By Garland Pollard
Ball Mason jars are one of the great American brand names that define a particular category. It is so much so, that most could not even name any other brands that competed against it, though if you think hard, Libby and Kerr come to mind.
This year, the company celebrated the centennial of the Mason jar, and reintroduced the blue Ball Mason jar, pictured here. The Pinterest-friendly jars include the beautiful Ball script and a translucent blue that would make any canned vegetable even more beautiful than nature. Today, Ball jars are back in fashion for the umpteenth time, as the middle and upper middle classes explore new frontiers like permaculture. Frankly, you are not really a prepper or Amish if you use such good design sense in your home canning, you are just, well, cool.
Ball, the NYSE company, is no longer actually making the jars; the home canning business was spun off in the early 1990s and is now part of Jarden Home Brands, which owns that other canning brand, Kerr. While the brand and the parent company have both fared well since the split, it was not a good idea, as it is always dangerous to separate a company name from the product that gave it its name because at some point, the two companies can go in completely different directions and take the brand with it.
That being said, Ball is very much still in the canning business, a leader in selling beverage and food containers. And since the beginning of the space era, it has had a leadership role, perhaps best known as a builder of the Kepler Space Observatory and inner-workings of the Hubble Space Telescope. They also made the Quickbird satellite imaging system that takes photos of Earth from space.
The Ball jar is one of the better products used for recycling. It is a standard size, useful for not only canning but for drinks, pencil holders, coin jars and the like. Back in the 1970s, when the nostalgic “fern bar” came of age, restaurateurs often used the Mason jar as table glasses. Today, they are back to their original purpose, taking America’s great bounty and keeping it fresh, on the shelves, for a few seasons more.