New Jersey is known for more than just their gorgeous shorelines, delicious hoagies, and long boardwalks. The Garden State is also home to the inventor of good, old-fashioned mason jars! These jars have been used to preserve food and drinks since 1858.
Are you ready to learn the full story? Pour yourself a glass of lemonade, sit in your rocking chair, and learn more about the fascinating history of the mason jar!
A man in Vermont named Henry William Putman wanted a way to preserve fruit. This led to the invention of mason jars with metal clamps on the lids. These were known as “Lightning Jars.”
William Charles Ball and his brothers invented Ball jars in New York. They eventually moved their glass manufacturing factory to Muncie, Indiana. Now Ball jars are mass-produced and sold around the United States.
Alexander H. Kerr came out with the Economy mason jars, which were the first to have wide mouths. Kerr jars were easier to fill, making them very popular for drinks.
The United States tried to ban alcohol in a period known as Prohibition. Mason jars were used by bootleggers so they could secretly transport moonshine through underground tunnels.
To cut down on costs, Ball stopped making their blue mason jars. Blue was cumbersome to make since it required sand from the Lake Michigan shoreline. The color is mass-produced today, but it’s not the same pretty blue as those original jars.
1939 – 1945https://www.npr.org/
The mason jar helped feed families during World War II. Ads were released that encouraged people to try home canning, and the U.S. government even held rations inside of mason jars. At the time, 3 million canning jars were bought across the country.
1960s – 1970shttps://www.ebay.com/
The mason jar craze was still going strong, and Ball mason jars in particular were an industry leader. To keep up the momentum, Ball released different sizes, from large mason jars to mini mason jars with decorative lids.
John Mason didn’t receive any money when he first invented the mason jar, but he finally got his due when he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006. During the induction, the organization released a statement saying: “Mason jars were an integral part of food preservation.”
The Ball brand was bought by the Jarden Corporation (a company under Newell Brands). After switching ownership, an ad agency was hired to target millennials. This could explain why hipsters absolutely love mason jars!
The reCAP mason jar got its start on Kickstarter. These unique mason jars, designed by Karen Rzepecki in Pennsylvania, are BPA-free and have plastic flip-top lids that cut down on rust.
To celebrate their 100-year anniversary, Ball released their Heritage Collection. These pretty mason jars were available in 3 of the 5 original Ball jar colors: blue, aqua, or violet.
7-Eleven got everyone talking on social media when they served their famous Slurpees in promotional mason jars with mustache straws. This unique marketing strategy paid off since it was trending on Facebook and Twitter. Everyone wanted one of their own!
The Ball jar factory in Muncie, Indiana closed their doors. The brand’s line of mason jars are still a U.S. made product with a facility in Columbus, Ohio.
Julia Mirabella released a cookbook with 50 different salads you can make in mason jars. You know your product is good if gets its own cookbook!
Melissa Vaspasiano started the Mason Jar Exchange during the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea was for busy parents to get ready-made meals delivered via food truck. You could get soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and even chicken tenders and mac ‘n cheese in prepacked mason jars!
What is a Mason Jar?
A mason jar is a glass container with an airtight metal lid. The lid is the most notable feature since it contains a rubber ring, creating a hermetic seal. The jar itself has a wide mouth and is made from a strong, durable glass. It may also have a handle for easy carrying.
Mason jars come in a variety of sizes and colors and are primarily used for home canning and ready-made meals. They’re also used as drinkware and even as home décor.
Why Are They Called Mason Jars?
Mason jars get their name from their original creator, John Landis Mason. He named the jars after himself in the patent, and the name has stuck ever since.
Who Invented the Mason Jar?
John Landis Mason invented the mason jar in a New Jersey village named Crowleytown on November 30, 1858. He used aqua glass, which is a blue-tinted glass that is still used to make the Ball jars we know and love today.
Mason was only 26-years-old when he received the patent for his new canning jars. The airtight zinc lid was the key feature of his design. It was covered with a wax seal, making it easier for families, restaurants, and grocery stores in New Jersey to keep their fruits, veggies, and other perishable items. This changed food preservation forever!
Unfortunately, Mason was never able to see a profit from his mason jars. He ended up dying in 1902 before he ever got proper credit for his invention.
What Are Ball Mason Jars?
Invented in 1880, Ball glass jars are lidded containers that are available in a variety of sizes and colors. The original jars are now considered antiques since they were made with pink, cobalt, aqua, amber, or violet glass.
William Charles Ball and his four brothers – Edmund, Frank, George, and Lucius – invented the Ball mason jars in Buffalo, New York. This fivesome took over Mason’s patent when it expired and started their company thanks to a $200 loan from their uncle. Their uncle made a worthwhile investment since the Ball brand went on to totally dominate the home canning market.
Now Ball jars are more popular than ever before. In fact, there was a mason jar shortage in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this strange time in American history, more and more people became interested in canning and preserving their food!
Why Were Mason Jars Important in World War II?
During World War II, there were rampant food shortages throughout the United States. This caused mason jars to become more important than ever before. Since time, money, and resources were going toward the war effort, people had to think ahead and preserve their rations so they had enough to feed their families.
