The roots of the Ball Glass Manufacturing Company go back to 1880, when Frank and Edmund Ball of Buffalo, New York, purchased the Wooden Jacket Can Company. Originally the brothers manufactured metal cans wrapped in wood, but when John L. Mason's 1858 patent for a fruit-canning jar expired, the brothers prepared to move into glass. By 1884 the first Ball jars as we think of them today were produced, and in 1888 furnaces were fired at a new plant in Muncie, Indiana.
Between 1888 and 1961, the company made more than 41 million canning jars, which is just one reason why the words “Ball” and “Mason” are virtually synonymous today.
Ball enjoyed a meteoric rise. Four years after releasing its first glass products (they also made chimneys for oil lamps and other items), Ball had more than 1,000 employees. Innovation and acquisition became two necessary tools to its success. In 1897, Ball invented the first semi-automatic glass-making machine, which standardized sizes and made production cheaper and faster. In 1905, Ball invented the automatic feeder, which streamlined production even more. Additionally, Ball bought out numerous competitors over the years.
For a long time, the ubiquity of Ball jars prevented them from being particularly desirable in the eyes of collectors. However, in recent years Ball jars have gained popularity, due in large part to the lack of intact jars. Some collectors try to accumulate as many jars as they can, from pints to quarts to half-gallons, in colors that range from standard clear, aquamarine, and green to less-common amber.
Others try to acquire jars with various types of logos on their fronts. For example, when the first machine-made Ball jars were produced in 1896, the distinctive script on the front boasted "Ball IMPROVED MASON," with an extra loop after the last "l" in Ball that almost looks like a fifth letter. From 1900 to 1914, the script was shortened to "Ball MASON," while from 1910 to 1914, some Ball jars bore the words "BALL PERFECT MASON" in big, block letters.
In 1969 the company changed its name to Ball Corporation as it diversified its product line beyond just glass into everything from aerosol containers to space systems; by 1996 it had sold its storied glass division. As for the Ball brothers, their legacy today extends well beyond fruit preservation. The family has been quite philanthropic, and Ball State University in Muncie is named after them.
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Clubs & Associations
- Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors
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Recent News: Ball Jars
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A Review of SweetGrass in HopewellNew York Times, January 30th
I'm a black-eyed-pea and cornbread enthusiast who would drink a Ball jar of pot likker with a buttermilk chaser, so I ignored the hint of daintiness in the restaurant's slogan (“seasonal fare with a Southern flair!”) and arrived with cold beers...Read more
Mason Jar MixesMiami News Record, January 30th
On November 30, 1858 a Philadelphia tinsmith named John Landis Mason patented one of my all-time favorite inventions, the Mason Jar. It was with this invention that the Ball jar was born. Mason jars have been a household item used by many for well over...Read more
BORN IN A BALL JAR: DIY lightsBall State Daily, November 24th
No matter what holiday you celebrate, there is a certain charm and joy in strand lights. However they can be a little simple and while adding light, usually look raw and unfinished. Here are two ways to dress up your lights and make them look like a...Read more
BORN IN A BALL JAR: DIY Advent CalendarBall State Daily, November 17th
Get bags that can be bought in a decent amount, making sure that they are big enough for any prizes you have. I found mine in the Halloween discount section. I cut the handles off them to make them easier to deal with later. 2 Using my marker, I wrote...Read more
BORN IN A BALL JAR: Use resources to reduce stress when overwhelmedBall State Daily, November 10th
Jordan Huffer is a senior photojournalism major and writes 'Born in a Ball Jar' for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper or The Daily. Write to Jordan at email@example.com. As of 8:50 p.m. on Oct. 9, I was an...Read more
Made From Here: Local artisans pay tribute to the Ball jar tonight at the GuildPitch Weekly, June 19th
From the preserves in grandma's storm cellar to that time you got hammered on girly drinks at that trendy new bar, Ball's glass canning jars have become an iconic part of American culture. This evening, the 130-year-old brand provides an unlikely...Read more
More Than You Probably Ever Cared to Know about Ball Jars (aka Mason Jars)Core77.com (blog), April 19th
Introduced in 1913 in Muncie, IN, the name "Perfect Mason" acknowledged the first-ever self-manufacture of each part of the Ball jar—ensuring a perfect fit and revolutionizing the home canning process by providing canners with matching jars, lids and...Read more
Finally: Brand New "Vintage" Ball Jars For Your Hipster Canning ProjectsGothamist, March 18th
Have you been scouring eBay and Etsy for the perfect blue Ball Jars to use for your homemade preserves or your darling still-lifes? Well, finally, there are blue "Heritage Collection" Ball Jars—brand new but vintage blue! Jarden Home Brands, which...Read more