Friday, March 8, 2013

Ask Granny... What Made The Old Ball Jars Blue?




Q. What made the old Ball jars blue?

A. I've had several people ask this question and didn't really know myself so did some digging and research and found this great site that explained it nicely... and quite interestingly... We've all learned something...

Taken from...

"It’s all in the sand.
Most of us know glass is made from sand. You might not have known that glass color comes from the mineral content in the sand that’s used to make the glass. We wondered what was different about the sand that Ball used. How come no other company had sand that made their jars that particular shade? And why did Ball stop making jars in the signature color?
Turns out, the sand comes from an onetime Indiana landmark. According to the public library in Michigan City, Indiana:
“Once Indiana’s most famous landmark, Hoosier Slide was a huge sand dune bordering the west side of Trail Creek where it entered Lake Michigan. At one time it was nearly 200 feet tall, mantled with trees. Cow paths marked its slopes and people picnicked upon its crest. Climbing Hoosier Slide was very popular in the late 1800s with the excursionist crowds who arrived in town by boat and train from Chicago and other cities. The summit, where weddings were sometimes held, afforded an excellent view of the vast lumberyards which then covered the Washington Park area.
“With the development of Michigan City, the timber was cut for building construction and the sand began to blow, sometimes blanketing the main business district of the town on Front St., which nestled near its base.
“When it was discovered that the clean sands of Hoosier Slide were useful for glassmaking, the huge dune began to be mined away. Dock workers loaded the sand into railroad cars with shovel and wheelbarrow to be shipped to glassmakers [and other places].
“Over a period of 30 years, from about 1890 to 1920, 13 1/2 million tons of sand were shipped from Hoosier Slide until the great dune was leveled. By the 1920s, nothing remained of the giant dune.”
Here’s a telling excerpt from a memoir on emichigancity.com (the man is writing about his father):
“For twenty-five years, six days a week, he pushed an iron-wheeled wheelbarrow, moving sand from Hoosier Slide onto gondola carts headed for the manufacturing of canning jars.”
I don’t know exactly what geologic event caused the Hoosier Slide’s sand to have just the right mineral mix to create the famous Ball Blue glass color, but it was apparently something special that didn’t turn up in any other fruit jar maker’s glass.
Once the Hoosier Slide sand was all used up, Ball had to get another source, and the glass formula was forever changed. No more pretty Ball Blue. There are many shades of aqua and blue in the fruit jar world, but only the one Ball Blue."

18 comments:

  1. Aww..this is one of your best post but also sorta sad. I love those blue jars and have quite a few. I didn't know the history. Thanks so much.

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  2. I have a few blue jars that my Mother and GrandMother used way back when; I'm so lucky.

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  3. I have several of the real old blue jars and haven't done anything with them, so what can you do with them?

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  4. Wow, this was both facinating and sad. Thanks for digging for the information.

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  5. Born and raised a Hoosier (southern!), and did not know this! It's a perfect example of why we must choose wisely in use of certain elements of the environment and the natural world, lest we cause more of it to disappear forever.

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  6. Maybe some one should ask a chemist what trace minerals in sand gives the glass the blue color. It mabye colbolt or a combo of cobalt and copper.

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    Replies
    1. Normally, high iron content causes glass to be blue. But "Ball Brothers Blue" and "Hemmingway Blue" is more aqua.

      A chemical analysis published in the Chicago Tribune:
      "The silica content was least of those analyzed at 91.98 %. The sand was third highest in Alumina at 4.44%; very low in Ferric Oxide (iron) at .56%; highest of all in Calcium Oxide (lime) at 2.20%; and with only a trace of Magnesium Oxide.

      "With such a low percentage of iron, a high percentage of Alumina, and very little Magnesium to affect the color, it seems quite possible that this is the reason for the unique blue color of the glass products of both Hemingray Glass Co. and Ball Bros. Co. The high amount of lime (a flux), must have helped the glass batch to melt easier and at a lower temperature. This would make the sand very desirable to any glass-making operation."

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    2. P.S. You can find a good article on the subject here: http://www.hemingray.net/articles/hemingray-blue/

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  7. I just saw today that ball is comming out with 'special collection' of blue jars. Didn't see a price but you can bet we'll be paying for the blue. I think i might just have to buy a case. I'm a sucker for them.

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  15. Lol just found you site and found this funny. There is still plenty of sand here in the Michigan City area. Actually they have been having issues in some areas. Lol

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  16. Ok you may not believe this, but I have a mason Jar that was clear this morning and has now turn blue, I had a cinnamon stick and a lil bit of cold water for about 5 or 7 hour it turn blue????

    ReplyDelete

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