Going through my kitchen, it is surprising to see how many Mason jars I have. When I saw an article in an older magazine on collecting and dating jars, I had to dig mine out just to see what might be there. As I have said before, I was the one in school getting gleeful when research papers were assigned while everyone else was groaning. I just love looking things up and learning. So, settle in for a lesson on Mason jars, and maybe you’ll find a treasure in your cabinet.
Did you know that Mason is not a manufacturer of glass jars, but the name of the man who invented the canning jar itself? John Landis Mason patented the jar design with a screw on lid for home canning in 1858. The rubber ring on the lid provided the seal. For Ball jars, you can date them by looking at the logo, as it has changed many times. I’ll give you a link for that later in the post. These jars have the Ball name in script, with the center of the ‘B’ straight (not looped). The top line extending above the ‘B’ is short. The ‘a’ doesn’t have a leader on the left side, and there is a line under the name. This points to this jar manufacture anytime after 1960. Might be a few years old, but could be modern. Nothing special.
I was surprised to find that although Ball is the leader in the home canning industry, actually it was Alexander Kerr who revolutionized home canning. He used a patented combination lid and seal invented by Julius Landsburger to create a flat lid in 1915 that fit the Mason jar. It is more difficult to find information on Kerr jars. An article at the Society for Historical Archaeology was the source for these notes. In the early 1900s, the jars were marked “Kerr – Economy”, made up to the mid 1950s. Later, Kerr made a different size mouth jar to fit the Mason jar seals in manufacture, and began using the terms “Self Sealing Mason” on their jars. The lack of imprint on the bottom and the presence of mold lines leads me to believe that these jars are no older than 1980s. By the 1990s, Kerr had diversified into many packaging areas, and their glass jar manufacture was losing money. It is interesting to note that the Ball Corporation purchased the Kerr glass manufacturing plants 1992, and immediately shut down two of them.
I found several Atlas jars, and thought they might be special, until I ran across an article that they were currently manufacturing glass jars for tomato sauce. Sure enough, I had one in the pantry. So those could go to the recycle center and give me a bit more room on the shelf.
I have several Golden Harvest jars, and love the embossed designs.
These are a bit larger than Ball or Kerr jars as they are made in metric sizes. This means that fewer will fit into a canning pot, but each one holds a bit more.
In my research, I found that these lovely fruit embossed jars were made by the Golden Harvest company as well. This one has strawberries on one side…
and a pear, peach and apple on the other.
Just for fun, here are a few of the ways I use Mason and glass jars. I have no idea who made this wonderful locking lid jar with embossed fruit, but I like it. One side has grapes and cherries.
On the other side are more cherries, pears, strawberries and an apple. I use it to store sugar.
I made Mason Jar Candle holders with interchangeable fills.
These are used on tablescapes often, here with yellow and white flowers in the base.
Outside, the top candle could hold a citronella votive.
Filling the base of one with red flowers, and using another for live hydrangea cuttings made a nice addition to a patriotic tablescape.
Then I got my glue gun out, and with a larger jar created a Beaded Mason Jar Decoration.
I use them to keep asparagus in the refrigerator too, treating them just like flowers keeps them fresh longer. This way I can cook just half of a bundle at a time for two meals, both made fresh and a few days apart.
Looking at the Ball logos closely, I did find that I have a treasure.
This one is an antique Ball Jar with a locking lid that I use for storing dried or roasted tomatoes. It is called a lightening jar. The two piece wire bale holds a glass lid with a gasket between the jar and the lid. The gasket has likely been replaced as it doesn’t fit exactly. The word Ideal was used from 1915 to 1962. The looped B and no line underneath further narrow the date to the decade of 1923 to 1933.
See this wonderful article on collecting and dating Ball Jars published by Country Living. There is a chart showing all the logos for Ball, along with dates. The photography is really wonderful on this article, and you may have a valuable treasure in your closet and not know it!
More information can be found on dating Mason jars in these articles.
Dating Old Mason Jars
Telltale Signs your Old Mason Jars May Be Valuable
Golden Harvest Mason Jars
Kerr Glass Manufacturing
In the sewing room, I have buttons in jars. If you are looking for a few fun books on jars, I am planning to make a couple of the projects in this book – Jazzy Jars: Glorious Gift Ideas. There may be one or two suitable for Autumn Jubilee. Yes, I am starting to think about that. See more ideas for Mason Jar Crafts, including fairy lights for them on Amazon.
