The History of Greenfield Fruit Jar and Bottle Works Company - February 2016

2016-02-01
Boyd Perfect Mason jar

Do you can fruit and vegetables? Many people still do. But did you know that the glass canning jars that you put those foods in has a highly collectible market today? And did you know that some of the most sought after glass jars in that market were produced in Greenfield?

This history of preserving our food, the containers and methods go back to the Greek and Romans. Many different materials have been used to make jars over time. But even with all the tested and tried materials only one stood up to preserve food the best.......glass. Napoleon made this discovery while being desperate to preserve food for his army. He offered 10,000 francs to whoever could come up with a material. Nicolas Appert, A French chef, devised the first method of sealed glass jars.

In 1854, James Spratt of Cincinnati, Ohio, came up with the first groove-ring wax sealer.

The term Mason jar came from its inventor, John L. Mason. His famous patent was a glass container with a disappearing thread molded into its neck, a zinc lid and rubber seal. This is the famous Mason's Patent Nov. 30, 1858. This model was still being made into the 1920's.

From here the hobby of collecting glass jars gets real detailed as Mason later sold off his patent and many companies began manufacturing jars and making improvements in them.

One of these companies that would join this group was the Ball Brothers. In the early 1880's William Charles Ball and his brothers Edmund Burke and George Alexander began making wood jacketed tin cans for the storage of oil, lard and paint. In 1883, they switched to glass and three years later to fruit jars.

In 1887 citizens of Hancock County discovered natural gas. This led to our "Gas Boom" era for Hancock County. With that discovery several large companies moved to our area. There were four glass factories that opened during this time. But one of them would produce products that are still sought after today.

The Greenfield Fruit Jar and Bottle Works opened for business that same year. This company occupied two different buildings. The fruit jar building was on the west end of town along US 40 approximately where Hardees stands today. This was a large factory, with production buildings, storage warehouses, sand piles for the glass, and other material. The Pennsylvania Railroad had a switch engine there to easily change train engines. This property ran back to the railroad tracks and most likely consumed some or all of the Meadowbrook subdivision to the west and all of the mechanic service building and Little Construction property to the east but not quit all the way to Franklin St. The bottle works building was located on the east end of town at Morristown Pike and US 40 on the southeast corner where the Rods in Progress and Bill's Automotive are located today. At this location they made whiskey and beer bottles.

Another important piece to the industry was the machines made to make the glass jars. Many men were racing fast to come up with the latest and greatest glass machines. One of these companies was the Owens Bottle Machine Co. Owens created the latest Automatic Bottle Machine. The Ball Brothers at this time were rapidly seeking to become the largest company in the world and in doing so reached out to the Owens Company for license and a list of equipment that would put them in the lead in the glass bottle industry. But when the company informed the Ball Brothers that the cost four machines, tanks, power equipment and buildings to house this equipment would cost $113,000 the Ball Brothers backed out.

In 1907 the Owens Machine Company sold the license that the Ball Brothers did not purchase to a little company called Greenfield Fruit Jar and Bottle Works.

The Ball Brothers put plan B into place. To gain complete control of the fruit jar market they began buying up all the small companies that they could and as soon as they purchased these companies they would close them down.

Once they lost their license to the Greenfield Fruit Jar Co. they immediately sought to buy the company and did so on November 20, 1909 for $750,000. The Ball brothers bought the Greenfield Company not only to continue to gain control of the market but they held the license and machines they sought.

A Ball letter, dated March 12, 1910, stated: "We recently purchased the exclusive right for making Fruit Jars on the Owens Machines and purchased the out-put of the Greenfield Factory where these machines are now operated".

With the Greenfield factory already set up with the Owens machines the Ball Brothers moved everything in the Muncie #2 factory to Greenfield and installed three additional Owens AD, nine-arm machines there by late 1910.

Now here's my collectors tip....one that most would keep to themselves but since I can't collect every jar out there I might as well share right? Prior to the Ball Brothers purchasing the company the bottles produced in the Greenfield Fruit Company were made with the word "Boyd" on them. Now quick go check any glass jar you have in the house!!!!

In a letter from the Ball Brothers documents, from when the company purchased the Greenfield factory, they changed the name on the bottle from "Boyd" to "Ball". Mainly because the Ball name is better known and generally preferred....."The jars are all made on the same machines in the same factory and if there is any difference, those that have been made last and bear the 'Ball' name are the better, for the workmen have learned something by experience".

Another collector's tip.....also during this time the bottles saw another change to the bottle. They altered the "third L" into a simple line but retained the "down stroke-a" or "dropped-a" or "lower case-a"-while adding embellished serifs to the feet of the "B", "a" and the underline. The timing again points to the machines used.

Ball operated the Greenfield plant until May 1915. They began moving all the equipment back to Muncie and sold the property to the Owens Bottle Machine Co. by November 14, 1916. The east building was destroyed in a fire sometime in late 1915 early 1916. Owens operated the factory until 1921. The 1921 Greenfield Directory listed the Owens Bottle Company, but the 1922 directory did not.

2016-02-02
Photo of Owens Bottle Company - 1920

Other labels on bottles produced in Greenfield were bottles stamped with H&R (stand for Hollweg and Resse); this came from history showing that at one time the company was called Holloweg and Reese Bottle Factory. "Boyd Perfect Mason", RB#493-10-"Genuine Boyd Mason, RB#1637 "Mason" or (with Shepherds crook) and Standard.

2016-02-03
RB1637 Mason jar with Shepherds Hook

The west building was destroyed by fire sometime in 1923.

Records also showed names of some of the plant managers. Alphonso Lloyd was manager in 1904. Also in 1904 R.L. "Rozzy" Ogg was the Superintendent. Paul Haines was another name listed although no time frame was indicated. Eventually the properties met their fate and were razed and the properties cleared to make way for new structures.

2016-02-04
Boyd Perfect Mason Jar also produced in Greenfield

So even though the business is long gone not all is forgotten. The remains of the bottles produced with collectors everywhere, the history of the Greenfield Fruit Jar and Bottle Company with last forever.

So the next time you see an old box of glass jars take a minute and look at the markings real carefully you may have just stumbled upon Greenfield history.

2016-02-05
Another Boyd Perfect Mason jar

Greg Roland

References:
Binford History of Hancock County
Hancock County Historical Landmarks – Greenfield In The Boom, 1887-1915
The Standard Fruit Jar Reference by Dick Roller

More Greenfield History