Culture, Conservation // 5 min Read

Palmetto Bluff History: Blue Glass Ball Jar

Written by Zoe Klauck, Conservancy Archaeology Intern

Jun 8, 2021

About the writer: Zoe Klauck is a senior at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She is currently finishing her degree in anthropology and art history, and over the past four summers, she's worked as an archaeology intern for the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy. Her work here is centered in the lab; cleaning, organizing, labeling, and reconstructing artifacts from the field.

Reconstruction is by far the best part of my job, but I don't just do it for fun. Restoring different artifacts gives archaeologists more information about the kinds of vessels used here at Palmetto Bluff. After fitting two or more fragments together, patterns, decorations, and logos start to appear. From that, we can determine the date, manufacturer, and/or function of the vessel.

For example, I've been working on reconstructing a glass Ball canning jar. While pulling other artifacts for research, I came across two bags containing a unique aqua-colored glass. They came from different levels, but I was sure they could be the same vessel. I asked Dr. Socci if I could attempt a reconstruction, and with her permission, I was eager to get started.

If you're lucky enough to have multiple pieces, it's best to begin working bottom to top. The base of the jar has the thickest glass, so it's easy to tell which pieces to start with. The next thing I look for are pieces that have any letters embossed on them so I can create the logo. This particular jar had two different text styles. 'Ball' is written in a thin cursive script, while 'ideal' is bold and all capitalized. With the base and the logo intact, we could begin our artifact research.

Logos are super helpful when it comes to trying to date an object. The word 'Ball' lets us know this jar is a product of the Ball Bros. Glass Manufacturing Company. These jars were very popular among those who canned and preserved goods at home. I also found out that Ball had their own unique shade of blue glass called Ball Blue. Company names and logos change over time, so by finding when a specific variation was used, we can date the vessel.

Looking at the charts, we see that our version of 'Ball' was used from 1910 – 1923, and our version of 'Ideal' was used from 1915 – 1923. This means our specific jar dates from 1915 to 1923. So by just using the logo, we are able to learn the date, manufacturer, and function of our glass jar.