All posts by Janet Sever Hull

Janet Sever Hull grew up in Elkhart, Indiana and is a graduate of Purdue University. She has been writing since the age of 16 and is the author of many stories. The Button Box is her first book. She lives in Corinth, Texas with her husband, Jeff, and writes for Lifestyles of Denton County Magazine.

Not Your Grandmother’s Mason Jars

Mason Jars

Right now on Pinterest, there’s a piece titled, “One million ideas for Mason Jars”.  I guess the old saying is true…everything old really is new again.  It made me laugh because I have a cabinet full of old canning jars and I’ve been using them for years.

The glass canning jar or fruit jar was invented in 1858 by John Landis Mason who was a tinsmith from Philadelphia.  Before Mr. Mason invented his glass jar with a threaded top for screwing on a lid, jar tops had flat sides and had to be sealed with hot wax.  The wax method of sealing jars was messy and didn’t always guarantee a good enough seal to keep bacteria from forming in the food in the jar.  Mason’s new canning jars made canning foods popular and safe in America.

Unfortunately, his patent on the jar ran out in 1879 and he never made much money from it.  In 1884, the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company started making mason jars.  The company was moved from New York to Indiana in 1887.  Other competitors such as the Kerr Glass Manufacturing Company also stepped in and began mass-producing canning jars.

Company Ball Brothers

Mason Jars are made from soda-lime glass and the quart jars, which are the most common, come in either regular or wide mouth sizes.  The original canning jars also came in half-pint, pint and half-gallon sizes.  Mason’s original jars were stamped with the line, “Mason’s Patent Nov 30th 1858”.

In 1909, a primer on home canning called the Ball Blue Book was published and in 1918 the Ball brothers gifted a small college in Muncie, Indiana to the state of Indiana.  It was later renamed Ball State University and one of its famous graduates is entertainer, David Letterman.

Logo Ball Corporation.svg

Business was so good for the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company that they didn’t lay off a single employee during the Great Depression.  In 1972, the Ball company went public after 88 years as a family-owned business.

Mason Jars 3

The jars I own belonged to my grandmother.  When she died, it was the only thing I wanted from her house.  I remember many hot summer days in her farmhouse kitchen helping her can the bumper crop of tomatoes from her garden.  And she always had a bumper crop because that woman had the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen.

Back in the day, canning was a big deal and my grandmother would devote an entire day to it.  The quart jars had to be pulled out and washed, the tomatoes picked and washed, blanched and peeled before cutting them up to go into the jars for canning.  It was a long, slow, hot process but at the end, there were many jars of canned tomatoes to eat through the Midwestern winter until it was garden time again.

My grandmother was not partial to a brand it seems as her jars have different names on them…Mason…Ball…Kerr.  Many of the jars have embossed pictures of fruit and fun sayings.  Some of them say “Mom’s Mason Jar” and have a picture of an early 20th century woman complete with hair bun and glasses and holding an apple.  Some of them say “Golden harvest” and have an embossed picture of fruit.  One jar simply says Mason and has an embossed picture of tomatoes on the front. Some of them say “Made in U.S.A.” on the back and I really like that too.

Antique canning jars are very popular with collectors. The value of an antique jar is determined by color, age, condition, and rarity.  Colored jars are harder to find now but were considered better for canning as they blocked the light from the food and helped to retain both flavor and nutritional value.  Besides clear glass, canning jars came in aqua (called Ball blue), amber, shades of green, cobalt blue, milky white and black.

In the old days when every family saved buttons, many people kept their buttons in Mason Jars…and some of my friends still do.  I love to use my grandmother’s Mason Jars because when I do I think of her.  For years, I’ve used them as vases for flowers for both parties as well as for every day.

Mason Jars 2

My daughter uses a Mason Jar for her loose change.  When my sons are home, they like to drink beer from their great-grandmother’s jars.  I’m not sure what she would think of that!  On Christmas Eve, I put candles in the jars and line my driveway to light the way for Santa Claus.  I do the same on New Year’s Eve to light in the new year.

My grandmother’s Mason Jars are a part of my family and I like to think that somewhere she is smiling and enjoying watching how we use her jar collection.

Mason Jars 4

Planting Something Good

More zinnia seeds

I planted zinnia seeds this week and I thought about my grandmother.  She and I planted zinnias together every summer when I was a girl in Indiana.  It was a tradition we both looked forward to and enjoyed.  We planted them from seed, usually in the warm mornings of early June.  They were a hardy flower and could withstand the hotter, dryer months of the Midwestern summers.

My grandmother liked them because they made a nice cut flower that would last a long time in a Mason Jar vase on the kitchen table.  I liked them because they came in so many colors and they had individual petals like daisies.  I didn’t like to ever waste a flower, but if one should inadvertently break off its stem, I would think of a boy I liked, and pull off the flower petals one by one as I played the old “he loves me, he loves me not” game.

