Saturday, December 27, 2008

Crisp Beavers on Canadian Fruit Sealer Jars

So just before the holiday that Dumpdiggers calls Christmas started, Tim Braithwaite (stonebottles) bought a beautiful beaver jar at a local auction sale and posted this close-up photo of the crisp embossing in the Dumpdiggers discussion forum, and of course this caused me to wonder about fruit sealers and crisp beavers in general, and how they came to be so coveted? … and what about those ‘left facing beavers’? What’s the story behind those?

Early Food Preservation in Europe and the USA

Let’s start at the start… In France, in the early 1800s, the process of hermetically sealed cooked food was developed by Fran├žois (Nicolas) Appert, who was by trade a pickler, an expert confectioner, a brewer, a distiller, and a chef. He established the principles for the preservation of certain foods in hermetically sealed glass containers, (which he himself designed for the experiment). Basically he was the first person in the history to prove that air tight containers could preserve food.

Appert really had no explanation for the success of his experiment. He believed the exclusion of air and the application of heat were the major factors in keeping the foods in his experiments from spoiling.

Across the channel, an Englishman named Peter Durand patented the idea of airtight tin-plated iron cans, instead of glass jars, for food preservation. Cooked meat, fruit, and vegetables could now be hermetically sealed in metal containers. The British had lots of tin on their island and were the world leaders of brass munitions, but their first tin cans were actually made out of iron and were terribly heavy and hard to open. Here's one found a few years ago that was made in 1837 and when opened was found to contain perfectly edible veal.

For some reason however the first tin cans were actually patented in the United States in 1825, and by 1839 tin cans were common in General Stores all over the continental US.

The Rise of Home Canning

US patent history records hundreds of successful fruit jar designs, but probably the most well known is the Mason jar. In 1858, John Landis Mason, a twenty six year old tin smith developed and patented a shoulder-seal jar with a zinc screw cap. The "Mason jar" had a threaded neck which fit with the threads in a metal cap to screw down to the shoulder of the jar and in this way form a seal. In 1869, a top seal above the threads and under a glass lid was introduced to the jar. The screw cap pressed tightly against the inverted lid, with rubber seal underneath, thus effecting an excellent seal. Preserving food in a glass home canning jar had now been taken a step further. A type of this closure still is in use today, although augmented with various other closure designs.

In 1861, Louis Pasteur used a microscope to show that microorganisms in un-sterilized food were responsible for food spoilage. Up until this time, even though people boiled the vessels in which they canned their food, nobody really knew why it worked. The common belief was that air caused spoilage and removing the air from vessels prevented spoilage. However, once Pasteur’s discovery was understood, scientists, manufacturers and home canners began developing better preservation methods usually by sterilizing the food as well as the container.

The manufacture of glass fruit jars for home canning accelerated after the US Civil War. Mason's patent expired in 1875 and many other companies began manufacturing fruit jars around that time. Many of these other glass manufacturers capitalized upon the familiarity of the Mason name (or brand) and used it liberally on their own product names and logos.

Fruit Sealer Jar Lids
A multitude of different closures were developed and used throughout the years, which included variations on the screw top lid as well as different designs of clamps, wire bails and wax devices to hold the lids in place. Dumpdiggers has kept a ‘Safety Seal’ brand jar of aromatic coffee beans above the stove for almost ten years – that vessel has a good hinge clamp closure device that sandwiches the lid and bottle together and locks in that delicious smell behind a rubber seal.

Why so many different colours?
While contemporary canning jars are made of clear glass, their ancestors are found in a variety of colors and shades: aqua, clear, amber, cobalt blue, green and occasionally even milk glass. Different colours appealed to different markets and shopkeepers would order exotic varieties based on the population’s economic affluence, the popularity of the brand, the growing season’s potential for a bumper crop, and the type of fruit in the region. Colors were used just like ‘fancy packaging’ is today. I suppose it’s similar to the great beer bottle debate we have today. Are beers packaged in clear bottles more susceptible to spoilage? Do amber coloured bottles better protect their contents from the adverse effects of sunlight? Some say it’s just a marketing gimmick.

And that brings us to the left facing beaver jars. Phil Murphy, an avid collector of fruit jars and host of The Fruit Jar Collector Web Site thinks maybe the left facing beaver jars are something of a marketing gimmick too.

