The Prohibition era of the 1920s and early 1930s generated plenty of colorful stories about rumrunners, bootleggers, and speakeasies. Moonshiners—those savvy entrepreneurs who produced their own high-proof distilled spirits—have their very own colorful Ball canning jar stories.
The history of Ball Corporation in a quilt! In 1976, this is what well-known Muncie artist Barbara Moll created for Ball Corporation’s new headquarters. Her five-panel creation documented the history of the company from its founding in 1880 in Buffalo, New York to the company’s entry into aerospace to the lid shortage of 1975.
Those of us of a certain age remember, with great fondness, the wonderful decorations at Ball Stores in downtown Muncie. Recently, I shared some photos of the decorations with the audience at the latest Tea & Talk at Minnetrista. During tea time, there was lots of chatter at the tables as new and old friends exchanged memories. It was especially great to meet one gentleman in the audience who had worked at Ball Stores for more than thirty-five years. Some of those years were spent working on the windows, and he told us that many of the decorations had originally been displayed at Saks Fifth Avenue!
When you buy your produce at Farmers Market at Minnetrista or your fresh cider and bag of apples at The Orchard Shop, you become part of a long Minnetrista tradition. Likewise, the children who learn about Johnny Appleseed and watch cider being pressed and tour the orchard to learn about apples are also part of the tradition.
Lucina Ball did not hesitate to offer sisterly advice to her younger brothers—Lucius, William, Edmund, Frank, and George. In a letter written in 1892, she suggested that the brothers “… get up a ‘syndicate’ to buy a whole square and build it all equally good, and so make your own surroundings.” They took her advice then, as they so often did, and purchased a thirty-three acre tract on the White River.
It was a wild and wooly evening when Lucy Ball, oldest daughter of Frank C. and Elizabeth Brady Ball, married Alvin Owsley on May 16, 1925. The wedding was held at the home of the bride’s parents, just as her sister Margaret’s wedding was the previous year. The setting was lovely, the guests were many, and the bride and groom had their nerves under control. The weather, however, did not cooperate.
Jars, jars, and more jars. In addition to more than 1,000 fruit jars, the Minnetrista Heritage Collections includes approximately 100 packer jars. So what is a packer jar?
What a great idea! Give away a jar, encourage canning, and, of course, sell a few products. That’s exactly what Ball Brothers Company did for the International Canning Contests held during the 1930s.
The very dapper George A. Ball dressed like a child for a party at his home! How could that be and why? According to Emily Kimbrough, in her delightful memoir of early 20th century Muncie, not only was George dressed in young boy’s clothing, Frances dressed like a little girl.
When Ball Corporation moved headquarters to Colorado in 1998, the company donated its large collection of jars to Minnetrista. Ball chemist Dick Cole headed across town to Minnetrista instead of making the longer trip to Colorado. Why would Minnetrista hire a chemist? Dick’s work involved chemistry but his passion is the Ball jar, and he followed “his” jars here. Dick retired several years ago, but I still rely on his expertise. And, occasionally, I recycle stories that he shared. This is one.