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A History of Insulator and Fruit Jar Manufacturers

Presented by Tom G. Moulton

A History of Insulator and Fruit Jar Manufacturers

Company summary:

AGEE (circa 1920 - 1940's)

The Australian Glass Company, Ltd. Operated in Sidney, Australia and Penrose, New Zealand during the period 1920's to 1940's. During this time they manufactured a limited range of Jars and Insulators when compared to some of the other manufacturers. The Insulator is a CD-422 and was produced at some time during the company's existence at the Sidney plant. The insulators made by this manufacturer are found in a variety of colors ranging from green, straw, gray, amber and purple. The Jar displayed was produced during the period of the 1920's and 1930's, probably at the Penrose New Zealand plant in both amber and clear. This is the only style jar produced by this manufacture which is amber.

BROOKFIELD (55 Fulton Street) (circa 1868 - 1888)

The Brookfield Glass Company was originally known as the Bushwick Glass Company and was located in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Mr. William Brookfield purchased Bushwick with the help of Mr. James Brookfield in 1868 or 1869. The Brookfield Glass Company operated at various locations other than 55 Fulton Street until ceasing operations in 1920-1921. The Insulator displayed is a CD-133 and was probably made during the 1870's. Insulators were one of the primary items manufactured by Brookfield. They are found by the millions and in many different CD's. The 1912 Brookfield Insulator catalog states that the business was actually established in 1853 and the insulator business started in 1865. We know that there were some threadless items found and others in the catalog have not been found or found without the Brookfield name embossed on them. The Jar displayed is one of the 6-8 known specimens, all quarts, and was made sometime during the period of 1869 - 1883. It is very rare and its lid is a bit different than others known.

CORNING (PYREX) (circa 1868 - present)

Although the Corning Glass Works has been in existence since 1868, the Pyrex patent was not issued until 1919, and the trademark was not granted until 1925. The plant still operates and is currently one of the leading manufacturers of fiber optic cables. The Insulator displayed is a CD-128. Several types of insulators were manufactured by Corning including the largest single piece glass insulator ever made. Insulators were produced from 1924 through 1951. The Jar was supposedly manufactured from 1924 through the late 1930's for Smalley, Kivlin and Onthank, Boston, Massachusetts who were Jar Jobbers. These jars are not considered very rare; however, the displayers have only seen two and know of one other. A representative of the Corning Company advised us that the company was unsatisfied by the finished product and this may be the reason for their relative rarity.

DOMINION (circa 1886 - 1898)

The Dominion Glass Company (first called Dominion Company) was located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada from 1887 - 1898. Subsequently this company became the Diamond Glass Company and then the Diamond Flint Glass Companies (Ltd.) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which operated until 1913. The company then re-assumed the original Dominion name and after that time operated until 1967. The Insulator displayed is a CD-115 and was manufactured by the Second Dominion Glass Company, which was the product of the merger of several different glass manufacturing companies. The Jar displayed was made by the First Dominion Company between 1887 and 1898 and is a nice example of the midget size jar. These jars are also found in quarts, half gallons, in clear, aqua, light green & ball blue.

FOLEMBRAY (circa 1709 - 1956)

The information, which we have, states that the royal glassworks of Folembray was founded by patent letters on January 31, 1709 and was originally formed to manufacture Cognac and Champagne bottles. In her 1993 Glass Insulators from Outside North America, Marilyn Albers indicates that from a 1934 trade journal the manufacturer was located in the town of Folembray, Aisne (a Department in northern France). Very little else is known about the early years of the company. We do, however, have information dated 1939 which lists a Paris address and indicates that at that time they were manufacturing Insulators in glass for all tensions, bottles and "Durfor" preserve bottles. The insulator displayed is a CD-677.5. It is light green in color. Its shape is distinctly European with the two arms. Approximately 30 different styles of Folembray insulators have been found in various European countries. The style of jar displayed is one liter in size and has almost a milk bottle shape. It is a dandy but typically European green color. The closure is very different from any jar manufactured in the United States and has a unique feature where the clamp wire actually encompasses a raised area in the lid, which prevents it from being removed from the jar without a good bit of effort.

GAYNER (circa 1898 - 1937)

Gayner Glass was first known as Gayner Glass Works located in Salem, New Jersey, and later became Gayner Glass Company in 1937. The Insulator displayed is a CD-106 and was manufactured between late 1920 and early 1923. Gayner, supervised by Mr. J. William Gayner, entered into the insulator market when Brookfield discontinued manufacturing insulators and it is believed that they utilized some of the Brookfield hand presses and molds during their early production. The Jar's displayed were manufactured most likely in the mid to late 1920's and early 1930's and that there are two different types of closures. Most Gayners are found in clear glass but note that the Gayner Mason has a distinct tint to it. The Gayner jars are found in pint, quart and half gallon sizes.

