NOTEWORTHY DEVELOPMENTS, indeed, were a constant in the Mason jar company.
For more than sixty years a great many lid patents were numerous; some basic that persisted like the dome glass fastened with a pivoted wire arrangement. Or more obscure materials that didn’t remain long on the market. Some of those are collectibles searched for by antique-lovers.
The most useful and used yet today because of their availability and ease of utility are part of the inventions of John Mason, a two piece metal lid, the first being a flat lid with a narrow rubber ring around its rim. The lid is very slightly domed which serves as a seal indicator. A threaded, open ring is screwed over the lid to hermetically (air tight) seal the contents having left “head space” to allow expansion. The jar is heat sterilized by boiling water or steam. After the cooking time is finished, the jar is allowed to cool making a vacuum that prevents bacteria, molds, etc, forming. The vacuum forms in the “head space” pulling the rubber-lined lid in tight proximity to the jar rim. If sealed properly the slightly domed lid will pull the lid downward indicating a “seal.” Counting the “pops” is every canners duty! (See familiar brand names from reference illustration.)
The open ring is recommended by reference to be removed so water doesn’t form between ring and lid causing rust or germ-bearing “bugs.”
Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company was founded in 1880 by two of five Ball family brothers: Frank and Edmund, who borrowed $200.00 from an uncle, George Harvey Ball to buy the Wooden Jacket Can Company. The “Jackets” enclosed a tin can that held kerosene, a liquid fuel of the earlier time.
However, the acid used to refine the kerosene caused corrosion in the tin can, a dangerous situation — the kerosene being highly explosive.
The Ball brothers decided glass jars could replace the tin, keeping the wooden jacket as protective cover. At first the company bought the glass containers from a factory in Poughkeepsie, New York but two years later, 1882, that factory was destroyed by fire.
The Ball’s built a two-story factory in East Buffalo as a stamping works; a one-story frame for the glass-jar making.
Business was so good they soon needed a larger furnace. To use the full capacity of the furnace the Balls decided to expand their line of products.
By 1884, the brothers learned they patent on Mason jars had expired so the determined to begin making fruit jars also which were first made in amber or aqua, a large range in sizes. Ball fruit jars became a name we associate with home canning, but surprisingly, eventually its products went into space. That began as early as 1886 when on a business trip to Ohio, Frank Ball learned about the boomtowns throughout the area created by the discovery of huge fields of natural gas which as it turned out had many advantages for making glass. The BBGM Co. (too cumbersome a logo, don’t you think?!) visited and were wooed by several towns in the gas fields, finally settling on Muncie, Indiana where by September, 1887 construction had begun on the “glass works.” By March, 1888 fires in the furnaces were started as the glass blowers began arriving. But it wasn’t fruit jars they were assigned to produce. It was containers for coal oil and the ubi-quites lamp chimney.
Ball must be noted for its diversity. Fruit jars, while counted in the billions, is paltry in comparison to the company’s manufacture of avionics, aerospace systems, food and beverage containers, aluminum aerosol containers.
It was first called “Alltrista, then became “Jarden.” Its major subsidiaries are Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. and Ball Packaging Europe.
Company headquarters moved from Muncie, Indiana to Broomfield, Colorado in 1998. Muncie ceased making glass jars in 1962 although other factory sites continued production. The later-named Ball Company, Jarden Home Brands. It produces all lids for all brands of fruit jars at Muncie—glass jars are made by a variety of glass producers.
In the 1950’s when Ball entered the aerospace industry, it entered an entirely new field. It was traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 1973, its first share trading for $26.00.
The Ball brothers remained a family-owned company for over ninety years. The overall business of many subsidiaries and types celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2005.
In bringing “noteworthy” developments to the Northwest’s readers and canning jar users it was interesting to learn how far in the business world pairs of brothers can go.
The $200 loan from their uncle who organized a local college, Keuka, years earlier was repaid by the Ball nephews many, many times also.