Hemingray – Melon Ribbed Jar

Provenance: Patricia Sprang Collection

When many antique glass collectors hear the name Hemingray, they think of telegraph insulators. Hemingray of Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio was also associated with several styles of fruit jars, the most famous of them being the Globe Fruit Jar.

Our subject example is an unmarked “Hemingray Melon Ribbed Jar” that can be found in half-gallons, quarts, and pints. Our museum example is spectacular in form, color, and condition and has the original lid. These jars are easily identified with their verticle ribs and the glass color which is typically a Hemingray deep aqua, cornflower blue, or blue-green that you see with Hemingray telegraph insulators. The lids can be tin-plated iron, cast metal, or white metal caps.

Robert Hemingray

Robert Hemingray was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1820. He started out as a grocer and baker before he moved his family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was a glass-making capital before it became the Steel City. In Pittsburgh, he married the sister of Ralph Gray who would soon become his partner in glassmaking. Gray was also from Johnstown and was the first in the glass business in Cincinnati in 1847. In due time, the brothers-in-law were together in Cincinnati and decided on a factory in Covington, Kentucky which would supply their store at the end of the river bridge in Cincinnati.

Ralph Gray died in 1863, and the business name which had been Gray, Hemingray & Bros. became Hemingray Glass Co. In the early years, the company went through numerous and frequent name changes, including Gray, Hemingray & Bros.; Gray, Hemingray & Brother; Hemingray Bros. & Company; and R. Hemingray & Company before incorporating into the Hemingray Glass Company, Inc. in 1870.

Initially, Hemingray was established to manufacture flint and green glassware of all types. Their warehouse and retail outlet were in Cincinnati on Main Street between Columbia and Front Streets. Advertising as early as 1857 listed “Perfumers’ Ware, Telegraph Glasses and Lightning Rod Insulators” among many of the products manufactured by their firm in Covington. Later advertising mentioned apothecary items, bottles, fruit jars, pressed glass dishes, tumblers, battery jars, fishbowls, lantern globes, and oil lamps.

Some other Hemingray made jars include the Hemingray Push-Down Wax Sealer, the Patented Nov 30 1858 (with/H.G.CO. Monogram), Patent No. 22,186, Patented Sep 18 1860 – Patent No. 30,063, Patented June 9 1863 – Patent No. 38,820, Patented Feb 16 1860 – Patent No. 41,657, Patented June 27 1865 – Patent No 48,399, Patented May 25, 1886 (GLOBE, On Lid) – No. 342,602, Royal and Royal of 1876.

Primary Image: Hemingray Melon-Ribbed Jar imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Support Image: Auction Lot 2970: Hemingray Melon Ribbed Pint, Light Cornflower Blue. Rare original tinned sheet iron cap in beautiful condition. Sparkling glass. No damage, normal roughness and flaking of the sheared and not-ground mouth. Smooth unmarked base. Circa 1860s. Extremely rare in this small size and color. From the auction of the noted Carson Collection in Terre Haute, Indiana in August 2000. The Carson Collection was gathered in the 1950s and 1960s and had been stored by the local university since 1969. This jar was among a small number of rare jars in the collection, and probably one of the best. – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

Support Image: Auction Lot 3132: Hemingray Melon Ribbed Quart, Dark Aqua, Reproduction metal screw cap, Shiny glass, Flaking of the ground mouth. The base is smooth with a slight rocker base effect, Circa 1860s, Scarce – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

Support Image: Auction Lot 9526: Hemingray Melon Ribbed Half Gallon, Deep Blue-Green. Reproduction metal cap. Sparkling glass, Faint round fisheye bruise on the shoulder. Unmarked base. Circa 1860s. Rare in this large size – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

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: The Hemingray Glass Firms by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schriever, Bill Lindsey, and Carol Serr with contributions by Bob Stahr and David Whitten

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