What Color Is It?


As 1976 approached, the management of Ball Corporation decided to celebrate the nation’s Bicentennial with a special series of fruit jars.  Having stopped making blue jars back in 1936, the company thought it would be nice to resurrect that color for the occasion.  For the style of the jar, they chose the Ball Ideal, which had been discontinued in 1962.  Eventually, Bicentennial jars would be made in half-pint, pint, quart and half-gallon sizes.

When it was time to make the jars, they had a problem.  Ball was only making clear glass at the time.  As it was impractical to convert a tank to blue for just this one job, they had to farm the job out.  Wheaton Glass Company of Millville, New Jersey had a tank of blue glass, and so was selected to make the body of the jar.  Other suppliers pressed the lids and made the wire bails.

To make sure the new molds worked properly, a special sample run of clear jars was made at Thatcher and sent back to Ball for approval.  Once the OK was given, the production of the blue jars began.  A total of 1.4 million of the quart Bicentennial Ideals were produced during this first production run.

When they were done, some of the workers at Thatcher suggested that they could easily make some jars using glass from a ‘milkglass’ tank they had on site.  The Ball officials who were present agreed, and so about thirty jars were made.  When these milkglass jars were shipped back to Muncie, most of them broke.  According to the story, only five exist, but the exact number has never been documented.  One is in the collection at Minnetrista.

These jars are often referred to as milkglass jars, but that term is not exactly right.  The color isn’t a true white.  Some sources use the term “crème” to describe the color; others call it “off-white.”  As no lids were made, some owners have used clear lids painted white, but even then the color does not match.

So how would you accurately describe the color of the jar?  It’s easy if you know what container Thatcher was making with the glass from that tank.  The color of the milkglass Ball Ideal Bicentennial jar is the same as that of an Old Spice Aftershave bottle.


Written by Richard H. Cole, Jr.

© 2003 Minnetrista