Do you have some Mason jars at home? What do you use them for?
31 thoughts on “Having Fun with Mason Jars”
That was interesting. The title caught my eye! I have quite a few Mason jars but most of them were bought for canning after 1950. Some belonged to my grandmother and the rest are mine. We mostly can bread and butter pickles, salsa, and jalapenos. When we share with the kids, we don’t usually get the jars back but that is ok. My way of not having to take them to the Goodwill store! LOL The ones that are more special get sewing stuff put in them. I am looking forward to seeing what you do with yours this fall.
I’ve been using Mason jars to organize my pantry. Using the 4 oz jelly jars for spices (I’m buying them in bulk, much more affordable). It’s a work in progress but I love opening the pantry and seeing what I have. I’m using different sizes for different things. It looks organized and very nice.
Such useful things around the house. I always got a kick out of going to a certain restaurant and the drinks were served in piint jars…was that Cracker Barrel? Not sure. Since I don’t can, and kind of hate those necessary for canning metal lids, I have white plastic lids in regular and wide mouth sizes, and they work fine for refrigerating/storing and I use them when I make yogurt. We also buy feeders and waterers for chicks that let you screw on a regular jar…my old one is metal, and new ones are red plastic, LOL. Again, very simple and handy! Thanks Carole!
My family has used the small mason jars for drinking glasses for years. I’ve also learned that the plastic shaker lids (usually red or black) that come on Kraft Parmesan Cheese containers fit perfectly on the small mason jars. What a great discovery … I love them! They look so much cuter on the table than the big containers of cheese.
I have several ‘antique’ canning jars. Those are in my pantry filled with rice, beans, cornmeal, grits, cream of wheat, etc. I have a walk-in pantry and like to step in and see what I need in the jars at a glance without sorting through boxes. I can green beans, tomatoes, and bread and butter pickles and pickled beets. My daughters take home the canned food to two other states. When I go there or they come back here, they always have a box of empty jars for me all packed in paper knowing if they return the jars, they go home with filled ones. Canning jars have always been a part of my life. My grandmother and my mother used to can chicken and beef. Jars are a wonderful thing!! Nice information, Carole!
Yes I a bunch of these. I’ll check the news and see if any will ‘make me rich’.
I love the table setting. Pretty
I have a few mason jars, I keep my glue bottles in them.
I use others to store little bits, I do not have any old mason jars though.
I love collecting Mason/any canning jars! Maybe it’s because I’m southern! LOL At any rate, loved the article. Thanks for sharing all the links. I’m sure I have quite a few older ones that we received as food gifts everytime we went to my aunt’s. You couldn’t leave without taking canned food home with you! I surely do miss her!
Who knew?!? Thank you for the education. I had quite a large collection of blue vintage Ball jars with glass lids and wire bales…..was surprised at the value when they were sold at a big auction we had in WI in preparation to move here. I had always used them for storage of dry ingredients.
What a cool post, Carole! I love storing items in jars and have always saved some of those special ones. I never thought of value just that I like the shape and writing etc. Thanks for the info too.
Great ideas for the jars, some of which I already do. Your collection is wonderful. I love the pear peach and apple 🙂
I have a lot of jars, none of any special value beyond their intended purpose of storing things. We used to have bee hives & stored the honey in Mason jars rather than the classic bee shaped jars. Now, I’m with Linda B above, I use mine for homemade yogurt. This year I’m canning tomatoes. I was surprised to find them in short supply now at the grocery!
Very interesting! I’ve got a nice collection of jars from years of canning, including a few of the old glass lidded, colored ones. I never thought of researching their age.
So fun to read this wonderful blog post and see all the uses for these jars… I have a lot of them!
I don’t think I have any treasures at all, but I loved seeing all the pretty jar designs and will keep my eyes open for the interesting ones in the future.
Do you have any tips for how to keep the lids from rusting?
I use Mason jars all the time. I freeze tomatoes and fruit in them. I store leftovers in the fridge in them – makes it easy to see what’s in the fridge.
