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The Salt Cellar / The Pepperpot
 

This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the traditional design known as the Salt Cellar, or, more recently, as the Fortune Teller or Cootie Catcher (particularly in the USA), and the Pepperpot, which is made by folding the outside corners of the Salt Cellar inwards. The Salt Cellar has many other names as well, some of which, such as Chatterbox, reflect the use of the design as a talking puppet.

Information about the various derivatives of the Salt Cellar and Pepperpot designs can be found on the page devoted to the History of Froebelian Folds of Life developed from the Double Blintz basic form and the Windmill Base

Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other important information that should be added. Thank you.

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In Japan

In his article 'History of Origami in the East and the West before Interfusion', published in 'Origami 5: Fifth International Meeting of Origami, Science, Mathematics and Education' in 2011, Koshiro Hatori asserts that, ''Many of the European origami models contained in Krause-Boelte's book (ie 'The Kindergarten Guide') are not included in contemporary Japanese records. The pig, house, sofa (also known as piano or organ), balloon (waterbomb), arrow (paper plane), salt cellar (cootie catcher), bird (pajarita or cocotte) and windmill ... were all born in Europe and imported into Japan along with the kindergarten system.'

I do not know when this design was first published in Japan.

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In Western Europe / the USA

1836

The earliest reference to a paper salt cellar that I know of occurs in the November 1836 issue of The Lady's Book (otherwise known as Godey's Lady Book), a women's magazine published in Philadelphia, USA, in a story entitled 'The Officers'.

Unfortunately, since there is no illustration, it is impossible to know how the paper salt-cellars referred to here were made.

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1859

A list of paperfolds suitable for use in kindergartens, on the Froebelian model, which can be found in the book 'Manual Pratique des Jardins d'Enfants de Freidrich Froebel' edited by J-F Jacobs, which was published in Brussels and Paris in 1859, includes designs called 'La Saliere' (the Salt Cellar) and 'La Poivrière' (the Pepperpot). There are no illustrations in this book but comparison with later works, which are illustrated, and which show the listed designs in a very similar order makes it almost certain that these designs can be identified in this way.

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1861

There is mention of a design titled 'Salzgestell' (salt dish) in a list of 'Lebensformen' (Forms of Life) in 'Das Paradies der Kindheit' (The Paradise of Childhood) by Lina Morgenstern, which was published in Leipzig in 1861. Unfortunately there is no illustration of the design.

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1863

The Pepperpot (Het peper-en zoutvat) is illustrated in 'De Kleine Papierwerkers' by Elise Van Calcar which was published by K H Schadd in Amsterdam in 1863. As far as I can tell the Salt Cellar is not mentioned in this book.

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1869

A design called 'Ein Salznapfchen', which is not illustrated, but which from the context is most probably the Salt Cellar, appears in a list of designs in 'Der Kindergarten' by Hermann Goldammer, which was published by Habel in Berlin in 1869.

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'Paradise of Childhood' by Edward Wiebe, which was published by Milton, Bradley and Company in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1869, and is effectively a translation of Goldammer's 'Der Kindergarten', similarly includes a 'salt-cellar' in its list of Forms of Life.

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1873

There is reference to 'La saliere' in a list of designs in 'Exercices et Travaux pour les Enfants Selon la Méthode et les Procédés de Pestalozzi et de Froebel' by Fanny and Charles Delon, which was published by Librairie Hachette in Paris in 1873. Unfortunately there is no illustration to confirm the identification of the design.

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There is mention, but no illustration, of a 'Salz und Pfeffersabchen' in 'Die Praxis Des Kindergartens' by Auguste Koehler, which was published by Herman Bohlau in Weimar in 1873. The same section of the book also referes to, but does not illustrate, a 'Lowenmaul' (Snapdragon), which is most probably a reference to a Salt Cellar used as a snapper.

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1876

Diagrams for the Salt Cellar are included in 'Des Kindes Erste Beschaftigungsbuch' by E Barth and W Niederley, which was first published in Bielefeld and Leipzig, and the foreword of which is dated October 1876.

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1880

'The Kindergarten Principle' by Mary J Lyschinska, which was published in London in 1880 by Wm Isbister Ltd, contains mention of four designs, the Work Basket with Four Pockets (presumably the Salt Cellar), the Travelling Bag (presumably the Travel Bag), the Flower and Another Flower. Unfortunately no illustrations of these designs are provided.