HAMILTON (circa 1884 - 1895)

The Hamilton Glass Works & Company, located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada is one of the oldest Canadian glass companies. The company is attributed to have manufactured bottles, jars, and insulators. The Insulator displayed is a CD-162 and is the only insulator with the Hamilton Glass embossing on it although it is believed that perhaps other types were made. It was manufactured after 1880 when the company was reorganized as the Hamilton Glass Co. The Jar displayed was produced sometime after 1866 and it is considered to be the oldest and one of the most sought after Canadian Fruit Jars. It was patterned after the Millville Atmospheric Fruit Jar, manufactured by Whitall Tatum Glass Company in Millville, New Jersey who granted a license for its manufacture utilizing the same type of clamp closure patented by Millville. The Hamilton jars are found in imperial pint, quart, 54 oz and imperial half-gallon sizes.

HAWLEY - (HARLOE) (circa 1889 - 1910)

Obtaining his first patent in 1899, Morton Harloe subsequently received additional patents and commenced manufacturing insulators. In 1902 he formed an insulator Manufacturing Company in Hawley, Pa. This company later produced bottles and jars. In 1903 Harloe leased the Sterling Glass Co. in Elmer, NJ but the lease was short lived and all production was moved to the Hawley, PA. Plant in October of the same year. Financial difficulties beset the company and it was sold to J. S. Welch in 1906 who apparently continued production of the items until approximately 1910. The insulator displayed is a CD-102 and is one of the later style manufactured being of a conventional nature. Also displayed is a U-184 Harloe. It is interesting to note that the early patents issued to Harloe were of a non tie wire style but were either not accepted by users or proved not to be strong enough to take the abuse of the wire passing through. The Jar displayed is the only type found to date and the base embossing contains the Hawley Glass Company name, with the Hawley, PA location. This jar is found in pint, quart and half gallon sizes.

HEMINGRAY (circa 1848 - 1933)

Hemingray, originally Gray and Hemingray, is one of two glass manufactures listed in the 1850 edition of the Federal Non Population Census in Cincinnati, Ohio. The 1848 date is arrived at by a listing on a Hemingray publication dated 1904. This company was widely known for its early production of insulators and other glass items. Through aggressive marketing Hemingray became one of the earliest and most prolific of the insulator manufactures. The Insulator displayed is a green CD-124 with amber swirls. Carrying the patent date May 2, 1893 (drip point patent date) it is not one of the earliest of the insulators produced, however some samples of this CD have been found which do not carry the Hemingray markings. It is believed that this CD may be unique to Hemingray manufacture, however. The Jar displayed is a Midget with the front embossing Mason's / Patent / Nov. 30th / 1858 and the reverse embossing H G CO. monogram. This jar has been found in at least 4 sizes in the Aqua color. Some other colors have been reported. This particular jar was manufactured most likely in the 1870's. In 1869, one of their publications stated that the daily production of Fruit Jars was 10,000. The Globe Jar (found in clear, aqua, very light green, amber shades, and cornflower) is known to be of Hemingray manufacture. It is strange indeed that with the huge quantity of jars manufactured by this company, to our knowledge, no jar has ever been found with the full Hemingray name on it. The earliest production mainly being identified by the threading for their patented lid.

KERR (circa 1903 - 1991)

The Hermetic Fruit Jar Company (Alexander H. Kerr, owner) with offices at Portland, Oregon (1902 - 1903) became Kerr Glass Manufacturing Company in the same location (1903 - 1912). Offices and Manufacturing Facilities were located throughout the United States during subsequent years until late 1991 when Kerr was sold to the Ball Company. The earliest Kerr Jars were, in fact, made for Kerr, which was a Jobbing Company, by Illinois Pacific Glass Company located in California, and the Hazel Atlas Company located in West Virginia.

The insulator displayed is a CD-155 with the cobalt blob in the dome and was in actual use in Tennessee before I obtained it 3 years ago. I had always been of the impression that these were experimental pieces done by employees trying to make a cobalt insulator on a lark and that they never been placed in commercial use. Kerr manufactured insulators after purchasing the Armstrong Company in 1969 and continued to do so until the mid 1970's. Some production was done after that date, according to Mr. Alex Kerr, a well-known jar collector (who is still living in California), but it was primarily for export. Alex told me at one time that Kerr shipped the insulator manufacturing equipment to the plant closest to the sale point, as it was less expensive to do than shipping the heavy insulators - an interesting bit of trivia. The Jar displayed was manufactured from a working jar mold but was done as a 65th anniversary jar in 1968. Note that it has a similar blue streaking as the insulator but it was done for different reasons. Although this particular jar was never used for canning, it could have been so we thought that the similar blue marking made the jar interesting for viewing.

