Collection features novelty shakers

Becky Stuva
Dinger and Mary Davis, collectors of salt and pepper shakers.


photo by Becky Stuva
Dinger and Mary Davis, collectors of salt and pepper shakers. 


“Pass the salt and pepper please.”

If you make this request at the home of Dinger (Bernard) and Mary Davis, you might be surprised at what could be handed to you. The condiments could be in little dutch windmills, dancing girls, chickens, eggs, pigs, birds, leaping fish...and the list goes on and on. The glass-front cupboards on the Davis’ dining room walls display their collection of salt and pepper shakers accumulated over the years.

Dinger, who is now 95 years old, was born in Washington Township, Adair County. He was one of ten children, five boys and five girls, born to Lon and Lou Davis.  They have no idea as to the origin of the nickname “Dinger,” but that is the name by which Bernard became known. 

His wife, Mary (Hineline), now 88, came with her family to Adair County from Nebraska at the age of 16. After their marriage, she and Dinger, a World War II veteran, made their home in Washington Township until 1958 when they moved to Atlantic. 

They are the parents of one son, Bobby, who lives in Atlantic. They have two grandchildren and one great grandchild and still have many nieces and nephews residing in Adair County.

When asked how they happened to start their collection of salt and pepper shakers, Mary explained that she was working at Heritage House in Atlantic when a resident moved in who had a salt and pepper shaker collection for sale. The house the Davises were living in at the time had built-in display cupboards and “we didn’t know what to put on the shelves” so Mary purchased the collection. 

Over the years they continued to grow their collection by purchasing additional sets at garage sales and swap meets, as well as receiving some as gifts. They don’t have an actual count but estimate that they now have approximately 1,000 (or more) sets in their collection. 

Dinger says that when they first started adding to their initial collection “shakers sold for 50-75 cents, or a dollar at the most.” One night at a sale at the 4-H building, a vendor had a table full of salt and pepper shakers and Dinger says, “I bought half of the table full. The guy just scooped them off of the table and I took them home!” 

He says he once sold “about a bushel” of duplicates and single shakers, so the collection now contains all matching sets and no duplicates. They no longer add to their collection, but guess that the sets would be considerably higher in price now than when they were buying them.

When asked about favorites, Mary brought out a miniature battery-powered street light that has salt and pepper shakers hanging from it. A couple other favorites they pointed out included a little red lawn mower that holds two white shakers that move up and down like pistons when the mower is pushed, and a ceramic covered wagon that holds a set of shakers. 

Mary also proudly pointed out of a set of little antique shakers given to them by Mary’s sister, Mona. Mary explained that the reason they are smaller is because back at the time they were in use, each place setting included an individual salt shaker.

There are so many novelty shakers in their collection, it would be impossible to describe them all, but they are fun to look at and listen to Dinger and Mary tell their story. Thank you to this delightful couple for their willingness to share their precious collection!  


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