“MASON’S PATENT NOV 30TH 1858” ANTIQUE FRUIT JARS – SUMMARY & OVERVIEW
This “MASON’S / PATENT / NOV 30TH / 1858” phrase was originally embossed on countless glass fruit jars (canning jars) , most ranging in age from circa 1858 to the mid-1910s.
Note: many reproductions of these jars have been made (from the 1970s all the way up to the present time), which are discussed later in this article.
WARNING: It has come to my attention that some oddly colored Nov 30th 1858-type jars (shades of red and yellow, probably other colors exist) have recently surfaced for sale on auction sites. They have the base mold number: H385. We can be assured that ALL jars with this mold number are reproductions (modern fakes or ‘fantasy’ jars). They were likely recent imports from Asia !!! If anyone has further info on this type of jar, or knows of other mold numbers that ID fakes, please contact me! [This paragraph added November 26, 2013].
Also……..as of August 4, 2014, unusually colored midget (Consolidated Fruit Jar Company logo) NOV 30TH 1858 jars have been reported with a mold number on the base: H39s (the “9” is backwards and the “S” looks somewhat like a backward “Z”). These are also recently-made imports from Asia.
NOTE: Other Patent Nov 30th 1858 reproduction jars are reported with a mold number “H430” on the base (thank you Chris!).
Brief History of the 1858 jars
John Landis Mason was awarded patent #22186, issued on November 30, 1858 by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (actually the patent was termed an “Improvement in screw-neck bottles”), for his invention concerning the process of creating a threaded screw-type closure on bottles and jars.
Similar screw-threading had been done before on some bottles, but the process of forming the upper lip area of the container (so that it was smooth, even, and sturdy enough for a lid of standard size to be screwed thereon) was difficult and expensive to do properly, often with unsatisfactory results. His improvement revolutionized home canning in the United States.
The very first jars with the Nov 30 1858 patent date embossing are believed to have been made at the “Crowleytown” Glass Works (more accurately the Atlantic Glass Works), located in Washington Township, New Jersey. There is no absolute proof of that, however.
The “Crowleytown” jars have a more pronounced square shoulder, differing in appearance from the typical later types. For a very good in-depth discussion of the Crowleytown and nearby glass works, check out http://www.antique-bottles.net/forum/m-547192/mpage-1/key-/tm.htm#548932 .
Another firm which was producing the jars early on was the Consolidated Fruit Jar Company, perhaps making them as early as 1859 or 1860. Questions remain on exactly which companies made these jars during the early years, since the 1858 patent evidently lasted 13 years (or 20 years, counting a patent reissue), and ostensibly during that time period no one was allowed to produce the jars because of patent infringement issues unless they were granted permission by Mason, or the licensed holder of the patent.
In any case, throughout the next 60-odd years, production of jars with the Nov. 30, 1858 embossing continued at a high rate, with untold tens of millions (or more) produced. The phrase was soon considered an important marketing device, adding to the perception of quality and reliability of the container to the average consumer, and, at least by 1879 (21 years after the patent was issued), it is very likely that nearly every glass bottle factory was producing their own version.
The 1880s and 1890s likely saw the peak of popularity of these jars. A considerable percentage have a mold number or letter on the base, a means of identifying the particular mold in use at the factory.
Most jars fall under one of three sizes (capacities): Pint, Quart, and Half Gallon. Any other sizes are much scarcer.
Some examples were quite crudely made, with lots of embedded bubbles, mold irregularities, and a “hammered”, “rippled”, “whittled”, or “washboard” appearance to the surface of the glass. The “whittled” look might be compared to the appearance of heavy rain beating against a glass windowpane, and is caused by the molten glass having been blown into a mold that was not properly pre-heated — that is, the glass had begun to solidify too quickly. Contrary to a popular misconception, these jars were not made in wooden molds, but in metal molds, usually made of cast iron or steel.
Some examples also have identifying initials on the base or reverse, or a monogram on the front or back, which can serve to identify what company made them. (For instance, jars with the lettering “W.C.D.” on the base are products of the W. C. Depauw Glass Company, located in New Albany, Indiana. The jar pictured here is an example.)
However, vast quantities were produced by well over 100 different glass factories, and many of those have NO identification marks whatsover, or only a mold number, letter, or emblem on the base. There are MANY, MANY different mold numbers seen, having one, two, or three digits. In those cases it is difficult, if not virtually impossible, to positively identify the actual glassmaker. They are found in a multitude of color shades, with light aqua being the most commonly seen. Many shades of aqua, as well as ambers, greens, blues, amethyst, clear, and rarely, white milkglass, and blackglass examples are found. The blackglass units are attributed to the Hemingray Glass Company, well-known for their electrical insulators.
Jars marked “PAT NOV 26 67” on the base.
Some MASON’S PATENT NOV 30th 1858-type jars are marked with a “Maltese Cross” symbol (which indicates the Hero Glass Works / Hero Fruit Jar Company, of Philadelphia, PA) either above or below the word MASON’S. On most examples, the letters “H”, “F”, “J” and “Co” can be faintly seen within each “arm” of the cross. On others, no letters are visible. This style with the cross underneath the word MASON’S is listed as jar#1939 in the “RED BOOK” of antique and collectible fruit jars often consulted by collectors.