A wonderful post – thank you for such great info. I have canning jars but nothing special. I do buy the lidded jars at thrift and replace the seals. I use them to contain all kinds of food stuff, to keep away ants or moths. I have a couple fruit embossed ones too, I think they are great. I especially like the ones you store sugar in *swoon* and that Ball Ideal.
I am going to pull my jars and highlight them on a post along with a link to this one of yours.
Here is that post with a linkback to you.
Another great post! I am definitely a jar girl—I like to save unusually shaped commercial jars, just cause I like the shape! I have lots of jars and use them for dry storage: rice, noodles, brown sugar, oats, crumbs and nuts. Keeps the ingredients clean and bug-less. I have a few old jars and one or two blue ones with the glass lids—flowers from the garden look so pretty in them! I used to can, so have a few from the Bicentennial, with 1776 on them, and I really love the embossed ones that are more current. My husband rolls his eyes when I want to save the jar from things, but he does indulge my obsession, so he’s a keeper! The asparagus in a jar is brilliant! Great way to manage a bunch that is too much for just the two of us and keep it fresh. Thanks.
In honor of 1776 independence day In l997 Ball produced their regulat canning jars as decorative jars for sale.. I canned 3 cases of tomatoes using these jars Well. You know it. All these years later and all kinds of canning jars still. and not one of these special ones to be found
That’s for the wonderful blog. Love your research
great post. in our younger years I always had a huge veggie garden and preserved everything I would put up close to 500 jars and work full time-I probably have a few thousand jars still, I brought enough to the lake house to still can a few things I may pick up at the amish market.
fun ideas for the jars Hubs has sold some of the vintage jars so far
My daughter and her family use pint Mason jars as drinking glasses and have for years. They are so much more sturdy and have held up well to young boys and of course come out nice and clean in the dish washer. I think it takes a bit to get used to the lip, but I use one when at their home. She uses the quart jars for canning from her prolific gardens.
What a fun and interesting article about canning jars, Carole! I do have jars but none that collectible and I use them to store things like sauces I freeze, cornstarch, sugar, etc. I love all jars, even jelly jars. I’ve been known to buy a product just because I love the color or shape of the jar! But I do use them to store little things like cotton balls or Qtips in the bathroom, homemade mixes such as taco seasoning, salad dressing seasonings, etc. for the pantry. I think I’m a compulsive jar saver–had to finally give up pickle jars! LOL
I have an old large green mason jar, with a metal screw on lid. It has curved Ball and under that is PERFECT MASON. It was my Mother’s. Your post is interesting and will see if I find anything about my jar.
How ironic that I just sorted all my old buttons into old Mason jars yesterday and today! I have some with a glass seal and a screw on top and some with the wire contraption on the top that holds the glass top on. I need to research mine and see how old they are. I even have a blue one. I don’t “can” veggies but I sure do buttons! All of them came from my Mother and my sister got the other half. Living thru the depression, Mom never wasted a button. It the clothing was finally ready for the trash, all buttons were removed. So I’m afraid my collection is more heart felt than pretty. They are all pretty much just every day buttons. Still I cherish and display them with pride.
Yes, I do have a few mason jars at home….probably 3-400! Lots are new, but I have my mom’s jars, and have been gifted dozens by elderly ladies who quit canning. I’ll have to take a look at the logos when I open them from now on. 🙂 This was an interesting read, thanks Carole!
It is like collecting old bottles. So much history behind these items. I am pleased someone has kept details of the jar decorations to help with identification.
Fun post! It made me recall when I worked as a 4-H agent and the county fair where 4-H’ers would enter their canned goods. The shelves always looked so pretty with the colorful produce neatly arranged inside. There were actual standards for canned goods that would elevate one jar over another.
You can never have too many jars!! I love to use jars for all kinds of things, and they are so great for keeping food fresh, now you’ve got me in the mood for some jar creativity, thanks Carole!
I loved learning about these jars! My grandma always had “canning day” and we’d all go and do jars and jars of tomatoes and pickles. My mom made dill pickles- so easy and so good! These days my hubby and I make several kinds of jam each year. We tried to can peaches last year and they made a mess; we may try again.
What a great informative post and comments. It is a pleasure to read. Thanks Carole!
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