The “Söltjer” fountain, created in 1987 by sculptor Bernd Maro, depicts two salt workers in front of a scratch pan. One of them is gathering the freshly crystallized salt to let it dry. The second figure symbolizes a salt peddler (“Söltjer”) carrying the final product to his customers in a pannier (“Kiepe”). Because of the heat of the scratch pan and the abrasive dust, the salt workers wore thick, hooded work coats. Bad Münder’s salt business is already mentioned in official documents from 1033. Early salt makers simply evaporated water from the local brine spring in ceramic or lead pans. From 1820 onwards, the graduation procedure was used (see the “Gradierwerk”). Many of the town’s buildings bear testimony to the salt-related history. Today, the Bad Münder tourist information offers “Söltjer” tours along these places and sights (phone: 05042 929804).
In terms of their social status, the city administration equated the salt salespeople with peddlers. They were seen as lazy drunkards and frauds who neglected their families. In the mid-19th century, the city magistrate expressed roughly the following opinion:
This type of peddling severely corrupts people. Working-age boys acquire a pannier (“Kiepe”) and start peddling salt. If they do well, they will “rent a donkey and, ultimately, a horse and carriage”. Often, peddling is a family business. “We know from experience that those who start peddling are no longer fit for work. Peddlers get used to the nomadic lifestyle. When they are unable to peddle their wares because of the weather or other circumstance, they are loyal patrons in the taverns. They swindle customers regarding the measurements, weight or quality of products. They neglect their children’s education. Finally, they are corrupted by smuggling salt to nearby Hesse.”
With regard to money, the verdict is clear: “Easy come, easy go.” 56 local peddlers were registered for tax purposes. Between 10 and 15 women, mostly wives, took part in the trade. A further “10 or more” were peddling without a license, barely making a living. Only 15 peddlers owned a carriage, “single-sided in most cases”.
The others carried the salt from house to house on their backs. They had to make sales in the close neighborhood, leaving town for no more than a day. Those using a carriage, by contrast, were selling the salt directly in Hoya, Diepholz, Bückeburg, Friesland and Hanover. The merchandise was also shipped to Hamlin, from where it went upstream to Bodenfelde and Hannoversch Münden, but also downstream.
According to the city council, no improvements were to be expected regarding the salt peddlers (“Söltjer”). To the contrary, officials feared worsening conditions as their numbers rose steadily.