There are other slightly different variants of that jar (this is just one example)! Some have the standard “MASON’S PATENT NOV 30TH 1858” marking but do NOT have a Maltese cross. Those would be classified as Red Book jar #1890.
Typically, the base of these jars are marked with “PAT NOV 26 67” (Patented November 26, 1867). Some jars may be blank on the bottom. In general, any jar with the PAT NOV 26 67 marking on the base can be attributed to the Hero Glass Works (later known as the Hero Fruit Jar Company). The “Hero” jars were made over a long time (typically most appear to date from the 1870s to 1890s) and many, many molds were used. There is typically a 2 or 3-digit mold number in the center of the base. Hero had several other glass companies help fill their orders, (such as Marion Fruit Jar & Bottle Company of Marion, IN and Cumberland Glass Manufacturing Company of Bridgeton, NJ) for these jars (which were extremely popular), so it is difficult to be 100% sure exactly where any particular HFJCo jar was made, although assumedly the majority were produced at their factory in Philadelphia.
NOTE: There are a number of other fruit jars made by (or for) Hero including certain jars marked on the front with the words “THE GEM”, or “GEM”. Others include jars marked “ALL RIGHT”, “CRYSTAL”, “THE HERO” , “HERO”, “HERO IMPROVED”, and “THE HEROINE”. These jars, in many cases, are marked with the PAT NOV 26 67 patent date on the bottom.
For much more detailed information on those and other jars connected with the Hero company, I would suggest you check out Bill Lockhart et al’s article (this is a pdf file) on the Hero Glass Works / Hero Fruit Jar Company at this URL: https://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/Hero.pdf
Anyone interested in learning more about the many, many variants of the 1858 patent jars that have been catalogued so far would be served well to obtain a recent copy of the “Red Book” price guide, used by most advanced collectors of fruit jars.
The earlier variants of the 1858 jars typically have a ground lip, (that is, having the appearance of being smoothed off on a grinding wheel, leaving a somewhat rough surface), and later variations made, in general, in 1900-1915 period, are machine-made and have a smooth lip.
Ball Bros. Glass Manufacturing Company made most of the very latest machine-made types. Many other variations of this basic jar (with changes in the exact raised embossed wording) were made in ensuing years, for example, the “Mason’s Improved” jar. The “Mason Jar” is now a generic term, meaning any jar used for canning which has a screw-type lid. A notable successor of this type of jar, the Ball Perfect Mason (with dozens of minor variations in size, shape and color; please see the “Ball Perfect Mason” page), would easily become the most popular and commonly produced fruit jar of the 20th century in the US, and is seen in proliferation at antique stores and flea markets around the United States.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There are many reproductions of the “MASON’S PATENT NOV 30TH 1858” jars in circulation, especially examples produced in the last 30 years or so!!! These are typically (but not always) made in unusual, bright, garish “striking” colors that are very rare or unknown in the originals, and often they are of a smaller size which tends to be in higher demand. Beware! They typically “look new” with a “slickness” to the glass, little or no base wear, and usually have no damage of any kind. Some of the mold numbers that may be seen on the bottoms which usually indicate a fake jar include: 1171 , 851 and 971.
Reproduction jars are known in many colors, including ruby red glass, cobalt blue, black glass, bright greens, ambers, purple, olive green, yellow, citron, and other colors.
[Adding this paragraph August 3, 2019] If the mold number on the bottom is H395 (with a backward 9), this is a recently imported quart size jar from India or China. They have been seen in cobalt and a rich ruby red color. The red might show a faint lean toward cranberry or puce. Other colors are almost certainly out there. (If you have seen one of the jars with this mold number in another color, please let me know and I will add it to this article). I think most of these have been made since around 1990, even some in very recent years. There are probably other mold numbers on these colored jars, and some are completely unmarked on the bottom. They sometimes have stickers on the base that reads “MADE IN INDIA” but the sticker may have been removed.
Anyone seriously interested in collecting the authentic early jars has to be aware that the repros are out there, sometimes “mixed in” with the real ones, at antique shops & malls, general antique shows, flea markets and even antique fruit jar and bottle shows. They are collected and appreciated as beautiful pieces of glassware in their own right, but increasingly, many of these are being sold as “authentic antiques”, with or without actual intention to deceive.
Many of these reproduction jars have been imported from Asia, especially China, India & Taiwan. In general (with exceptions!!) most AQUA examples are authentic, since the color was so typical of old glass, and is considered “ordinary”,”common” or “unremarkable” by collectors searching for the rare colored jars.
I have seen, however, fairly recently (2013) even rather ordinary-looking aqua or greenish-aqua 1858 jars for sale at flea markets that are, in fact, new, and were probably imported from China! They have a hard-to-define appearance which can best be appreciated by actual handling of the glass. There is usually no base wear at all, no very fine scratches (almost always a few will be evident under close scrutiny on older authentic jars) or even a hint of damage of any kind. The surface of the glass is smooth and slick with a somewhat lighter-weight construction than authentic older jars. Some of these jars are now being sold at flea markets or on online auction sites along with spray pump style lids, sold as lotion or liquid soap dispensers. Others might be sold to use as decorative “rustic” or “retro” canisters, to hold dry pasta or beans, or to use when making homemade candles or other craft projects.
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