Collecting Antique Fruit Jars
Collecting antique fruit jars is a field in and of itself. Many members of the Los Angeles club are actually fruit jar collectors and don't collect bottles at all. I started collecting antique fruit jars nearly thirty years ago (minus a few years that I took off to go to college.) I've found fruit jar collecting to be an interesting and diverse hobby. I've met a number of very nice people and learned a lot about the history of glassmaking and also about our nation's history. In a nutshell, it's been a lot of fun!
For five and one half years I edited the Federation of Historical Bottle Collector's magazine Bottles and Extras. That was quite a job in and of itself. Before that I edited their Federation Glassworks newsletter. Now that I have retired from that impossible job I've found myself dedicating more time to publicizing my favorite hobby on the Internet. (As well as dedicating my time to other interests I didn't have time for before. I've even started going to swap meets again!)
This whole fruit thing started for me when I was around twelve years old and I discovered a cache of old jars in a cellar under a c.1900s farm house. The jars were mostly blue Atlas Strong Shoulder and Ball Perfect Masons pints but one stood out to me as being different. It was a pint "White Crown Mason." A few days later my dad and I found a book on fruit jars called "The Kitchen Cupboard." Inside, the White Crown jar was listed at $7-10. I think I about flipped, that was a lot of money to a twelve year old kid. After that I started looking in antique stores and a couple of years later the basements of my father's brothers and sisters we visited on various trips to the Midwest. My father grew up on a farm and was the youngest of twelve children. Most of my aunts and uncles were in their 80's and 90's and had lived on farms all their lives. As was the practice of the time, farm families frequently exchanged a jar of this for a jar of that and different jars made it into the basements of different families. During the summer of 1975, thanks to my various and sundry Midwest relatives, I was able to score a Stone Mason Fruit Jar half gallon, two amber jars, a Mason (hero cross) and a Lightning, a Woodbury jar, a Michigan Mason, a Schram jar in script, and a dozen or so other perhaps more common but somewhat unusual names. (The Woodbury jar had drifted into my aunt's basement after a flood. Despite that, the jar was clean and in excellent condition.) That summer I though I had found a source of buried treasure.
We're still collecting today and have more things than our house can hold. What's been fun about the hobby, however, is being able to share our things with other collectors, making new friends and being able to visit other homes where jars and other antiques are put on display. It's amazing the things you learn and the people you meet in this hobby. For instance, getting to know and viewing the collection of Alex and Carolyn Kerr was wonderful. Although I probably won't be fortunate enough to obtain any of the big ticket items Alex had, I have been fortunate enough to pick up a few good jars over the years and to meet so many interesting and wonderful people.
Below are some links to get you started or keep you going on your hunt for antique fruit jars. More will be added as time goes on. I am also listed on the Antique Bottle Collector's Haven webpage as a fruit jar answer person and have compiled a unofficial and informal Fruit Jar FAQ file which for the first time is linked below.
A Primer on Fruit Jars
The Fruit Jars of the San Francisco and Pacific Glassworks
Fruit Jar FAQ
Fruit Jar Collector Home Page
Antique Fruit Jar Hall of Fame
Darrell's Fruit Jar Page
Join the discussion. Become a member of the Internet discussion list on Fruit Jars.
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