Ball Jars Insert

And the history of Mason jars.

This looks like it was packed with Ball Mason jars. Here are larger scans of the front and back of the insert (click to enlarge):

You can actually date Ball jars based on the logo; this logo would’ve been used between 1910 and 1923.

When I was growing up and I saw a jar stamped “Mason,” I assumed it was a brand, and I wasn’t entirely off the mark. But to explain what a Mason jar actually is, it helps to start from the beginning–before there were Mason jars. We first talked about the history of canning in the post for salmon and pasta salad from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but if you want the short version, here’s an excerpt:

In 1795, the French government offered a prize of 12,000 francs (around $45,000 in modern currency) to anyone who could devise a method for preserving food from spoilage so it could be more easily moved with troops. […] Nicolas Appert was a confectioner working in Paris at the time, and incentivized by the prize, started working on a process for preserving food that would eventually win him the prize. Food was packed into tall glass jars with lids placed on loosely; the jars were boiled for five hours, then sealed with wax.

Appert completed his method around 1806. By the 1820s, he had started using tin-plated iron cans, invented by Philippe de Girard decades before; but home canning never moved far beyond Appert’s original method.

In 1850, the standard method for home canning was to boil food in glass jars with tin caps, then seal the outside of the cap with wax. Not exactly the world’s most secure method. Which brings us to John Landis Mason, a tinsmith born in New Jersey and working in New York City.

In 1858, he patented both the method for making screw-top lids and jars and the objects themselves; by 1870, he added the final piece in the modern Mason jar, the separated rim and with a rubber ring. In the meantime, he secured a few dozen other patents, on things like nursing bottles (he had six daughters), fireplace grates, and soap dishes.

While Mason’s jar designs revolutionized home canning, they didn’t make him wealthy–he assigned the patent rights to another company and died penniless.

Diagram from Improved lathe-chuck patent (to make threaded lids), US19786 A, J.L. Mason, Nov. 30, 1858. See original.
Diagram from Mold For Making Bottles patent, US22129 A, J.L. Mason, Nov. 23, 1858. See original.
Diagram from Glass Jar patent, US22186 A, J.L. Mason, Nov. 30, 1858. See original.
Diagram from Improvement in Fruit-Jars patent (introducing screw rim and floating lid), US902113 A, J.L. Mason, May 10, 1870. See original.

Hundreds, of not thousands, of manufacturers made jars using the Mason patent, many of them bearing his name and the year of his patent: Mason, 1858. Eventually, the patents passed into the public domain, but the jars continued to carry his name.

Which brings us to the Ball brothers.

The Ball brothers, of Ball jar fame. From left to right: George Alexander Ball, Lucius Lorenzo Ball, Frank Clayton Ball, Edmund Burke Ball, and William Charles Ball. From Ball State University archives via Wikipedia.

In 1880, Frank and Edmund (third and fourth from the left) purchased a company that made cans to hold fuel oil and kerosene. As kerosene was used in lamps in most homes, this was a big business. And while there were different materials used to make the cans, the company Frank and Edmund bought made cans with tin linings and wooden exteriors.

Not a bad combination–durable and somewhat puncture-resistant–but it suffered from the fact that some of the materials used to refine kerosene can corrode tin. A company in their native Ohio was making jars out of glass, so the brothers decided to make glass liners for their cans out of an upstate New York factory. A subsequent upgrade in facilities led to an excess in capacity, and in 1884, the brothers started making Mason jars, using the now-expired 1958 patents.

Canning tomatoes by, on Flickr (CC license) (cropped)

In 1887, construction began on a glassworks in Muncie, Indiana, a site picked for its natural gas reserves. It would stay in operation until 1962. The Ball corporation spun off its canning business in 1993 to focus on aerospace and packaging; it now uses the name Jarden Corporation, and it still makes the lids for its jars in Muncie, though the jar construction is subcontracted out.

From the box of G.Y. from Wichita, Kansas.

