Ready to shake up your vacation? Want to add a little spice to your day?
We’re talking about Gatlinburg’s Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, one of only a handful of salt and pepper shaker set galleries in the United States.
The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg features an amazing collection of over 20,000 shaker sets and 1,500 pepper mills from around the world.
Understandably, it’s only natural at this point for the average non-shaker-aficionado to roll their eyes and ponder and ask, “what’s so great about a salt and pepper shaker museum?”
The history of the Salt and Pepper Museum
Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum owner Andrea Ludden is an archaeologist by training. Surprisingly, her collection began with a simple search for the perfect pepper mill for her kitchen. Later, the collection burgeoned as she became fascinated with the history of salt and pepper shakers.
Ludden was struck by the variety available and became fascinated by the cultural significance many held. In fact, just like a historical artifact found at a dig site, these collector’s items tell a story of the era in which they were created.
The museum, opened by Andrea and her husband Rolf, features sets organized chronologically, beginning with the vintage shakers from the 1800s. Here, you’ll find shakers made of glass, tin, metal and even wood.
As you move into the early 20th century section, the shaker sets begin to feature more color and novelty shapes.
Fast forward a few decades and you’ll notice the salt and pepper-shaker world went crazy in the 1950s.
In fact, any popular piece of pop culture or historical reference including a presidential themes section, you can think of from “I Love Lucy” to Dwight D. Eisenhower is there, in the form of a shaker. The vast museum collection is a true labor of love.
The abundant salt and pepper shaker themes
Some themes seem more abundant than others. I guesstimate at least 200 sets featuring various forms of corn alone.
The vegetable collection isn’t limited to just corn. There’s also a plethora of veggie-themed miniature works of art: Cauliflower, broccoli, beans, peas and all kinds of peppers.
I’m pretty sure I even saw a set of artichokes.
While some might consider some items a little kitschy, no one can doubt the value and beauty of the shakers located in “The Vault.”
The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum has a vault?
Yes, and “The Vault” is located in the center of the museum. And this is where the REALLY valuable sets are housed.
Antique shakers sit among those made with precious metals and gems. Some look to be depression-era glass and some were made in occupied Japan. In truth, the stunning sets are actually an art form.
A beautiful pair of pearls made into tiny shakers caught my eye.
The Vault also houses shakers made by some of the world’s best china companies, including a very impressive assortment made by Royal Delft.
The second half of the museum is home to a more modern collection – representing shaker sets from recent decades.
This is when the collection becomes “cool” – at least to my young nephews, who originally wanted to wait in the car but were thrilled to see their favorite cartoon characters, superheroes and sports teams celebrated in their full-glory shaker form.
I found my favorite set here – John F. Kennedy and his rocker.
I was also really impressed by a visitor map.
Non-collectors are asked to mark their hometown with a stick pin. Collectors, like myself, mark their location with a push pin.
Why the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum holds a special place in my heart
You see, I was born into a family of shaker enthusiasts.
My mother began her collection with a set of ceramic lobster claws she found while on vacation with my dad in Rhode Island ten years before I was born.
As the years went on, her collection would grow to over 5,000 shakers before we stopped counting.
I’ve spent years caring for, dusting, organizing, researching and pouring (shaker joke) over information about the pieces in my mother’s collection.
I’ve even gone to conventions and scoured eBay for her “must haves”.
Mom’s collection became a passion and is the archeology of her life. And the sets represent the places and the people she loved.
The curio cabinets, spread throughout my house with hardly room for another set, tell my family’s story.
So this is why this vast collection of what some would call “knick-knacks” holds a special place in my heart. And also how it helped me form a deeper understanding, and a deeper connection to my own mother.
How much does the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum cost?
General admission is just $3 per adult, children 12 and under are free.
Your $3 admission price can be used toward the purchase of a set in the museum’s gift shop. My nephews selected a “Dr. Who” set to add to mom’s collection.
The museum is open every day from 10 am-2 pm.
Hours may vary due to inclement weather, but the museum is great about posting last-minute closures on their Facebook page – so always check there first if there’s any doubt.
The museum is located in Winery Square at 461 Brookside Village Way in Gatlinburg TN near the Great Smoky Mountains. The hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm and Sunday, 10 am – 2 pm. Visit TheSaltAndPepperShakerMuseum.com for more information.
Have you been to this museum in downtown Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments!