Dorri Partain 

Saving a summer’s bountiful garden harvest for later in the year was essential for homemakers decades ago, and the invention of the reusable glass jar made the process easier and safer.

Patented by New Jersey tinsmith John Landis Mason (1832-1902) in 1858, U.S. Patent No. 22,186 led to a variety of styles produced in pint, quart and gallon sizes.  This new style had screw bands molded onto the jar’s mouth, which held a milk glass liner in place once the zinc metal band was screwed on.

While glass canning jars are commonly called “Mason” jars today, Mason himself was never involved in the manufacturing of the jar. That same year, Mason devised the screw top salt shaker.

After the patent expired in 1879, multiple glass companies began marketing jars with their company name.

Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Co. began producing canning jars in 1884, using the same design Mason patented. Improvements and variations began with Ball’s “Ideal” line, which was manufactured from 1915 to 1962.

A popular variation of the screw-on closure was developed in 1882, when Henry Putnam (1825-1915) submitted his own patent (US 256,857) using a wire bail to secure a glass lid. His design was based on the “lightning” bottle stopper, developed by Charles De Quillfeldt in 1875, and purchased by Putnam for his own use.

Putnam’s Lightning Fruit Jars used a rubber ring to create the necessary vacuum seal and were produced as late as 1921. 

Manufacturers including Hazel-Atlas (1902-1964), Pine Glass (1927-1929), and Kerr (1904-present) used the wire bail closure as well.

In 1989, organizations including the National Center for Home Food Production and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that older style jars, especially the wire bail style, were not recommended for home canning methods.