B.B. Wilcox Patent Fruit Jar

Provenance: Darrell Plank Collection

What a beautiful example to grace our museum gallery. The B. B. Wilcox jar is typically found in aqua so this forest green example is quite exceptional and rare.

Our jar is side embossed PATD MARCH 26TH 1867 in an arch. B. B. WILCOX is centered and embossed horizontally beneath the arch. There are usually numerals from 1 to 22 embossed on the jars though our museum example does not have a number. These numbers occur above and below the B. B. Wilcox typography. There is both a squared and slope-shouldered version of the Wilcox jar. They were available from 1867 to 1871.

Benjamin B. Wilcox was born about 1820 in Cornwall, Connecticut. Not much is known about his early life except that he married Eliza A. Brainerd of Portland, Ct. on May 29, 1842. At that time he was living in Old Saybrook, Ct. They had three children, Maria, Curtis, and Samuel. This information can be gleaned from 1850, 1860, and 1870 United States Federal Census reports.

In 1850, Wilcox was listed as a mechanic as far as his trade. In the 1860 census, he was listed as a machinist. The machinist occupation would follow his name every year from 1860 to 1867 in the New Haven, Connecticut City Directory so we can assume this was his primary occupation.

B. B. Wilcox put his tooling and mechanical expertise to use as he received Patent No. 63,193 for an “Improvement in Fruit-Jars” on March 26, 1867. That same year he created the Wilcox Jar Company which lasted until 1871. In 1868, the Wilcox Patent Fruit Jar won First Premium or Prize in the autumn New York State Fair in Rochester.

Wilcox stated that his Patent Fruit Jar was superior for the following reasons:

First – It’s completeness in its arrangements and combinations as a Perfect Fruit Preserver.

Second – It is provided with a divided Ring, which is easily attached to or detached from the Neck of the Jar, and secured by the Bail.

Third – When the band and bail are applied, its combinations form a complete handle, thereby dispensing with all lifters or other appliances, which have hitherto been in use for removing the Jar from boiling water.

Fourth – It is constructed with a Glass Cover, which sets over the Neck of the Jar, resting on an elastic band on the outer surface of the shoulder, this preventing any flavor being imparted to the Fruit by metallic or other substances. This advantage alone renders its superiority such as to bring it into immediate and general use with the public.

Directions for Sealing, Opening and the time required for Cooking – would accompany each package.

Toulouse (1969:330) noted that the patent was quite different from the actual jar. The patent calls for a split-ring trunnion, instead of the one-piece band used. It also calls for a stamped metal yoke instead of the wire bail, and the yoke had an additional function in closing, with an intervening gasket, a small orifice in the center, or the glass lid which would allow venting during the boiling operation.

In 1868, the Wilcox Patent Fruit Jars were initially manufactured by the Fort Trumbull Glass Company in New London, Connecticut for distribution in the east. A & D. H. Chambers (Alexander and David H. Chambers) in Pittsburgh were the manufacturers for the west. Two early advertisements are represented below. We can find quite a few western ads such as L. Powers & Co. advertising that they had Wilcox’s Patent Fruit Jars for sale in Sacramento in 1869.

Roller (1983:384) notes in his book that the jars were made by the Ellenville Glass Works from 1871 to 1872 and that a variation was embossed “W.J.Co.” on the base. He noted that lids were found both with and without a “rayed” pattern.

Support: Reference to Red Book #11, the Collector’s Guide to Old Fruit Jars and use of Creswick illustrations by Douglas M. Leybourne, Jr.

Support: Reference to Other M Marks by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schriever, Bill Lindsey, and Carol Serr with contributions by David Whitten

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