February 9, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
John Mason

Food preservation in early America was at best a short term proposition.
Fruits and vegetables were stored in cellars, buried in pits lined with charcoal, baked sawdust, chopped straw or corn husks. Dried fruits and vegetables were the best winter fare available and fall spelled the beginning of ever-increasingly monotonous menus.

A French confectioner, Nicolas Appert, won a 12,000 franc prize in 1810 for his theories that heat would preserve fruits, meats, fish and vegetables by arresting the natural tendency of foods to spoil. For the next half-century there was virtually no advancement in the salvation of the consumer’s taste buds.

In 1858 John Landis Mason left the family farm in Vineland, New Jersey and moved to New York to work as a tinsmith on Canal Street. Holed up in a small rented room at 154 West 19th Street the 26-year old Mason worked on the problem of an airtight jar, undoubtedly spurred on by the thought of the coming winter and its dreary diet.

In the middle of November Mason took out his first patent for a mold which could turn out a glass jar with a threaded top. The threads would allow a metal cap to be screwed down, forming an airtight seal. Mason took out a second patent on his “improved Jar” on November 30, 1858, the date which glass jars carried for the next 75 years.

That winter Mason took on partners and moved his modest business to 257 Pearl Street. Mason and his partners crafted the tops on Pearl Street. The jars were ordered from glassblowers who had made the molds, generally costing less than $10, according to the specifications in Mason’s patent. From these beginnings it is estimated that over 100 billion jars have been made from Mason’s creation.

The humble Mason jar is surely one of America’s most important inventions,
for it changed the dietary habits of a nation and spawned one of the country’s great industries. Mason’s jar proved to be a blessing to housewives on farms and cities alike. The chemically inert qualities of glass preserved fresh flavors.
Clear, transparent jars permitted housewives to see contents at a glance.
Easy to clean and re-use, Mason jars could be effortlessly stored by the hundred. Individual jars were often handed down from one generation to another.

The Civil War interrupted Mason’s thriving new business. After the war, Mason re-established his factory in New York until 1873 when he moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey. Here Mason became associated with the Consolidated Fruit Jar Company, which soon acquired rights to the first two patents.
These patents expired in 1875, after seventeen years, and accordingly entered the public domain, free of protection. The next year Mason assigned his remaining rights on eight other jar patents to Consolidated.

John Mason busied himself with his new family - he had married in 1873 when he moved to New Brunswick and his new wife would present him with eight daughters - and dabbled in new inventions. He patented a folding life raft, a soap dish, a brush holder, and a sheet metal cap die but never again devised anything as perfect in its utility as the Mason jar.

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