Friday, July 26, 2013

Old Blue Jars

Old blue jars struck my fancy of late. I can't explain why, in the last month or so, I've decided I like them so much. but they are pretty, don't you think?

Most blue Mason jars around today are relics from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Although I don't remember my mother using them for canning our garden's summer bounty, I must have seen them somewhere as a child since I don't remember ever being surprised by their steely blue color.

When I finally got around to decorating the Guest House, I washed up some to display on top of the kitchen cabinets.

They looked so pretty that I went to the Guest House cellar and found a few more. I scrubbed them and set them on my dining room table at home. I enjoy looking at them every time I walk by.

I remembered, once upon a time, packing away a box of blue jars in our basement, so I dug them out, too.

Then, when I took this year's canned green beans to our cellar, I saw more blue jars.

I knew, but had forgotten, that we had a stash in the far corner.

 I pulled them out of the cobwebs and dirt, carried them up to the yard, and gave them a quick wash in soapy water, just to get off the "top dirt," as my mother-in-law used to say.

When I finished, I had quite a haul. Just what I'll do with them all, I don't know yet.

It seems I'm not alone in my fascination with blue jars. A quick surf around the Internet revealed many sites, some informational, some nostalgic, and even one DIY tutorial for dying your own clear jars blue. Somewhere in Michigan there's a Mason jar "museum" containing thousands of jars collected by one man! I also discovered that the Ball Corporation has issued new blue jars in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the "perfect Mason jar."

Photo courtesy of

Nowadays, people use them for all kinds of things, from drinking glasses and canisters to candle holders and soap dispensers. I doubt many people actually use them to can in anymore, though. When we cleaned out the Guest House cellar, there were several dozen blue jars still filled with food. It was kind of hard to tell just what kind of food was in them because the blue color made it all look pretty much the same, and pretty sickly at that. One source I read said the blue hue was thought to block sunlight and thereby do a better job of preserving the contents than clear glass. Maybe so, but I'll keep canning in my clear jars, thank you. The blue ones I'll use for pretty things. Pretty things like flower vases,

and candle holders. I put an inch or two of Epsom salt in the bottom to keep the candle from sliding around.

There are a lot of different kinds of blue jars. Ball and Atlas are two of the most prolific manufacturers. There are the usual sizes: (pints, quarts, half-gallons) but I think they also made half-pint. The families our blue jars came from must have been big - big families and big eaters - because most of them are half-gallons.

One pint and two quarts, in front of half-gallons.

One lonely quart among a sea of half-gallons!

Their shapes vary, too, especially around the top. Many are like our modern jars (on the right), but the older ones aren't as easy to grasp (on the left).

Some have glass lids with metal clamps and bails,

and we have a ton of the old zinc lids, here, there, and everywhere.

Their colors vary, from dark blue to just barely blue. We have one that's almost green around the top

and one that's rose-colored! I've never seen another like it. Have you?

There's one that has no markings at all,

just these three bumps on the bottom,

and beautiful swirls all around. The swirls were kind of hard to photograph! Can you see them?

And last, but not least, I found these two blue bottles.

I've had the little one for a long time, sitting on my kitchen window sill. I can't remember where it came from.

The big one is a recent find in the Guest House cellar. It was really yucky, filled with what we think was old lard, but who knows! It took a little work to get all the gunk out, but after I scrubbed it and cleaned the inside with buckshot, it's so pretty. I didn't know that "sasparilla"  has two r's in it!

I'm thinking that by now, you're thinking about getting out your own blue jars. I bet you have some...or did have some. Or remember some. They do spark a bit of nostalgia, even if you never had any. Now that my dining room table is filled with sparkling clean blue jars,

with more still to be scrubbed,

I'm wondering what to do with them all. I don't have room to display so many. I'll keep a few out for fun, but I guess most of them will get packed away in boxes. Then I'll have to figure out where to put the boxes. You never know, though, when they might come in handy. At least they'll be clean!

Robin just came in from the hay field and saw all my pretty jars on the table. "You know, I have a bunch more of those in the shed..."

(And later, after it got dark, I couldn't resist getting the camera out again!)


  1. I love them too Nancy!

    Your photos are lovely of them.

