It is believed that Napoleon was responsible for the invention of canning. Twelve thousand francs were offered by the French military for a new means of preserving food. Canning was the idea of Nicolas Appert. Food was first successfully canned in 1806. The first glass canning jars were sealed with a flat tin lid, sealing wax, and wire. The process was messy, and the materials not reusable.
The Mason jar was invented in 1858 by tinsmith John L. Mason. He invented the machine that cuts threads into a lid, making it possible to make a jar with a screw-on lid that could be reused. Mason’s jar design included a jar with threads molded into the top, a zinc lid, and a rubber ring to create a seal. His name and patent date were included on the jar.
Canning became very popular with both rural and city dwellers. Mason sold off his rights to the jar and didn’t profit as one would have thought from his invention of the Mason jar.
Clamped glass-lid jars, known as Lightning jars, were invented by Henry Putnam in 1882. The glass lid was held down by a metal clamp. There was no contact between the food and metal and no chance of rust breaking the seal. The lids were also easier to seal and remove. This was the reason for the name “Lightning.” These jars were made until the 1960s.
Another type of Lightning jar was the Atlas jar. The addition of a raised lip kept the jar from cracking, which was often a problem with these types of jars. The lip strengthened the shoulder of the jar where the clamp sealed the lid. The Atlas Company manufactured jars from the late nineteenth century into the 1960s.
We are all probably familiar with Ball jars. The Ball brothers moved their company from Buffalo, NY, to Muncie, IN, after a fire in their factory. Muncie was offering free natural gas and land. In 1886, the Ball Company began producing glass canning jars. Ball acquired other companies throughout the country and became the main manufacturers of canning jars.
The Hermetic Fruit Jar Company was founded by Alexander H. Kerr in 1903. He manufactured the first wide-mouth canning jars known as Economy jars. With the addition of metal disposable lids with permanent gaskets, invented by Julius Landsberger, canning became easier, safer, and less expensive.
Canning jars are popular for not only preserving food but for use as vases, candleholders, decorating the home, and other crafts.