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1882

Both the Salt Cellar and the Pepperpot, which is titled the 'Cake Dish', appear in 'The Kindergarten Guide' by Maria Kraus Boelte and John Kraus, which was probably first published by E. Steiger and Company in New York in 1882.

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1887

The Pepperpot appears as 'Salz und Pfeffertaschen' (Salt and Pepperbags) in part 2 'Die Praxis' of 'Theoretisches und praktisches Handbuch der Fröbelschen Erziehungslehre' by Bertha von Marentholtz-Bülow, which was published by George H Wigand in Kassel in 1887.

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1891

There is reference to salieres in the 'Bulletin de la Societe de Protection des Apprentis', an official document issued by the Societe de Protection des Apprentis et des Enfants Employes par les Manufactures in Paris in 1891.

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The Salt-Cellar also appears in:

'Pleasant Work for Busy Fingers' by Maggie Browne, which was published by Cassell and Company in London in 1891. This book is an English version of 'Des Kindes Erste Beschaftigungsbuch' enhanced by the addition of a few extra designs.

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1892

'Le Travail Manuel a L'ecole Primaire' by Jully & Rocheron, which was published by Librairie Classique Eugene Belin in Paris in 1892, contains instructions for making the Salt cellar under the title 'Petit Vide-Poches' (Small Empty Pockets).

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1893

Both designs appear in 'L'Annee Preparatoire de Travail Manuel' by M P Martin, which was published by Armand Collin & Cie in Paris in 1893, the Salt Cellar as 'Petite Saliers a Quatre Compartiments' and the Pepperpot as 'Vide-Poches a Quatre Compartiments'.

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1896

The Salt Cellar and the Pepperpot are both illustrated, though not named, in Eleonore Heerwart's 'Course in Paperfolding', which was first published in Dutch in 1895 then in English by Charles and Dible in London and Glasgow in 1896.

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1897

Both design appear in Lois Bates' 'Kindergarten Guide', which was first published by Longmans, Green and Co in London in 1897 The Salt Cellar is called 'The Cruet' and the Pepperpot is called 'The Salt-cellar' in this book.

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1899

The Salt Cellar appears as 'La Saliere' in 'Le Livre des Amusettes' by Toto, which was published in Paris by Charles Mendel in 1899.

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1900

Both the Salt Cellar and the Pepperpot appear in 'Die Frobelschen Beschaftigungen: Das Falten' by Marie Muller-Wunderlich, which was published by Friedrich Brandstetter in Leipzig in 1900.

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1904

'Guia Practica del Trabajo Manual Educativo' by Ezequiel Solana, which was published by Editorial Magisterio Español in Madrid in 1904, also contains diagrams for both designs under the title of 'Purera y Salero' (Ashtray? and Salt Cellar). Curiously, here, the version with the corners folded down, pictured on the right, which is normally known as the Pepperpot, is called the 'Salero', and the version on the left, which is normally known as the Salt Cellar, is called the 'Purera'..

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1907

The Salt Cellar design appears as 'Hornilla' (stove) in an article titled 'El trabajo manual escolar' by Vicente Casto Legua in the January 1907 issue of the Spanish magazine 'La Escuela Moderna' which was published in Madrid by Los Sucesores de Hernando. The Hornilla is not illustrated or mentioned in the text of this article but the notes on this design in Part 4 (the February issue) make it clear that this design is the Salt Cellar.

This says, roughly, 'This is what children call a construction that precedes the pajarita because it bears some resemblance to old stoves. It is also used for a guessing game called Night and Day which is played by inserting the fingers in the folds of the paper making them open and close quickly while another child guesses if it will remain open, saying 'day', or if it will remain closed, saying 'night'.'

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1928

The Salt Cellar also appears in 'Fun with Paperfolding' by Murray and Rigney, first published by the Fleming H Revell Company, New York in 1928. The author notes that, upside down, 'it is a pig's foot, or, as some prefer to call it, a nose pincher.'

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The Salt Cellar is presented as a colour-changer in an article titled 'Tricks and Twists with Paper', written by Sam Brown, in the February 1928 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.

