​Almanac: The Mason Jar

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: November 30th, 1858, 156 years ago today . . . a day those who are interested in preserving food safely will want to preserve in their memories.

For that was the day New Jersey native John Landis Mason patented the glass jar that bears his name.

Preserving food was a difficult and even risky business in the days before refrigeration.

Mason solved the problem by fashioning a jar with a threaded neck and a screw-on top that combined to form an air-tight seal.

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World War I poster for the National War Garden Commission.
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Homemakers across the land quickly embraced the Mason jar . . . and relied on it to preserve the fruits of the autumn harvest well into winter.

In fact, the Mason jar preserved just about everything except its inventor's solvency. Competitors moved in on his invention once its patent expired in 1879 . . . and John Mason died a pauper in 1902.

By the mid-twentieth century, refrigerators became entrenched in most American kitchens, and the Golden Age of Mason jars was over.

Not that they have completely faded from the scene.

The original Mason jars are now valued as collectors items, and many Americans of traditional habits still use Mason jars in their kitchens.

Something to keep in mind on this holiday weekend of turkey leftovers.