What Color Is It?

What Color Is It?

Posted by: Karen M. Vincent on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 4:00:00 pm


Karen M. Vincent
Minnetrista Director of Collections  

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Everyone is familiar with Ball blue jars and with the company’s clear jars. Many have seen green, amber, sun-colored amethyst, and swirled Ball jars. Very few people know, however, that there was once a white Ball jar and even fewer people have seen or own one.

Bicentennial Celebration

It all started in the mid-1970s as the nation’s bicentennial approached. Ball Corporation decided to issue a special series of fruit jars to celebrate the event. The style chosen was the Ball Ideal, which had been discontinued in 1962. The color chosen was Ball blue.

Ball blue bicentennial jar
Ball blue bicentennial jar

There was one problem—Ball stopped making blue jars in 1936, so the company had to find another manufacturer. Since Wheaton Glass Company of Millville, New Jersey had an available tank of blue glass, that company was chosen to make the jars. A few million half-gallon, quart, pint and half-pint jars were made. It’s still easy to find those jars. What isn’t easy to find are the other jars made with the bicentennial mold.

Very Rare "Milk-White Jars"

After the first run of blue jars was produced, workers at Wheaton suggested that they could easily make jars using glass from a “milk glass” tank on site. Ball officials agreed, and about thirty jars were made. Unfortunately, most of the jars broke during shipment to Muncie. Rumor says that only five survived.

“Milk Glass” Ball bicentennial jar
“Milk Glass” Ball bicentennial jar

While these jars are often referred to as milk glass, that term isn’t exactly right. The jars are more of a crème or off-white. So how would you accurately describe the color of the jar? It’s easy if you have a long memory, perhaps of your Dad splashing on after shave in the 1960s. Yes, those Ball Ideal Bicentennial jars were made of the same glass as an Old Spice After Shave bottle. 

Old Spice After Shave
Old Spice After Shave 

Have Any Others Survived?

Now back to that rumor that says only five jars survived. Who knows? Minnetrista has one in the Minnetrista Heritage Collection. Where are the others? I don’t know. If you have one or know of someone who does have one, we’d love to have another one donated to the Heritage Collection. That would be a great way to preserve your canning jar.

“Milk Glass” Ball bicentennial jar
“Milk Glass” Ball bicentennial jar - reverse side   

Before I close today, I’d like to give a shout-out to Dick Cole, Minnetrista’s retired curator of business and industrial history. He compiled a lot of the information I’ve used in articles about Ball artifacts and company history. Thanks, Dick.

minnetrista heritage collection

minnetrista collects the objects and archival material that document the people, places, events, organisations, businesses and industry of the region - in other words, the history of east central indiana.

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