When I emailed him and asked about this, Phil returned this pearl of wisdom, ‘…according to fruit jar researcher Dick Roller, these jars were made after the newly designed Frank O'Neill machines had been installed in the Kingsville (Ontario) plant in the spring of 1901. By September 28, 1901, it was reported that D.A. Gordon, of Sydenham Glass Co., had dismantled the Kingsville plant and taken the tools and machinery to Wallaceburg (where the Sydenham Glass Co. existed). The short span of time that the machines were used at the Kingsville plant may account for the rarity of these jars. So far, all of the left-facing Beaver jars checked have been machine-made..."

Phil goes on to write, that he reckons the ratio of right facing beaver jars to left facing beaver jars to be about 100 to 1, respectively (in the Pint versions anyway) if not higher. They must be rare because I can't find a picture of one to include here in this post.

Fruit Jar Manufacterers
Dumpdiggers would be happy to find fruit sealers from any of these American (and Canadian) glass jar manufacturers. If you're a fruit jar collector, then this is your mission statement:

Adams & Company, Pittsburg, PA
Ball Brothers Glass Mfg. Co., Muncie, IN
Brookfield Glass Company, Brooklyn, NY
Brushwick Glass Company, Brooklyn, NY
A. & D. H. Chambers Company, Pittsburg, PA
Clyde Glass Works, Clyde, NY
Consolidated Fruit Jar Co., New Brunswick, NJ
Co-operative Flint Glass Co., Ltd., Beaver Falls, PA
Corning Glass Works
Crowleytown's Atlantic Glass Works, Crowleytown, NJ
Crystal Glass Co., Bridgeport, OH
Cumberland Glass Mfg. Co, Bridgeton, NJ
D. Cunningham Glass Co., Pittsburg, PA
Decker's Iowana, Mason City, IA
Edward H. Everett, Newark, OH
Flaccus Bros.
C. L. Flaccus Glass Company, Pittsburg, PA
A M Foster Co., Chicago, IL
Gayner Glass Works, Salem, NJ
S. George Co., Wellsburg, WV
Gilchrist Improved Jar Co., Philadelphia, PA & Elmer, NJ
Glass Containers Corp., Fullerton, CA (Golden Harvest)
W. Glenny Glass Co., Cincinnati, OH
Greenfield Fruit Jar & Bottle Co., Greenfield, IN
Hawley Glass Company, Hawley, PA
Hazel Glass, Washington, PA
Hazel-Atlas Glass Co., Wheeling, WV, & Washington, PA
Hemingray, Cincinnati, OH
Hemingway Glass Co., Covington, KY
Hero Fruit Jar Co., Philadelphia, PA
Hero Glass Works, Philadelphia, PA
Hermetic Fruit Jar Company, Portland, OR (Kerr)
Hermetical Closure Co., San Francisco, CA
Louis Hollweg, Indianapolis, IN
Illinois Glass Co., Alton, IL
Illinois Pacific Glass Company
Kearns-Gorsuch Bottle Co., Zanesville, OH
Kerr Glass Manufacturing Company, Sand Springs, OK
Keystone Glass Works, Philadelphia, PA
Knox Glass Bottle Co., Knox, PA
Lamb Glass Co., Vernon, OH
J. A. Landsberger Co., San Francisco, CA
Lynchburg Glass Corp.,
Lyndeboro Glass, Lyndeboro, NH
W. W. Lyman
Mannington Glass, Mannington, WV
Marion Fruit Jar & Bottle Co., Marion, IN
Mission Mason
Moore Brothers Glass Co., Clayton, NJ
Mountain Mason, Midvale, UT
National Glass Co., Pittsburg, PA
Ohio Container Co., Columbus, OH (Mom's)
Ohio Valley Glass Company
Owens-Illinois Glass Co. - Toledo, OH (Presto) & San Francisco, CA
Pacific Glass Works
F. H. Palmer, Brooklyn, NY
Penna Glass Co., Anderson, IN
Port Glass Works, Bellville, IL
Poughkeepsie Glass Works, Poughkeepsie, NY
Putnam, Bennington, VT
Putnam Glass Works, Zanesville, OH
Red Key Glass Co., Red Key, IN
Root Glass Company, Terre Haute, IN
Safe Glass Co., Upland, IN & Chicago, IL
San Francisco and Pacific Glass Works
Schram Glass Mfg. Co., St. Louis, MO
Skillin-Goodin Glass Co., Yorktown, IN
A. G. Smalley & Co., Boston
Smalley-Kilvan-Onthank, Boston
J. P. Smith, Pittsburg, PA
Sneath Glass Co., Hartford City, IN
Swayzee Glass Co., Swayzee, IN
Terre Haute Glass Mfg. Co., Terre Haute, IN
Thames Glass Works Company, New London, CT
Upland Cooperative Glass Co., Upland, IN
Vacuum Jar & Fruit Package Co., San Francisco, CA
Victor Jar Co., Detroit, MI
Weightman Glass Co., Pittsburg, PA
Wellsburgh Glass and Mfg., Wellsburgh, WV
Western Flint Glass Co., Eaton, IN
Weston Glass Co., Weston, WV
Whitall Tatum
Whitney Glass Works, Glassboro, NJ
Woodbury Bottle Works, Woodbury, NJ
Wormser Glass Co., Pittsburg, PA
R. G. Wright & Co., Buffalo, NY

