BBGMCo Buffalo Jar

Provenance: Jerry McCann Collection

Ball fruit jars were produced over a century and are probably the most recognizable and collectible fruit jar series in this segment of antique bottle collecting. The varieties have captivated collectors’ minds, and one could spend a lifetime collecting just Ball jars.

Our museum example of a quart BBGMCo jar in amber glass represents the earliest jar made by the Ball Brothers. You can tell because of the monogram logo embossed on the jar. This monogram was used back when the company was known as the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company. The jar would have been manufactured between 1885 and 1886. The hand-blown ground lip jars were made in Buffalo, New York, prompting collectors to call them “Buffalo Jars.” The closure was a top seal, straddle lip glass lid with a metal screw band. This example is extremely rare in amber glass as they are typically found in aqua. A yellow-amber half-gallon jar from the Alex Kerr collection, also extremely rare, is pictured in the museum.

You can see the historical development of the Ball brand mark from 1885 to date below.

We also have this fine aqua BBGMCo jar in our museum on an adjacent shelf from the Darrell Plank Collection. This midget pint proudly displays the BBGMCo. monogram.

The mason jar was an essential innovation before the advent of refrigeration. John Landis Mason’s addition of a rubber gasket inside a tin lid allowed an airtight seal and offered an alternative to salting, pickling, or smoking for food preservation. Now you could put up fruits and vegetables without fear of spoiling.

That design reached its zenith in the Ball jar, developed by the Ball Brothers of Buffalo. The Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company (BBGMCo) can trace its roots back to 1880 when Frank Clayton Ball and Edmund Burke Ball bought the Wooden Jacket Can Company in Buffalo with a $200 loan from their uncle, Rev. George Harvey Ball, a Baptist preacher and the founder and first president of Keuka College.

Frank and Edmund were later joined by their other three brothers—Lucius, William, and George. Initially, the company made wood-jacketed tin cans to hold kerosene but soon switched to glass. It was the same objective with glass, “coal oil,” or kerosene storage for primarily lamp fuel. Once production ramped up, they started using their excess glass-making to make fruit jars.

The brothers built their first glass plant in Buffalo, New York, on the east side sometime around 1882 to 1883. This location was the origin of the name “Buffalo Jars.” In 1884, 1885, and part of 1886, the Balls began to manufacture Mason jars after the Mason patent protection had expired five years earlier, marking them with their Ball Brothers BBGMCo monogram logo.

In 1886, a fire in Buffalo destroyed the Balls’ glass factory on Main Street. At the same time, a natural gas boom was underway in Ohio and Indiana, offering the prospect of low-cost gas to fuel the Ball Brothers’ glass furnaces. In an early example of economic development, business and civic leaders in Muncie, Indiana, offered the brothers a variety of incentives to build their replacement factory in Muncie, which opened in 1888. Metal stamping and other company activities continued in Buffalo, but by 1897, George and William had joined Frank and Edmund in Indiana. The Balls had lasted less than 20 years in Buffalo. A few of their jars lasted much longer.

Primary Image: Both Ball Brothers Buffalo jars imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio

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

Support: Reference to Fruit Jar Annual 2020 – The Guide to Collecting Fruit Jars by Jerome J. McCann

Support: Reference to Ball Brothers Glass Mfg. Co. by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schriever, Carol Serr, and Bill Lindsey with contributions by Jim Sears.

Support: Ball History and Timeline

Support Image: Illustration of BBGMCo jars showing variations of monograms (Creswick 1987) courtesy of Doug Leybourne.

Support Image: Midget aqua BBGMCo jar – Darrell Plank Collection in the FOHBC Virtual Museum Jar Gallery

Support Images: Scrolling aqua jar images courtesy of Greg Spurgeon and North American Glass.

Support Images: Auction Lot 476: Rare amber BBGMCo Half Gallon Ball Bros. An extremely rare honey amber half-gallon embossed with a BBGMCo monogram. Sparkling glass with no damage or stains. Ground rim with the normal edge flaking. This is one of the rarest and earliest of all Ball-made jars, with only a couple of examples known to exist. Comes with the correct milk glass Ball Bros insert (edge flaking) and a plain zinc band closure. The jar has a tiny manufacturer’s pot stone in the front with minuscule legs, almost needing a loupe to see. Base: unmarked. Ex: Alex Kerr. – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

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