Between 1939 and 1945, the Ball company, as well as other brand names like Kerr and Atlas, started really pushing the marketing of mason jars. The U.S. government even got in on the action with propaganda posters encouraging citizens to start “victory gardens” filled with their own homegrown fruits and veggies.
Mason jars were able to keep all that produce fresh for weeks or even months. We may not have survived as a country if it weren’t for the mason jar!
What Does the Number on Mason Jars Mean?
The number on the bottom of Ball jars represents the position of the mold when the jar was put through the glassmaking machine. Think of this number as a little sneak peek into the mason jar making process!
Ball mason jars are made using metal molds. A number from 1 to 15 is then hot stamped on the bottom of each jar. During Prohibition, bootleggers reportedly avoided the number 13 since they thought it might cause them to get caught by the police!
Today, collectors are on the hunt for all fifteen Ball mason jars. These aren’t necessarily unique or rare, but they are part of the jar’s fascinating history.
How to Date Your Mason Jars
The oldest mason jars are branded with the following names:
- Black Magic
You know the jar was made in the late 19th century or early 20th century if you see one of these names and their corresponding logos on the front. Amber, green, aqua, and violet mason jars may also be antiques.
How Can You Tell the Age of a Ball Mason Jar?
Now let’s look at the most popular brand, Ball. These branded mason jars are old, but they’re still made to this day which makes them tricky to date. Luckily, the logo on front will give you a clue as to the Ball jar’s age.
Date your jar by taking a look at the chart below!
The words or slogan embossed on Ball jars are another clue as to when the jar was released. This is broken down below:
- “Ball Improved 1858” (1890s)
- “Ball Mason Improved” (1900 – 1933)
- “Special” (1910 – 1913)
- “Perfect” (1913 -1922)
- “Sanitary” (1913 – 1915)
- “Ideal” (1915 – 1962)
- “Square” (1925)
- “Eclipse” (1926 – 1952)
The Ball brand has had somewhat of an identity crisis over the years and has struggled to settle on the right logo for their brand. The cursive font they use today has the registered trademark and seems to be holding strong!
What Mason Jars Are Worth Money?
If you go to garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets, or even Goodwill, you may find unique mason jars that look valuable. But are they worth anything? Here’s how to know if these jars are collectibles.
Be on the hunt for any of these 10 rare mason jars. They can be worth some money!
- The Buffalo jar made from amber. – Only 4 exist so you could have stumbled upon a goldmine if you find one.
- E-Z Seal Atlas mason jars – Atlas was a popular manufacturer of mason jars in the 19th century. Look for one of their amber colored mason jars produced in 1910. These are worth about $60.
- The “Universal” jar made in 1937 – This mason jar will be labelled “universal.” There are only 50 out there!
- Upside down Ball jars – Collectors have paid up to $1,000 for rare mason jars that were printed with the “Ball” name upside down. These were produced between 1900 and 1910.
- Willoughby Stopple Jars – In 1858, these blue mason jars came out in stores. They had cork lids and were embossed with the slogan, “The Ladies Favorite.” These vintage jars sell for around $500.
- Chief Mason Jars – Cheer loudly if you find a clear glass mason jar with “The Chief” embossed on one side. You can get around $800 for these collectibles from auction sites.
- Black Amber Magic Star fruit jars – If you want to make an extra $3,000, try to find a dark mason jar with “The Magic Fruit Jar” embossed on the front. These rare mason jars were patented in Pennsylvania.
- Violet mason jars from Columbia – Not to be confused with the sportswear company, Columbia is a mason jar brand that had a short run in the early 1900s. Their purple mason jars are worth $400 each!
- Beaver mason jars from Canada – Oh Canada! It turns out our northern neighbors also love mason jars. Their amber Beaver jars are worth about $100 each.
- Van Vilet Improve Jar – Here’s the big kahuna of rare mason jars! The Van Vilet Improve jars, invented in 1881, are worth a staggering $23,500.
*Disclaimer: This is not an official appraisal of rare mason jars. If you think your jar is worth money, get an official appraisal from a certified professional.
What is the Rarest Mason Jar?
The rarest mason jar is the Van Vilet Improve fruit jars. Invented in 1881, these jars have a wire attached to the lid that goes to the bottom of the bottle. The factory that made these jars burned down after only four years in business, so not many were created. You can reportedly make over $23,000 if you get your hands on one today!
Why Are Mason Jars So Trendy?
Mason jars are trendy because of their versatility. You can use them in the kitchen to make meals or serve drinks. They also can be filled with lights, flowers, or marbles to create home décor. The possibilities are endless!
Restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings and Slim Chickens serve specialty drinks and even desserts inside of mason jars. Meanwhile, people at home create mason jar crafts, and hand them out as personalized gifts for holidays and special occasions.
Overall, you’ll always find a way to use a mason jar. They don’t cost a lot to buy, which makes them great for weddings, bars, and even as product packaging!
The Bottom Line
Whether they were used illegally during Prohibition or feeding families during World War II, the mason jar is a piece of American history. A vintage one can even be worth a bit of money. Don’t turn your nose up to mason jars just because people think they’re “basic”. These jars have been useful for years!
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