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
- Little Rhody Bottle Club
- International Perfume Bottle Association
- Midwest Antique Fruit Jar & Bottle Club
- Findlay Antique Bottle Club
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Recent News: Ball Jars
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An ode to lemonade: How to make yours spectacularGreenville News, June 30th
If summer had a flavor, it would be lemonade. Cold and crisp. A little sour and a little sweet. Usually yellow, but sometimes pink. Oh how do we love lemonade? Let us count the ways. It has history. To say lemonade is the world's oldest beverage would...Read more
Keep your kitchen safe with DIY cleaners like lemon and saltPress Herald, June 28th
We lost power more often in Central Pennsylvania than we do in Maine. After a tornado touched town in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, our home didn't regain power for six days. We had two fridges and a freezer, all filled with food that had to be consumed or...Read more
Cheers America with this red, white and blue cocktailIndianapolis Star, June 27th
Muddle two strawberries and six blueberries in the bottom of a Ball jar. Shake together whiskey, schnapps, lemon juice and simple syrup. Strain into jar. Fill to the top with Sprite. Garnish with remaining berries. Tip: Make it non-alcoholic or kid...Read more
Revised book is on the Ball for canning informationMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 23rd
And in case you're wondering, the Ball jar is simply a brand of the oh-so-trendy Mason jar (as is Kerr, also a Jarden brand). The Mason home canning jar was invented and patented in 1858 by Philadelphia tinsmith John Landis Mason. Remarkably, the basic ...Read more
Grapevine's Monarch Wheat Beer, ReviewedDallas Observer, June 22nd
be a great suggestion for friends who are put off by strong flavors. But any inquisitive drinker will certainly find themselves bored, whether they want an easy drinking beer or not. I'll certainly be looking for something more exciting the next...Read more
Jeff Lowenfels: A bumper crop of spruce conesAlaska Dispatch News, June 12th
You can plant these seeds outdoors in the fall with limited success or increase your chances of having a tree farm by soaking the seeds in warm water (use a thermos bottle) for a day. Then put them in layers of vermiculite in a closed Ball jar or...Read more
Pack Your Own Spring PicnicThe Daily Meal, June 3rd
Picnic season is officially here; wooden tables and grassy fields are filled with people looking to dine under the warm spring sun. Whether you're packing a picnic for yourself or sharing with friends and coworkers, there are a few easy items that...Read more
Bring Swiss chard to the pickle plateAsheville Citizen-Times, June 2nd
Sanitize a quart size, wide mouth Ball jar. Set aside. Remove leaves from chard stems and trim away any access leaf matter. Rinse thoroughly. Cut stems to fit jar allowing at least an inch between chard and mouth of jar. Pack stems upright in jar. Add...Read more