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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Historic Glass Bottle Identification
Antique Bottle Collector's Haven
Bottle Cap Index
Old Spice Collectibles
Clubs & Associations
- Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors
- Little Rhody Bottle Club
- International Perfume Bottle Association
- Midwest Antique Fruit Jar & Bottle Club
- Findlay Antique Bottle Club
Other Great Reference Sites
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Review: Choose the chicken at Son of a Preacher ManCincinnati.com, March 25th
I have to say, I've never encountered pickled shrimp before (going to Charleston is on my list), and I'm not sure it's what I would do with good shrimp: these are served in a Ball jar in a very sharp vinegar pickling solution. It didn't seem to come...Read more
Chef Wendell shares vegetarian recipes from his new cookbookWISH-TV, March 25th
Chef Wendell shares vegetarian recipes from his new cookbook and some advice on how to select the best foods for your body. flavored water Chef Wendell starts off by making a flavored water for those water haters. In a ball jar, muddle strawberries...Read more
Tea and Talk to look at Muncie historyMuncie Star Press, March 24th
Participants can enjoy tea and snacks with friends and hear resident fruit jar and bottle expert Dick Cole talk about the Gas Boom, the Ball jar, and their continuing legacy in the community. Cost is $15. Member discounts apply. Information: www...Read more
Muncie industry had a huge impact here - and beyondMuncie Star Press, March 20th
MUNCIE – The history of business and industry in Muncie didn't begin or end with the Ball Brothers and their manufacturing operations. For 150 years, Muncie's history has been written by forward-thinking captains of industry, hard-working laborers and ...Read more
Put your spring bouquets in a violet glass jarHouston Chronicle, March 17th
Purple Ball jars are the company's newest addition to the collection and are available in quart and pint sizes. Image 1 of 5. Purple Ball jars are the company's newest addition to the collection and are available in quart and pint sizes. Purple Ball...Read more
Tea & Talk at Minnetrista: Our Golden AgeMuncie Voice (blog), March 11th
“Listen as resident fruit jar and bottle expert Dick Cole will talk about the Gas Boom, the Ball jar, and how their legacy is still shaping our community today.” said Schroer. Join old and new friends for the perfect opportunity to look back at the...Read more
Make the Most of Louisville's Vibrant Food and Drink SceneThe Daily Meal, February 27th
and catfish served on plates plucked straight from your grandmother's kitchen on intentionally worn wooden tables. The fare is light, but delicious. The signature infused, whole leaf tea is served in a Ball jar (naturally) and is the perfect meal...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