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1932

The standard Salt Cellar design appears as 'A Paper Cruet' in 'Winter Nights Entertainments' by R M Abraham, which was first published by Constable and Constable in London in 1932.

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The standard Salt Cellar design also appears, as 'Les Salieres', in Booklet 2 of 'Images a Plier', a series of 6 booklets published by Librairie Larousse in Paris in 1932.

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The design also appears, as 'un Salero', in Booklet 1 of 'Figuras de Papel', a series of 3 booklets published by B Bauza in Barcelona in 1932. No image available.

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1937

The design also appears, as the 'Picnic Salt Cellar', in 'Paper Toy Making' by Margaret Campbell, which was first published by Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd in London, probably in 1937, although both the Foreword and Preface are dated 1936, which argues that the book was complete at that date.

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1939

Two versions of the design, 'Las aguaderas' and 'Cielo y infierno' appear in 'El Mundo de Papel' by Dr Nemesio Montero, which was published by G Miranda in Edicions Infancia in Valladolid in 1939.

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1940

'At Home Tonight' by Herbert McKay, which was published by Oxford University Press in London, New York and Toronto in 1940, contains diagrams for 'A Cruet, or Sweetholder'.

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'El Plegado y Cartonaje en la Escuela Primaria' by Antonio M Luchia and Corina Luciani de Luchia, which was published by Editorial Kapelusz in Buenos Aires in 1940, as 'Salero'.

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1955

In the USA the salt cellar is also known as the Cootie Catcher (although this name is also given to a version of the hexaflexagon, something which can, and does, cause confusion when the two designs are conflated). In his article 'Martin Gardner and Paperfolding', available in the Lister List, David Lister states that Martin Gardner contributed a regular monthly column to Hugard's Magic Monthly between March 1951 and March 1958. These columns were later brought together in book form as the “Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic”, published by Magic Inc. of Chicago in 1978. David says that 'the section on Paper Folding, as such, is eight pages long' and that 'The models mentioned or reproduced include ... the Salt Cellar in its various forms of "bug catcher" and "fortune-teller"'. I have not been able to access the text of Hugard's magic monthly but indices available on-line show that there were articles by Martin Gardner on Paper Folding in the issues for Dec 1955 and Jan 1956. This appears to be the earliest known instance of mention of the salt cellar in its cootie catcher guise.

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1956

'Paper Magic' by Robert Harbin, published by Oldbourne in London in 1956, contains diagrams for two versions of the design, the classic version under the name Salt Cellar and a second version called the Magic Colour Changer which is manipulated in the same way as the Fortune Teller.

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1959

In their 1959 book 'Lore and Language of Schoolchildren' folklorists Iona & Peter Opie mention the use of a salt cellar as a "Film Star Oracle". 'A sheet of clean paper about seven inches square (usually torn from an exercise book), is folded diagonally both ways to mark the centre and flattened out again. Each corner is folded into the centre and the whole paper is then turned over and laid on its face, and the four new corners are folded into the centre to make a 3 l/2-inch square. The paper is next turned face uppermost again and the names of four or more film stars are inscribed across each of the four squares which have been made, while the name of a flower is written in each of the eight triangles which have been formed on the back of the oracle. It is then opened by lifting up each of the four flaps and eight predictions . . . are written in each of the triangles corresponding to the names written on the other side. The corners are then folded back again to the centre. Next the paper is folded in half and in half again, to make a 1 3/4 inch square. This is then slightly opened out with the points held uppermost and the first finger and thumb of each hand are inserted into pockets, under the flaps which bear the film stars' names ...'

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1962

Folding Paper Puppets by Shari Lewis and Lillian Oppenheimer, published in 1962, contains a version of the Salt Cellar design which is made into a talking Cat puppet, attributed to Ligia Montoya, by the addition of drawn-on eyes. This is the first instance I can find of the salt cellar being used as a talking toy.

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1963

The design also appears as the Salt Cellar in Robert Harbin's follow up book, Secrets of Origami, published in 1963. The same author's Teach Yourself Origami, first published in 1968, and later retitled Origami: The Art of Paperfolding, but commonly known as Origami 1, contains both the basic Salt Cellar and the Colour Changer design from Paper Magic.