A Primer on Fruit Jars is an interesting article by Dave Hinson with a good overview on the history of glass fruit jars that have been used for home food preservation in the past.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mike, Matt and Brian Go Digging in New Hampshire

Occasionally, Dumpdiggers dot blogspot will publish submissions from other enthusiasts, or those people kind enough to put images to anecdotes in the Digging Stories category of the discussion forum on

This is one of those occasions. DiggerMatty has uploaded some wonderful photos and prose concerning his most recent adventure in New Hampshire. Here are his images and text:

A Winter Dig
by DiggerMatty (every picture expands - just click)

Well, Mikey found us a dump to dig for the winter months. All the dumps up here are getting sketchy due to the police activity, so we had to improvise! Plus it is about time Mikey brought something to the table (Just kidding Mikey)! You know I love ya man! Believe it or not Mikey has invited me on SEVERAL excellent digs!

So back to the story...Mikey called me one day and told me he was on to a decent dump down his way.

A couple weeks passed and the opportunity came about for me to investigate it. Mike, Brian and I all met there for a dig. I came to the conclusion before long that this dump used to be a pond that was filled in with trash in the early 1900's. As you all know I research...

So we did some digging and came up with some pretty good stuff. I dug a fairly scarce jar and gave it to Brian...he collects them. It was a IMPROVED JAM with a monogram on the back.

We scored some Milks, some odd-ball meds, and I dug about 8 Duffy's Malt Whiskey's (6 intact).

It was a fun time. I also dug a NICE stone master ink that was encrusted with something? Wait till you see how that cleaned up!

Here are some pics from the dig! Click on pics to blow them up!

Went digging again down Mikey's way...I met the digger (Greg) who was generous enough to share the dump with us. He found the dump and then he and Mikey got permission from the land owner.

Greg is one hell of a avid digger as well. We had a great time.

So this is going to be our winter dump digging least until spring. I guess all that matters in these hard time is that we can get out as diggers and enjoy each others company...and maybe a few good finds......OR GREAT ONES!

Here are the photos from today’s lucrative dig. Thanks Greg & Mikey.........

I HAD A REAL BLAST...but that Burger King food that Mikey got us had me farting like a mental patient that lost his colostomy bag!

Mikey found a neat Whiskey from the UK.....

I dug an AWESOME mosquito cure.......

and Greg dug a BUNCH OF SWEET STUFF.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Eddie the Bottle Viking Shares his Secrets

Eddie Brater the Bottle Viking, webmaster and administrator of, has written the definitive How-To book on privy digging that’s destined to become a classic in our niche.

Attractively priced at $9.99, The Essentials of Privy Digging, the complete guide to locating and digging outhouse pits comes direct from his computer to yours as an Adobe PDF via some very sophisticated shopping cart software.

Despite being over 65 pages long, and absolutely packed with precious tips and full colour photos, Dumpdiggers digested the manual in one sitting. Yes it’s just that good. This is a big chocolate cake full of ideas, insights and some pretty funny stories. Did I mention there's pictures?

As an example of his refreshingly informal writing style, here’s how Eddie describes the process of liberating spring steel rods needed for privy probes from the trunks of old cars in scrap yards,

To remove them [spring steel rods], the trunk lid should be all the way up. All you need is a pair of vice grips and a pry bar, tire iron, or large flat tipped screwdriver, and also the foresight to squint like hell and turn your face 180 degrees away from the rod as it pops loose. Certain curses, or indeed, long strings of them, are handy for when the pry bar slips violently from behind a stubborn rod, and are often looked upon by any junk yard employees within ear shot as a sure sign of manliness.”

Eddie’s book has well written answers to hard questions like What does a privy feel like with the probe? and How to deal with water? Chapters like Reading the land, and Things to look for nicely communicate his years of experience. Priced to sell, this guide should help both noobs and veterans be more productive as they progress along the path of the privy digger.