The Ball jar is one of the most recognizable names in glass jars and the history of ball jars goes back for over a century, and though they are no longer produced by Ball, the Ball jar is still produced to this day, currently by Jarden Home brands, which also produces Kerr jars in the U.S. and Bernardin jars in Canada.
The Ball Company was first started by five brothers with a loan from their uncle, and was located in Buffalo New York. Their first products were wood jacketed tins used to hold paints, kerosene, and other chemicals. But, in 1884, several years after Mason’s patent had expired, the Ball brothers entered into the glass manufacturing business and started to make mason and other fruit jars. Early jars made in Buffalo are very rare, and are embossed with some variation of the BBGMCo monogram, which stands for “Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company.” However, a fire destroyed their Buffalo factory and subsequently moved their production to Muncie, Indiana in 1887.
Their “Standard” jar was introduced in either 1895 or 1896, and was produced until 1912. The standard jars subsequently, were the only wax seal jar to be made by machine.
In 1898 Ball first entered into the wire-bail (lightning) style jar. These jars were marked “The Ball,” in an early script style and “Pat Apl’d For” on a second line in block letters. This jar was replaced with the “Sure Seal” product line in 1910, which ran concurrently with the “Sanitary Sure Seal” product line from either 1913 or 1914 until both line were discontinued in 1922. Additionally, the “Ideal” product line ran from 1915 to 1962, and the “Eclipse” jars were produced from 1922 to 1952. Many of the wire-bail style of jars will bare a patent date of July 14, 1908; this is not the date of the jar, but rather the date the style of jar was patented, and was embossed on jars well into the thirties, forties, and possibly beyond.
The “Perfect Mason” jars were introduced in 1910 and ran until 1962, and were produced in an array of colors, but mostly in blue or clear. The jars vary from their earliest production to their latest with grippers being added in the 1930’s and changing from round to a more square shape with rounded edges around the timeframe of WWII, and discontinued completely in 1962. Other styles of mason jars that Ball produced were the “Perfection” and “Improved” designs. All three of the mason type jars came from a common set of molds, but the “Perfect” jars were made for the domestic (U.S.) market, whereas the bulk of the “Improved” jars were made for export, and was discontinued in 1922.
Ball has also made several other styles of jars, and variations of the mason jar to include jelly jars with a wax seal tin lid in 1920. And following WWII made the Freezer Jars, which were subsequently replaced by the “Can-or-Freez” jars in 1958. Ball also made several other styles of jars, many of which were essentially prototypes, and are extremely rare and valuable; the “Universal” jar is one of those jars, it was made in either 1937 or 1938, and only about fifty are known to exist. The “Universal” jar was designed to accept either a mason style screw on band with a lid or a glass lid and rubber seal with a metal clamp much like the “Ideal” line of jars. It is unknown why these jars were never offered for sale.
In 1993 Ball exited the glass business altogether, with their jars being made by Alltrista Consumer Products which became Jarden in 2005. The Ball company currently produces recyclable metal containers and aerospace products, the Ball logo can often time be seen on your favorite can of beer, but is no longer related to the Ball jars bearing the same logo being produced today.