The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum is worth the trip. You’ll find that you’ll never look at the essential table dispensers the same way ever again. The collection encompasses an incredible selection of shaker sets that include presidential themes, animals, vegetables, figural, and interpretations of the traditional cylinder shape. The museum shows how something lowly and common got turned into an art form and brought a bit of visual interest to the table.
The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum is one of those truly unique pieces of Americana. While it may sound like it’s a remnant of roadside America, it was actually founded by Andrea Ludden. She and her family moved to Gatlinburg for the express purpose of opening up the museum to display her collection of 12,000 sets of salt and pepper shakers. That number has since grown to 20,000, and it even caused the Luddens to move to a larger building to put them on display. The museum is a kitschy ode to the art of elevating a common household item into something more interesting. It’s worth a stop, and you might even find a set that you once saw on your grandparents’ dining room table!
The founder, Andrea Ludden, was inspired to start the museum when she realized she didn’t have a pepper mill in her kitchen. That need for a pepper mill led her to buy one, then two, then four, and, well, the rest is history. She started collecting salt and pepper shakers until her husband had enough and told her she had to do something about the collection. The end result was a move from Texas to Tennessee, so she could create the only museum of its kind in the world.
It’s very apparent that the museum is full of salt and pepper shakers, but these aren’t your ordinary and average sets. The collection holds salt and pepper shakers that date back to the 16th century! The shakers represent centuries worth of history, serve as a backdrop to talk about how people dined and seasoned their food, and even show the differences between different kinds of shakers. You may have been taught how to tell one shaker from the other, but you’d be surprised to learn that it’s not written in stone. In fact, many sets have the same number of holes, and this is something that’s discussed in the museum.
The museum’s gift shop features new and vintage shakers to help you get your own collection started. Some of the vintage shakers are duplicates of items on display while others are of recent manufacture. You’ll have a fond memory of a visit to a unique museum to keep with you for the years to come.
Pay close attention to the hours. The museum is open seven days a week, but only for four hours each day. It’s open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. While it’s not a lot of operating hours for visitors, it’s worth making the effort to visit.