LYNCHBURG (circa 1919 - 1925)

The Lynchburg Glass Works operated during the period 1919 to 1923 when it became the Lynchburg Glass Corporation. It is interesting to note that Mr. J. William Gayner joined the company in 1923 as Vice President in charge of production. The Insulator is a CD-112 and was manufactured after Mr. Gayner joined the company in 1923. Lynchburg was a company, which tried to fill the void created when Brookfield ceased production and utilized some Brookfield molds. The Jar was produced between 1923 and 1925 and has been found in both pint and quart sizes. The jars are found in aqua, apple green, olive green and a greenish tint in pint, quart and half gallon sizes.

S. McKEE (circa 1834 - 1886)

Established in 1834, the S. McKEE Company is considered one of the oldest and most prominent glass works in the country. Located in Pittsburgh, PA. The glass works consisted of three factories, two used for the manufacture of glass and one for bottles. Originally run by three brothers, Samuel, James & Thomas, Samuel was the sole survivor in 1860 and operated the three factories until his death in 1877. We do not have information as to who continued to operate the facilities until they were closed. The insulator displayed is an embossed CD-731 (no other insulator types have been attributed to this company), and is threadless which probably indicated that it was manufactured prior to or around 1865 which was the patent date for threading. There are many non-embossed CD-731 types attributed to S. McKEE but only a few have been found with the embossing. The insulators range in color from an attractive blue to aqua. The Jar displayed is a grooved ring wax sealer with a metal press down lid. There were several types of S. McKEE, wax sealer type jars, the majority of them with the embossing on the base. Jars have been found in cornflower blue, lime green, citron, and aqua in quart and half gallon sizes. The jar was made between 1860 and 1880.

OHIO VALLEY (circa 1881 - 1888 & 1902 - 1905)

Early records show that the Ohio Valley Glass Company was established from the Nail City Glass Company in 1883 although the jar embossing shows 1881. In 1888 the Bridgeport Glass Company succeeded the Ohio Valley Glass Company. Separate records show the establishment of the Ohio Valley Glass Company in 1902 and it continued in business until 1905 when the records indicate in 1906 that Hemingray acquired the company. It is possible, that these are two separate and distinct companies, however it is also possible that there was a tie of some sort between them. The best we can offer is the fact that both are embossed O. V. G. Co. The Insulator displayed is a CD-112 and is one of the eight styles manufactured. The colors of the O. V. G. insulators range from various shades aqua and green, light blue and light purple. The Jar displayed was made between 1883 and 1888 and is quite rare. It is listed as being found in aqua, sky blue, citron, and amber although this one has a definite green tint in quart size and half gallon. The O. V. G. embossing is found on one other jar - Masons O. V. G. Patent / Nov. 30th 1858.

OWENS - ILLINOIS (circa 1929 - 1966)

The Owens - Illinois Glass Company was formed in 1929 with a merger of the Owens Bottle Company and the Illinois Glass Works. The O I within a diamond trademark was issued on April 1st 1930 to the Company listing its address as Toledo, Ohio. Subsequent to that date this Company had many locations throughout the United States. Of interest to Insulator collectors is the fact that Owens - Illinois purchased the Hemingray Glass Company in 1933 and the Muncie plant was operated as the Hemingray Division. The Insulator displayed is a CD 128, which interestingly has the Hemingray name and the Owens - Illinois trademark shown on the front of it. This item was found only in Florida and the color ranges from almost clear to almost milk glass. The more attractive versions are an Opalescent color which, depending on the light shining through them, exhibit a fiery vibrant hue. The Jar is embossed on the front PRESTO Supreme Mason Duraglas. The base reads Owens - Illinois Glass Company with the trademark emblem. The jar lid is two piece with a glass insert, which reads Presto, and an Aluminum screw band with a top window, which allows reading the Presto. The aluminum portion of the lid is also embossed "The Presto Jar enclosure are approved by the Good Housekeeping Institute etc." The Duraglas marking for bottles and jars was issued on September 23, 194l. This embossing would obviously indicate that this jar was manufactured after that time.

