The laborious boiling method of obtaining salt declined in use in the 1870s, to be replaced by specially constructed solar evaporation ponds. Initially, saltmakers relied on the wind to fill their ponds; when this proved unreliable they installed pumps. The resulting product tended to be bitter and damp, until by trial and error the saltmakers established the fractional crystallization process, which used a series of ponds to create a nearly 100 percent pure product.
The demand for Utah salt greatly increased when the Butte, Montana, silver mines opened, since salt was used in the reduction of ore. Until railroad lines were constructed, the salt was carried by mule load to the mines at the rate of $200 a ton. Eventually, the Utah Central, Utah Southern, Utah Eastern, and Utah Western railroads connected the saltworks with mining customers at Butte, Juab County's Tintic District, Park City, and elsewhere.
The final two decades of the 19th century saw the salt industry go from a highly decentralized, competitive business to a near monopoly. Eventually, the Inland Salt Company and its corporate successors dominated the industry, producing coarse salt for industrial use as well as refined table salt. In 1990 salt production in Utah totaled almost 1.8 million short tons with a value of $50.4 million--considerably less than the $200/ton rate paid by the Butte mine owners more than a century ago.
Sources: John A. Clark, "History of Utah's Salt Industry, 1847-1970" (M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1971); "Pioneer Salt Industry," MS in Utah State Historical Society Library subject files; David E. Miller, "The Great Salt Lake: Its History and Economic Development" (Ph.D. diss. University of Southern California, 1947); Dale L. Morgan, The Great Salt Lake (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1947).Here!