thirty states had been reported, and also the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces. This year, on July 3, twenty-nine had been checked in by the alert scouts. This year, so far, we have not heard from Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina or Washington, which were all reported in the early lists in 1935. But the scouts have seen Alabama and Tennessee, which were not in the first lists a year ago, and they have also reported Hawaii and Quebec.

Now that the distinctions of culture, appearance and language have been so generally ironed out by inventions such as the radio and the motion picture, and distinction of place have been set at naught by the airplane and streamlined train, we need some token of cosmopolitanism. The diverse license plates on passing cars in summer reassures us that the world is wide, much as man has striven to narrow it.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox