Saturday, I got a quick text from my dear friend saying, "Five boxes of used canning jars at an auction - 25 jars, many blue, per box - $5 each. SCORE!!" This was followed by "Come see them!" How could I resist?
I went right over and while she washed, I did a preliminary sort. When I went home for the evening, I printed out some of the resources I have found on the history of the Ball brand and their logo, to take back with me on Sunday. Armed with information, we set about identifying what treasures were in her haul, and to determine an actual count. My preliminary sort from the day before was helpful here, as I had grouped by color and similar logos to try to separate time frames of production. When we were confident we had them all ordered chronologically, we began cataloging the inventory and photographing each style for reference. There was a marvelous mix of blue and clear Ball, aqua and clear Atlas, lavender and clear Kerr, as well as several other interesting fruit jars and miscellaneous jars produced by Ball and Atlas for commercial purposes (these originally came with food in them from the grocery store - pasta sauce, commercially canned fruit. etc.). The commercial jars were labeled with the actual product label, so the jar manufacturer was molded quietly into the bottoms of these jars.
Aside from the learning and productivity we experienced all afternoon, the greatest gift was not that she sent me home with some beautiful jars to add to my collection (although it was extremely generous and is unbelievably appreciated), but the amazing gift of friendship. We got to know each other better and had what we decided was a proper, soul-feeding Sunday afternoon. As humans, we all need a day now and then that recharges our being and revitalizes our spirit. This was the sort of day we had. We bonded, shared, laughed and let go of the stresses of the workweek together. It was, I believe, the greatest gift that can be shared between friends. I made sure to tell her how much it meant to me and how blessed I am to call such a lovely person my friend. Everyone should be so lucky!
Enough with the mushy stuff. Let me cover some of the history we pieced together. Please keep in mind, this is the assembled history of only those jars she acquired in the lot. It is in NO WAY a complete reference, nor am I an expert in any way. All dates are approximate, as there was often overlap and ambiguity as to when the molds were removed from production and new ones were introduced. I will list the major resources from which I gleaned my information and I highly recommend anyone interested go check out the information for themselves. That said, here is what we learned:
|Shoulder seal 3L Ball,|
|3L Pint, Shoulder seal|
|Bead seal, 2L Ball|
drop a, offset wording,
|Dropped a, underscore |
|Standard a, |
|Grippers, with underscore|
The underscore returned, sometimes connected to the end of the last "L," sometimes it wasn't. The best way to distinguish these jars from those produced earlier is to note the lack of the dropped "a." These jars began production between 1933 and 1937.
In 1937, Ball stopped production of the beautiful blue jars they had produced since the late 1890s. It was interesting to find out that the color came from the minerals in the sand they used to produce the glass. The exciting part was that the sand came from the shores of our very own, Lake Michigan. The oxygen levels used to produce the glass also contributed to the hue.
|First rounded square|
"Made in the USA"
The second added the words "Made in the USA" to the front of the jar, with all other factors remaining constant.
|measurements added in|
ounces, this jar still has
the open B, c1956-1960
|The changed to the|
closed B can be seen here
|c1975 - present|
|Much more square,|
9 gripper ribs/lines
|3 ribs per side, totaling 9|
|Logo is lower than usual|
on the jar on the right
Many folks have heard of the scarcity of jars with the mold number of 13 on their bottoms. It is told that superstitious folks of the times would break and discard any and all jars with this mold number to avoid bad luck. You may even see sellers on eBay and similar places touting their rarity and thus increasing the price on these jars. Reputable sources agree, this is simply not true. In fact, they are not even uncommon enough to be labeled with any type or rarity or scarcity and there is, consequently, NO legitimate premium/price increase applied to these jars. In support of this notion, we found several labeled with mold #13 in this mixed lot of auction jars. If they were truly rare in any way, we would not likely have found one, let alone several examples in both blue and clear.
Please keep in mind, the above summary is my interpretation of the research I have gathered about the chronology of the jars Vicki was able to snag at auction. It is not all inclusive, nor should it be regarded as quotable fact. However, it will get you started on narrowing time frames and hopefully spark your interest in the history that goes along with it.
Below, I have included a marvelous chart showing the evolution of the logo over time. I have been able to include photographic examples of the latter 6 of the 9 designs. Not bad for $25.00 spent at a weekend estate auction! This chart came from this great and informative page. I strongly encourage you to check it out and read more for yourself. The site contains lots of additional information and further elaboration on many facets I only briefly touched on. It is by far the most comprehensive and apparently reliable collection of information I have come upon.
| Please go to http://home.earthlink.net/~raclay/DatingBalljars.HTML|
for a more complete history of the company and the ever changing logo...
Some of the additional resources used for information (there are loads of sites to reference, just be careful to look for a consensus on certain things, not taking any one site as the expert in the field):
Info on Ball history and the logo from the company themselves: http://www.freshpreserving.com/guides/jarsOfThePast.pdf
Info on random other fruit jar companies:
I will write a separate post to highlight some of the jars of other brands that were in the lot after I have time to do some more research on them so I can write knowledgeably.
My takeaway from this: some beautiful gems in the form of jars, new historic knowledge and most importantly, a very deep and real appreciation for time well spent in the company of a great friend.
By the way, if you are interested in the total number of jars, we counted 220. That works out to about 12 cents per piece. Yeesh, what a bargain! :-)
Happy canning and collecting!