So just before the holiday that Dumpdiggers calls Christmas started, Tim Braithwaite (stonebottles) bought a beautiful beaver jar at a local auction sale and posted this close-up photo of the crisp embossing in the Dumpdiggers discussion forum, and of course this caused me to wonder about fruit sealers and crisp beavers in general, and how they came to be so coveted? … and what about those ‘left facing beavers’? What’s the story behind those?
Early Food Preservation in Europe and the USA
Let’s start at the start… In France, in the early 1800s, the process of hermetically sealed cooked food was developed by François (Nicolas) Appert, who was by trade a pickler, an expert confectioner, a brewer, a distiller, and a chef. He established the principles for the preservation of certain foods in hermetically sealed glass containers, (which he himself designed for the experiment). Basically he was the first person in the history to prove that air tight containers could preserve food.
Appert really had no explanation for the success of his experiment. He believed the exclusion of air and the application of heat were the major factors in keeping the foods in his experiments from spoiling.
Across the channel, an Englishman named Peter Durand patented the idea of airtight tin-plated iron cans, instead of glass jars, for food preservation. Cooked meat, fruit, and vegetables could now be hermetically sealed in metal containers. The British had lots of tin on their island and were the world leaders of brass munitions, but their first tin cans were actually made out of iron and were terribly heavy and hard to open. Here’s one found a few years ago that was made in 1837 and when opened was found to contain perfectly edible veal.
For some reason however the first tin cans were actually patented in the United States in 1825, and by 1839 tin cans were common in General Stores all over the continental US.
The Rise of Home Canning
US patent history records hundreds of successful fruit jar designs, but probably the most well known is the Mason jar. In 1858, John Landis Mason, a twenty six year old tin smith developed and patented a shoulder-seal jar with a zinc screw cap. The “Mason jar” had a threaded neck which fit with the threads in a metal cap to screw down to the shoulder of the jar and in this way form a seal. In 1869, a top seal above the threads and under a glass lid was introduced to the jar. The screw cap pressed tightly against the inverted lid, with rubber seal underneath, thus effecting an excellent seal. Preserving food in a glass home canning jar had now been taken a step further. A type of this closure still is in use today, although augmented with various other closure designs.
In 1861, Louis Pasteur used a microscope to show that microorganisms in un-sterilized food were responsible for food spoilage. Up until this time, even though people boiled the vessels in which they canned their food, nobody really knew why it worked. The common belief was that air caused spoilage and removing the air from vessels prevented spoilage. However, once Pasteur’s discovery was understood, scientists, manufacturers and home canners began developing better preservation methods usually by sterilizing the food as well as the container.
The manufacture of glass fruit jars for home canning accelerated after the US Civil War. Mason’s patent expired in 1875 and many other companies began manufacturing fruit jars around that time. Many of these other glass manufacturers capitalized upon the familiarity of the Mason name (or brand) and used it liberally on their own product names and logos.
Fruit Sealer Jar Lids
A multitude of different closures were developed and used throughout the years, which included variations on the screw top lid as well as different designs of clamps, wire bails and wax devices to hold the lids in place. Dumpdiggers has kept a ‘Safety Seal’ brand jar of aromatic coffee beans above the stove for almost ten years – that vessel has a good hinge clamp closure device that sandwiches the lid and bottle together and locks in that delicious smell behind a rubber seal.
Why so many different colours?
While contemporary canning jars are made of clear glass, their ancestors are found in a variety of colors and shades: aqua, clear, amber, cobalt blue, green and occasionally even milk glass. Different colours appealed to different markets and shopkeepers would order exotic varieties based on the population’s economic affluence, the popularity of the brand, the growing season’s potential for a bumper crop, and the type of fruit in the region. Colors were used just like ‘fancy packaging’ is today. I suppose it’s similar to the great beer bottle debate we have today. Are beers packaged in clear bottles more susceptible to spoilage? Do amber coloured bottles better protect their contents from the adverse effects of sunlight? Some say it’s just a marketing gimmick.
And that brings us to the left facing beaver jars. Phil Murphy, an avid collector of fruit jars and host of The Fruit Jar Collector Web Site thinks maybe the left facing beaver jars are something of a marketing gimmick too.
When I emailed him and asked about this, Phil returned this pearl of wisdom, ‘…according to fruit jar researcher Dick Roller, these jars were made after the newly designed Frank O’Neill machines had been installed in the Kingsville (Ontario) plant in the spring of 1901. By September 28, 1901, it was reported that D.A. Gordon, of Sydenham Glass Co., had dismantled the Kingsville plant and taken the tools and machinery to Wallaceburg (where the Sydenham Glass Co. existed). The short span of time that the machines were used at the Kingsville plant may account for the rarity of these jars. So far, all of the left-facing Beaver jars checked have been machine-made…”
Phil goes on to write, that he reckons the ratio of right facing beaver jars to left facing beaver jars to be about 100 to 1, respectively (in the Pint versions anyway) if not higher. They must be rare because I can’t find a picture of one to include here in this post.
