Gem Butter Jar

Provenance: Jerry McCann Collection

Our container embossed “Gem Butter Jar 5 Lbs” may be unique with the Hero Cross motif. In Fruit Jar Annual 2020 – The Guide to Collecting Fruit Jars” it says “None of the Gem Butter jars are available” as there are a few variants.

The same fruit jar guide also states that the various butter jars were used by museums to house their specimens in collections and that many of the butter jars held by collectors have come from museums. The large size and unusually wide mouth on the jars made them ideal to preserve small animal and plant species.

Before butter was available in sticks in grocery stores, many families, especially those living on farms, made their own butter at home. In order to make butter from cow’s milk, they would let it sit until the cream in the milk separated and rose to the top. Then they would skim the cream off and put it inside a butter churn where a plunger would be used to churn the butter until it solidified into butter. Storing butter was important so the advent of glass jars with tops that sealed the contents was imperative.

Our rare aquamarine half-gallon Gem Butter Jar is squat in form and is embossed ‘GEM BUTTER’ in an arch on the front anchored by smaller horizontally embossed copy reading ‘JAR 5 LB’s’. There is a prominent embossed outline of a Maltese or “Hero Cross” set within the arched and straight-line copy. Within the cross is the monogram “H F J Co” for Hero Fruit Jar Company.

The jar has an original Gem style extra-wide heavyweight glass insert lid, and the correct original extra-tall style non-lugged zinc band. There is a ground mouth. The base is embossed ‘PAT. NOV 26. 67’ in an outer circle with ‘PAT FEB 4 67’ in an inner circle. There is a large embossed ‘B’ in the center of the two typography circles. There is a faint outline of a circle on the reverse of the jar. This seems to be a variant of Leybourne 1080 which has a slightly different patent date. All of the Leybourne Gem Butter Jar references do not mention the embossed cross on the front.

On April 1, 1871, S. B. Rowley proudly announced that the patent case of Rowley vs. Mason, relating to fruit jars, ended in his favor with the issuance of letters patent No. 97964. Rowley was the Proprietor of the Hero and Gem Fruit Jars, among others, and had been dealing with patent and legal issues. Rowley was located at 509 Market Street in Philadelphia. The Hero Glass Works, Hero Fruit Jar Co., and Consolidated Fruit Jar Co. made The Gem, Gem, New Gem, Improved Gem, and the Gem Butter Jar which was sold by dealers throughout the United States.

Primary Image: The Gem Butter Jar imaged by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio by Alan DeMaison.

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

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

Support Image: Auction Lot 7051: GEM BUTTER JAR 5 LBS, Squat Half Gallon, Aquamarine, Original Gem style extra-wide heavyweight glass insert lid, and rare correct original extra-tall style non-lugged zinc band, sparkling glass, no damage including a good ground mouth with very little flaking. Embossing varies from medium to strong. Base with circles of patent dates. Circa 1870s. Rare early butter jar with great eye appeal. – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

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