  2. Love your beautiful blue jars! The flowers look so pretty and I love the candles. I colored a jar light pink for my mom for Mother's Day and it looked like the one you showed. They are quite fun and easy to color, but I would much rather have the good ol' vintage jars :)

    Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend.


  3. I LOVED that one! Thanks for showing their beauty.

  4. Oh my, we have so many too. Came from the basement at my home and many with canned food that my Grandmother had done and she died in 1957! I love this. Look at the bottom, if they are numbered 13, they are supposed to be worth a lot because they were considered bad luck by bootleggers and were mostly broken.

  5. Nancy,
    Aaron and I are using blue mason jars at our wedding! We are actually using similar flower colors as bouquets in them and using them as center pieces and hanging some on Shepard's hooks outside at the ceremony! My mom and I have been searching to find more because my grandmother didn't have enough. Would you mind if we borrowed some of yours? I will have to look when we go to my parents in August to get the exact color/details. Think it over and let us know!

    1. Hi Jamie!
      I think that could be arranged, but keep in mind that so far, most of what I have is the half-gallon size. And a good many of them are the older ones that don't have a good lip around the top for attaching things. I haven't looked at the jars Robin still has in the shed; maybe there are more quarts and pints there. But we'll see what we can do. Sounds like wedding plans are will be lovely, I'm sure. Can't wait!

    2. Nancy Vance, I just discovered a very similar, old. blue jar with no markings, and all kinds of bubbles and swirls like yours! Did you find out anything about it? I'm dying with curiosity. I have pictures of it if you'd like to see!

  6. love the post and bhlue bottles, too!

  7. I have a bunch of old ones like this and use the for shells I've collected, for a vase of flowers or anything else that I can think of. Love your photos and how you've captured the wave and bubbles in the old glass. ~ Abby

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  9. When I saw the shelves of jars, I thought I was in Mama's basement for a minute. She has a few blue jars, but nothing like the number and variety you have found! I have been told that clear glass that has developed a pink tint is "old".
    Nice camera work... pretty pics!

    (Same comment as before... TGIF!)

  10. I love blue bottles too, though the cobalt blues are my favorites!

    Ruth Ann Marotta

  11. Wow. These are so pretty! I love the photo of them in the big old tub and the ones of them with candles in them. I'm sure you could sell your extras. People are always looking for them. Pamela

  12. I'v always watched for blue Mason jars with the number 13 on the bottom. An old wise tell was-the number 13 was very unlucky so the jars were either broken or trashed for the fear of bad luck. So if you have a 13, hang on to it because its worth a lot more.

  13. What a wonderful post this is. Your photos and jars are lovely. I think it's great that you have so many half gallon jars. We have a few blue jars that came from my grandparents' farm, but nothing like your collection. Cheers!

  14. Hello, What a sweet post! I loved all your photos and WOW did you find the Mother Load of Blue jar's!
    I do have a few of them and I did my a box of the newer ones!
    Thank you!. Roxy

  15. Your jars are so pretty, Nancy! I love the last photo of the jars with the candles and flowers - absolutely stunning!

    Thank you so much for sharing this lovely inspiration at ROI. Hugs to you!

  16. Loved this post as I am a mason jar junkee. smile. Your pics are wonderful and such treasure.. xo

  17. I love your Blue Jars! They are just beautiful. I have a few of them too and I display them in my kitchen. My mom in law found some green ball jars and those are just as pretty, especially if you have a few of each to display. I love the jars with the flowers in them. So pretty!

    I hope you have a lovely day! Blessings, Amy

  18. WOW I love your blue jars. So pretty.

  19. I just found this post on your blog and I love it! I love the old blue jars too! I certainly don't have a great collection like you do but I do have a few really old ones...with the galvanized lid that's ceramic inside. Your photos of them are just breathtaking! For some reason, when I try to get on your blog the google+ page stops me. I have to click on an old post and then go to "home" on that old post page. Hmmm??? I thought I was following ....maybe I better check... :)

  20. You have quite a collection of old blue jars and bottles. I collect them too but my collection pales next to yours. Thank you so much for sharing at Vintage Charm this week. Hope to see you back soon.


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