Fruit Jar Manufacterers
Dumpdiggers would be happy to find fruit sealers from any of these American (and Canadian) glass jar manufacturers. If you’re a fruit jar collector, then this is your mission statement:
Adams & Company, Pittsburg, PA
Ball Brothers Glass Mfg. Co., Muncie, IN
Brookfield Glass Company, Brooklyn, NY
Brushwick Glass Company, Brooklyn, NY
A. & D. H. Chambers Company, Pittsburg, PA
Clyde Glass Works, Clyde, NY
Consolidated Fruit Jar Co., New Brunswick, NJ
Co-operative Flint Glass Co., Ltd., Beaver Falls, PA
Corning Glass Works
Crowleytown’s Atlantic Glass Works, Crowleytown, NJ
Crystal Glass Co., Bridgeport, OH
Cumberland Glass Mfg. Co, Bridgeton, NJ
D. Cunningham Glass Co., Pittsburg, PA
Decker’s Iowana, Mason City, IA
Edward H. Everett, Newark, OH
C. L. Flaccus Glass Company, Pittsburg, PA
A M Foster Co., Chicago, IL
Gayner Glass Works, Salem, NJ
S. George Co., Wellsburg, WV
Gilchrist Improved Jar Co., Philadelphia, PA & Elmer, NJ
Glass Containers Corp., Fullerton, CA (Golden Harvest)
W. Glenny Glass Co., Cincinnati, OH
Greenfield Fruit Jar & Bottle Co., Greenfield, IN
Hawley Glass Company, Hawley, PA
Hazel Glass, Washington, PA
Hazel-Atlas Glass Co., Wheeling, WV, & Washington, PA
Hemingray, Cincinnati, OH
Hemingway Glass Co., Covington, KY
Hero Fruit Jar Co., Philadelphia, PA
Hero Glass Works, Philadelphia, PA
Hermetic Fruit Jar Company, Portland, OR (Kerr)
Hermetical Closure Co., San Francisco, CA
Louis Hollweg, Indianapolis, IN
Illinois Glass Co., Alton, IL
Illinois Pacific Glass Company
Kearns-Gorsuch Bottle Co., Zanesville, OH
Kerr Glass Manufacturing Company, Sand Springs, OK
Keystone Glass Works, Philadelphia, PA
Knox Glass Bottle Co., Knox, PA
Lamb Glass Co., Vernon, OH
J. A. Landsberger Co., San Francisco, CA
Lynchburg Glass Corp.,
Lyndeboro Glass, Lyndeboro, NH
W. W. Lyman
Mannington Glass, Mannington, WV
Marion Fruit Jar & Bottle Co., Marion, IN
Moore Brothers Glass Co., Clayton, NJ
Mountain Mason, Midvale, UT
National Glass Co., Pittsburg, PA
Ohio Container Co., Columbus, OH (Mom’s)
Ohio Valley Glass Company
Owens-Illinois Glass Co. – Toledo, OH (Presto) & San Francisco, CA
Pacific Glass Works
F. H. Palmer, Brooklyn, NY
Penna Glass Co., Anderson, IN
Port Glass Works, Bellville, IL
Poughkeepsie Glass Works, Poughkeepsie, NY
Putnam, Bennington, VT
Putnam Glass Works, Zanesville, OH
Red Key Glass Co., Red Key, IN
Root Glass Company, Terre Haute, IN
Safe Glass Co., Upland, IN & Chicago, IL
San Francisco and Pacific Glass Works
Schram Glass Mfg. Co., St. Louis, MO
Skillin-Goodin Glass Co., Yorktown, IN
A. G. Smalley & Co., Boston
J. P. Smith, Pittsburg, PA
Sneath Glass Co., Hartford City, IN
Swayzee Glass Co., Swayzee, IN
Terre Haute Glass Mfg. Co., Terre Haute, IN
Thames Glass Works Company, New London, CT
Upland Cooperative Glass Co., Upland, IN
Vacuum Jar & Fruit Package Co., San Francisco, CA
Victor Jar Co., Detroit, MI
Weightman Glass Co., Pittsburg, PA
Wellsburgh Glass and Mfg., Wellsburgh, WV
Western Flint Glass Co., Eaton, IN
Weston Glass Co., Weston, WV
Whitney Glass Works, Glassboro, NJ
Woodbury Bottle Works, Woodbury, NJ
Wormser Glass Co., Pittsburg, PA
R. G. Wright & Co., Buffalo, NY
A Primer on Fruit Jars is an interesting article by Dave Hinson with a good overview on the history of glass fruit jars that have been used for home food preservation in the past.