New Jersey FIRSTS #1
In the 19th century, before the invention of refrigerators, food preservation presented a challenge for Americans. Winter diets were dreary and predictable in the first half of the 19th century, relying heavily on dried frujits and vegetables as the primary non-meat dishes. With the end of the growing season, fall marked the start of monotonous menus. John Landis Mason, a native of Vineland, Cumberland County, helped change the nation’s eating habits with the invention of the Mason jar in 1858. Since then, Mason’s jars have been used, reused, and handed down from one gener- aton to the next, enabling families to preserve canned fruits, vegetables, and even fish and eat that tast fresher than those that are dried. Expanding on the Theories of Others Mason’s invention built on the theories of Nicolas Appert, a French confectioner, who pub- lished his principles of food preservation through sterilization in 1810. Appert believed that heat would preserve vegetables, fruits, fish and meats by deterring the inherent tendency of foods to spoil. Appert used glass containers in his experi- mentation because glass was the packaging material most resistant to air. French scientiest Louis Pasteur discovered the scientific reasons for Appert’s theories. Microorganisms respon- sible for food fermentation could be destroyed with heat, and food could be kept in airtight glass. Preserving the Harvest Mason, born in Vineland in 1932, was the son of a farmer. His goal was to preserve the freshness of the fruits and vegetables that his father raised. After his 21st birthday, Mason moved to New York City to pursue his dream. The key for Mason was producing the threads atop a jar that would allow a metal cap to be screwed down, forming the all-important airtight seal.
In mid-November 1959, Mason received a patent for a glass jar with a threaded top. And on November 30, 1959, he received a patent for what he dubbed the “improved jar.” In early 1859, Mason formed a partnership to produce the tops for the jars. The jars were ordered from glass blowers who had produced molds from Mason’s patented specifications. Few Rewards for Mason The first Mason jar was blown by Clayton Parker, a resident of Bridgeton, Cumberland County, working in a small glass factory owned by Samuel Crowley near Woodbury, Gloucester County. In 1861, the Civil Was interrupted Mason’s fledgling business, but the War Between the States helped spread the word about his invention. After the war, Mason moved to New Brunswick, Middlesex County, where he married and started a family. He began working with the Consolidated Fruit Jar Company, which acquired the right to his patents in 1873. The expiration of Mason’s patents brought more companies into the jar-producing industry, and the firms that Mason was associated with were forced out of business. After the death of his wife in 1898, Mason moved back to New York City, where he fell on hard times financially and physically. He died at the age of 70 as a charity patient in a Manhattan hospital on February 26, 1902. Mason’s legacy has proved to be an enduring one, as sales of the Mason jar have exceeded the one-billion-dollar mark in the more than 140 years since its invention. Automation Increases Production A year after John Mason’s death, the automatic bottlemaking machine was invented, increasing the production of the Mason jar and revolutionizing the glass container industry.
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by  Larry Withron
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