One-shot #9: Procuring Salt in Ithaca, NY

It is no secret that I love industrial scenes – looking at them, traipsing about them, photographing them. It’s probably less well-know that I’m a huge fan of the small city in Upstate New York where I finished my undergraduate studies – Ithaca, a little liberal mecca in the midst of the bucolic Finger Lakes region in the middle of the state. So when I come across information on a large industrial operation that once operated in my haunt of four years, and of which I’ve never heard, I’m intrigued. And when I see a $4 eBay stereoview like this Keystone card…

Keystone View Company #22028, Evaporating Salt Brine by Steam to Obtain Salt, Ithaca, N. Y. Number 42 in an unknown set.

…which features an industrial site that I’ve never even heard of, I’m sold. Or rather, the card is sold – to me. I had (and have) no idea which of Keystone View Company’s many sets this card was #42 in – more than likely, one of their many “Tour of the World” series. One thing’s just about certain with KVC – their cards almost always have descriptive text on the back of it. So not only would I get a new stereoview for my “random stuff that interests me” box, but I’d find out about a presumably-lost part of the city’s history.

So in however many days Free Shipping takes to deliver a stereoview, I get something in the post, open it up, and remember that I’d even bought the card. At which point I pop it into a scope and take a look – and I’m blown away. This is a really great use of stereo, in a wonderfully lit industrial scene! What more could an easily-excited industrial archaeologist dream of? Eager to find out more, I flipped the card over to find…


…nothing. Or at least, nothing whatsoever about the picture, besides a vague description that could equally well apply to a salt evaporating facility in Salt Lake City, Kalamazoo, or Kazakhstan, as well as information that might be of interest to a child about what salt actually is. Thanks, Keystone. A quick web search gave me some basic information on various salt mining and production companies in Ithaca (and moreso in nearby Lansing), but exactly sod all regarding this particular plant – which makes sense, because it’s a relatively anonymous-looking industrial plant.

But at the end of the day, I’ve no reason to be upset – for less than the price of a Brooklyn bodega sandwich, I got a really lovely stereoview that I’ve looked at a number of times since. I might not know exactly what I’m looking at, but I know that I like looking at it. That’s enough, really – I mightn’t have bought the view had it stated that it was about procuring salt in Kazakhstan, but I’d have been missing out on a really wicked image. Context is great, but not absolutely necessary. And I did, in fact, learn something – salt as currency in Tibet? Far out!



4 Replies to “One-shot #9: Procuring Salt in Ithaca, NY”

  1. Ian, this card appears to be from the 1917 edition of the Visual Education 600 set. It was sold to schools, hence the simplistic text on the back. In the next release of this set in 1922 this card was replaced with 22019 showing a similar plant in Syracuse NY.

    1. Ah! Thanks Doug; I wasn’t even aware of that set. In terms of Keystone, I don’t go out of my way to collect the non-WWI stuff – I just grab some here and there because I like the content of the individual card, or pick up random sets at junk stores and such (some random Tour of the World set on Palestine, etc) – thanks for the info!

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