by Dr. Lori Verderame
Glass canning jars
In the early 1800s, French inventor Nicolas Appert won a contest sponsored by Napoleon Bonaparte and the French military after he devised a method for preserving food with a heat sealed canning process. Jars were heated which killed bacteria. Then, they were filled with food, sealed while they were still hot, and stored.
In 1858, the glass jar was perfected for canning when John Mason patented a design for a machine that sparked the manufacture of a jar with a rubber seal and screw top lid. Thus, the mason jar was born. Mason jars commonly have raised lettering indicating the date 1858, but in fact that date is not the date that a particular jar was produced. That 1858 date was the original patent date for the mason jar. Mason jars were produced with that featured date for than thirty years or more after 1858.
An audience member at one of my appraisal events got quite angry and loud when I had to break the news to him that he did not have the world’s first mason jar based on that 1858 marking, but instead a very common example of the mason jar.
Clamped glass jars
Vermont’s Henry Putnam produced lightning jars in the 1880s–glass canning jars with a metal clamp and a glass lid which could be opened quickly. Lustre, Swayzee, Climax, Atlas, and other companies made lightning jars, too.
Ball jars were the product of William Ball and his family. Most Ball jars sell for $10 to $100 depending on rarity and condition which can be identified. There are some glass Ball jars that are of special interest like the Ball Perfection jar that sold for $600 recently.
What to Look For
Look for embossed decoration, lettering, and a specific pattern or maker’s name on the jar. Clarity of the glass itself is important when collecting glass canning jars. Look for original parts like the zinc lid, glass lid, rubber seal ring, metal clamp, etc.
Get an online appraisal of your glass canning jar from Dr. Lori