Cold Pack Method Preserves Fruits Meats And
Vegetables Retains Natural Form Flavor And Color

Vital Steps in The Cold Pack Method

  1. Blanch in boiling water to shrink and sterilize.
  2. Cold dip quickly.
  3. Pack at once in clean jars.
  4. Add boiling syrup or water.
  5. Place rubbers and partially seal. Put on rack in wash boiler or cooler.
  6. Sterilize in boiler or cooker.
  7. Tighten covers. Test for leaks. Label and store.

High Grade Ball Perfect Seal Rubbers Packed With All Ball Jars

The cold pack method requires firm, elastic rubbers; if too soft they will blow out in the processing, if not suffficently elastic, they will break.

They must be made of a compound that will stand boiling and not deteriorate.

They must e free from spongy and porous places that would admit air.

They must be of proper width, size and thickness.

The “Ball Perfect Seal” Rubbers packed with these Jars embody all these features.

Made Especially for Hot Pack and Cold Pack

Approved by United States Agricultural Department

When buying Extra Rubbers insist on having “Ball Perfect Seal” Brand.

Genuine Zinc Porcelain Lined Mason Fruit Jar Cap

High Grade “Perfect Seal” Ribbers Packed with all Ball Jars. Made especially for Hot and Cold Pack

Perfect Mason Fruit Jars

Have been on hte market for many years and have acquired their good name and popularity by real superiority over other jars. Made from the best materials by the Owens Process, which distributes glass more evenly and forms the jars more perfectly than any other method. We own the exclusive right to make Jars by the Owens Process; so they cannot be duplicated by others.

Mail to
Ball Bros. Co.
Muncie, Indiana
This Coupon and 10c in Coin
and we will send you a Handsome Book

Containing Recipes for Preserving Fruits, Meats, and Vegetables and Instructions on how to care for Fruit Trees and Vines.


For using Ball-Mason and Ideal Jars
By Cold Pack Process
Recommended by Government Agricultural Department

  1. Sterilize and temper the jars and caps by placing them in cold or warm water and heat the water until it boils. Leave them in hot water until ready to use.
  2. Select good, sound fresh fruit or vegetables. Carefully reject all decayed or withered which will spoil the flavor of the good and probably ruin the whole.
  3. Blanch (scald) the fruit or vegetables by placing them in a cheesecloth bag or basket and dip into boiling water for time given in “Time Table;” then dip into cold water and pack in jars. In case of berries and all soft fruits, the blanching can be dispensed with.
  4. In case of fruit, pack the prepared fruit in Jars, after blanching, and fill with hot syrup, about two parts water and one part sugar. The sugar can be omitted, using hot water only, and sweeten the fruit when it is used. It is better, however, to sweeten when canning, if sugar is available.
  5. In case of vegetables, after blanching, pack the prepared vegetables in the Jars and fill the Jars with hot water, adding sufficient salt to season.
  6. Place the Rubbers in position on the jars. See that they rest flat on the shoulders of the Jars all around. Wash all powder and foreign substances from the Rubbers before using. Sterilize them before using by dipping them in hot water.
  7. If Mason Jars are used, screw Caps into position until they catch but do not tighten.
  8. If Ideal Jars are used, place Glass Lid and Rubber in position. Click the Top Bail in position but leave Side Bail up.
  9. Place jars in cooker or boiler (See directions for making home-made cooker.)
  10. Fill boiler with water until the Tallest Jar is covered with at least one inch of water. Place cover on boiler and boil for time given in “Time Table.”
  11. Remove Jars from boiler and seal immediately while hot.
  12. After Jars have cooled turn them upside down. Examine for leaks. If leaks are found, remove the Cap, examine for defects, repeat the processing and seal again.

Advantages of Cold Pack Method

Fewer spoiled jars–Jar and contents are sterilized together and no germs are introduced afterward.

Better flavor–Jar is closed during sterilization, thus preventing the escape of flavoring substances.

More pleasing appearance–Material is not handled so much, and is not cooked to pieces. The natural color is more nearly retained because of blanching and cold dipping.