PACIFIC GLASS WORKS (circa 1862 - 1876)

The Pacific Glass Works believed to be the oldest successful glass manufacture west of the Rockies, was incorporated in 1862, and the first glass blown in 1863. The works was purchased in 1876 by its competitor, the San Francisco Glass works and the new company was called San Francisco and Pacific Glass Works. The Insulator displayed CD-123 is considered to have been made by this company although it has not been proved. The insulator is found is various heights, dome shapes, with and without mold dimples and other shape variations. It has been found in hues of aqua to green to various amber shades and cobalt blue. The Victory Jar displayed is one of the type manufactured by this company - and it does carry the precise embossing to confirm that is was manufactured by them. There have been only a few examples found which carry the Pacific Glass Works name or the S F indication. The jars have been found in quart and half gallon sizes.

SPRATT (JAMES) (circa 1845 - 1852 & 1854 - 1858)

James Spratt was in the lighting rod business from 1845 to 1850 according to Cincinnati, Ohio directories and opened the lightning rod business on 5th Street in Cincinnati in July of 1848. He was granted a patent on February 5th 1850 for improvement in attachments for lightning conductors. In 1855 he apparently was no longer involved with the lightning rod business and was listed as a self-sealing fruit can manufacturer at 234 Walnut Street. He patented an improvement for sealing cans (prior to this the cans had been sealed with solder) on July 18, 1854 with a screw type closure which was first installed and then sealed again with wax. The Lightning Rod Insulator displayed although not rare is one of the lesser found rounded dome pieces which has Spratt Patent embossed around the top rim and the 1850 date on the tab. They have been found in various shades of aqua and green. The Can displayed was found in New Hampshire some years ago and carries Spratt's name, the patent date, and the name of a jobber or manufacture who used his product and was located in New York City. The cans are among the oldest dated cans and come in quarts and half gallons.

THAMES (circa 1864 - 1865)

The December 22, 1864 issue of the Norwich Weekly Courier reported that the Thames Glass Works Company located at Fort Neck, in New London, Connecticut was manufacturing a large amount of light and dark green glass. The firm was listed as having a first rate reputation. The 1865/1866 Directory listed among others a John J. Squire as a glassblower. Preserve Jars were among the products of this company and on October 18, 1864, a patent was granted to the firm for a jar top. The company also produced pressed amber glass insulators for telegraph wires. In December of 1865 the glass factory was taken over by a new firm and put in operation as the Fort Trumbull Glass Works. The Insulator displayed is a CD-718 and is olive amber black glass. This happens to be the second known insulator from this manufacture. The first was only approximately one half of the insulator (the entire skirt being missing) and was in the collection of the late Charles Gardner. It was auctioned in 1975 to an unknown person when his huge collection of mostly bottles was sold. The partial insulator has not surfaced since that time. The item displayed was discovered at a yard sale in 1997. It was purchased for one dollar. The J. J. Squire jar displayed is one of the very few which sits on little feet formed on the base of the jar. While the jar shows two patent dates, its mouth shows that it was one of the earlier designs. The lid, which has a projection on the side, slides into the jar through a slot, turns and seats in a circular groove fashioned in the neck of the jar. Actually the lid shown probably belongs to the first jar manufactured which only showed the 1864 patent date. It is interesting that this lid has two holes fashioned into it to allow steam to escape. The earliest patent calls for two metal crossbars one to hold the lid in place and one to seal the holes but none has ever been found.

WHITALL TATUM (circa 1806 - 1968)

Whitall Tatum is the oldest glass manufacturing company in the United States, with operations commencing in 1806 as a window glass manufacturer. The company went through 14 ownership's throughout its history. Starting as Whitall Tatum Company of New York, NY: Philadelphia, PA: And Millville, NJ Whitall Tatum was purchased by the Armstrong Cork Company in 1938 who continued to use the Whitall name and logo for a period of time. The insulator displayed is a CD-108 and was produced during the period from 1922 to 1924. Insulators were made at a much later date than the Jars (commencing in 1922) and were probably another byproduct of the demise of Brookfield. Many types of insulators were manufactured and over the years high speed production made their usage widespread throughout the country. After the Armstrong acquisition, production continued utilizing the Whitall Tatum names, then the Whitall Tatum and Armstrong combination names and logos and ending with just the Armstrong name and logo. The style Jar displayed was first made in 1861 and went through various minor changes in shape and closure until the 1880's. It has been found in aqua, and rarely amber and cobalt blue. These jars have been found in half-pint, pint, quart, half gallon and some sizes, which are in-between, the usual standard sizes. This style jar was also made for use in laboratories as specimen jars in a multitude of sizes.

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Last updated May 14, 2002