Less time, labor and fuel expended–One handling takes the place of two, and the tedious part of the work is at the beginning and not the end. Work and time are saved because so many jars are processed (boiled) at the same time and with the same fuel.

Time Table For Cold Pack Canning

Fruits Blanch or Scald Process (Boil)
Apples 1-1/2 min. 20 min.
Apricots 1-1/2 min. 16 min.
Blackberries   16 min.
Blueberries   16 min.
Cherries   16 min.
Currants   16 min.
Gooseberries 1-1/2 min. 16 min.
Grapes   16 min.
Peaches 1-1/2 min. 16 min.
Pears 1-1/2 min. 20 min.
Pineapples 5 min. 30 min.
Plums   16 min.
Quince 1-1/2 min. 20 min.
Raspberries   16 min.
Rhubarb 1 min. 16 min.
Strawberries   16 min.
Vegetables Blanch or Scald Process (Boil)
Asparagus 15 min. 120 min.
Beans 10 min. 120 min.
Beets 5 min. 90 min.
Carrots 5 min. 90 min.
Corn 10 min. 180 min.
Greens 15 min. 120 min.
Peas 10 min. 180 min.
Peppers (sweet) 5 min. 90 min.
Pumpkin 3 min. 120 min.
Squash 3 min. 120 min.
Sweet potatoes 5 min. 90 min.
Tomatoes 1-1/2 min. 22 min.
Uncooked Meats Blanch or Scald Process (Boil)
Poultry and Game   180 min.
Beef   180 min.
Corn Beef   180 min.
Prepared Meats Blanch or Scald Process (Boil)
Spring Frys   90 min.
Fried Meats   90 min.
Baked Meats   90 min.
Stewed Meats   90 min.
Roast Meats   90 min.
Wild Game   90 min.
Fowls   90 min.
Cockerels   90 min.
Fish 5 min. 180 min.
Shell Fish 5 min. 180 min.
Soups Blanch or Scald Process (Boil)
Cream of Tomato Soup   30 min.
All other soup combinations
and soup stock
  90 min.

A Home-Made Cooker

A wash boiler with cover, or similar utensil.

A metal or wood rack to prevent the jars from coming in contact with the bottom of the boiler and to allow water to circulate beneath the jars.

If sides and handles are provided on the rack, it can be used to lift the Jars out; otherwise dip out some of the water and lift Jars out by hand, using a towel.

Ball Jars are made of green glass to protect contents from light, preventing bleaching, or fading, of the fruit or vegetables.


  1. The very first image in your post, where did you get that image? Just curious — I have a print version of that in very good condition and I’m trying to figure out how to value it. Any info is greatly appreciated! Your site is awesome!

  2. Debbie

    I would like to reproduce your Mason /Ball jar insert in a museum exhibition. Can you provide me with the source of the image? Or, if it belongs to you, could you give me permission to reproduce it? I would of course provide appropriate credit.

    • Well, here’s the thing, I don’t think it belongs to me; in this particular case, I don’t think it belongs to anyone. I scanned it, but based on the age, I think it’s in the public domain, since the specific logo in question stopped being used in 1923. And regardless, all I did was scan it, and my effort to make a faithful reproduction doesn’t entitle me to anything but a warm fuzzy feeling. So I can’t give copyright advice for whatever other uses come down the road, but I can say you don’t owe me anything. (Which is true in general. The whole site here is just about preserving stuff… it’s entirely noncommercial–actually costs me a ton to keep it running. No ads, no “affiliate links,” nothing. Part of that is because to the extent some works have owners, and this is an effort to avoid their destruction by time, I want to make as clean a fair use as possible.)

      2014… oof. I have all the boxes that have ever been scanned but that one is in a storage unit, if I recall correctly. So I hope this scan works… I could probably dig it up but it might take a while, with the quarantine and all.

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  1. By Celebrate Thanksgiving With a FREE Download: 3D-Printed Mason Jar Cover November 22, 2017 at 8:31 pm

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