Because zinnias would bloom into the fall, my grandmother and I would often plant them in her large vegetable garden.  She loved to mix a row of flowers like zinnias or sunflowers in with the many rows of vegetables.  She said it gave us something beautiful to look at while we worked in the garden.  It also gave her a ready supply of cut flowers to adorn her country kitchen.

The other regular “zinnia spot” was in a huge bed out by the street, across the front of her yard.  My grandmother’s house sat halfway down a rural road, and she thought our zinnia garden would give all her neighbors something pleasant to see as they drove by.

I remembered how she taught me to make long furrows in the dark, rich dirt and we would drop seeds together every few inches until we had reached the end.  Then, with her strong hands guiding my smaller ones, we would gently cover the seeds with the warm, moist soil until our task was complete.  After that, the waiting and watching would begin.  It wouldn’t take long before the strong, green shoots would push their way up through the dark, rich earth toward the sun.  We would celebrate each new growth, and eagerly await the first blossom.

When the zinnia bed had reached its full potential, we would stand back and admire the rainbow of colors sitting atop their bed of green leaves.  Sometimes her neighbors would stop by and admire our beautiful garden with us.  At those times, she would always tell them how hard I had worked on it with her.  I remember how happy and proud I felt as a girl to be a part of our garden project that brought so much beauty and pleasure to us and to others.  I didn’t realize until later in life that we were planting more than flower seeds on those sunny summer mornings.

It is my hope that you have something simple and beautiful in your past that brings back those kinds of powerful memories.  Plant something good today!



Whatever happened to S & H Green Stamps?

Are you old enough to remember getting S & H Green Stamps from the grocery store, gas stations and department stores?  It was one of the original consumer loyalty rewards program.

Founded in 1896 by Thomas Sperry and Shelley Byron Hutchinson, the S & H Company began their green stamp rewards program in the 1930’s. They would sell their green stamps to businesses who would then give out green stamps to customers.  The number of stamps you received was based on how much money you spent.

Stores would compete with one another by trying to give more stamps for the same amount of purchase.  Gas stations and stores would have signs advertising their participation in the S & H Green Stamps Program to entice customers to do business there.

Customers flocked to the businesses that gave out green stamps.  During the heyday of green stamp collecting in the 1960’s, it was estimated that 80% of United States households collected the stamps.

The S & H Company gave out free 24 page booklets for keeping track of how many green stamps you had. The stamps came in three denominations…one, ten, and fifty points.  It took fifty points to fill a page in the stamp booklets.  Once a book was filled, the owner had 1200 points.

Consumers could exchange their filled booklets of green stamps for all kinds of household and other items (even life insurance) from the S & H Green Stamps Catalog or at an actual brick and mortar S & H Green Stamp Store.  Each item in the catalog or the store would have a certain green stamp value assigned and shoppers would save their stamps until they had enough to trade for the item they wanted.  Friends and family would give filled S & H Green Stamp Booklets as gifts.

Being a child of 1960’s, I remember sitting at her kitchen table and helping my grandmother lick and stick green stamps into the booklets.  My grandmother kept all her booklets and loose green stamps in an old cigar box.  She knew I liked to fill the books with her so she would save that task for my visits.  We would get so excited each time we filled a booklet and got that much closer to the item for which we were saving!

I learned some important life lessons at that kitchen table working on those S & H Green Stamp Booklets with my grandmother; lessons that I have used many times in my adult life. I learned how much fun it was to work on a project with someone else.  I learned about patience and persistence and working toward a goal.  And, I learned how satisfying it is to reach that goal after much time and effort.

The S & H Green Stamp Program declined with the economic recessions in the 1970’s.  Fewer companies bought the stamps, and the number of stamps needed to get an item became so high that saving green stamps was no longer worth the time and effort.

The good news is that although the company was sold in 1981, it is still around and is now virtual.  You can earn S & H Greenpoints for online purchases.  These Greenpoints can be redeemed for gift cards from hundreds of your favorite stores and businesses.  See for more information.

Author’s note:  I have no connection to this company other than my fond memories of saving S & H Green Stamps as a child.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Here’s a bonus post from last year…enjoy!


When I was a girl, the tradition went that we had to make sure we were wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day so as not to get pinched.  I’m not sure where the whole pinching tradition came from, but the wearing of the green and shamrocks to celebrate St. Patrick can be traced back to the 17th century.

Although St. Patrick is the most commonly recognized patron saint of Ireland, he was actually born in Roman Britain and became a Catholic Priest and later a Catholic Bishop.  He is credited with being a champion of Christianity in Ireland.

According to Irish folklore, St. Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock plant to teach the doctrine of the Holy Trinity to the Irish People.  After 30 years of evangelism in Ireland, he died there on March 17th  in the year 461.

Today, St. Patrick’s Day is both a religious and cultural holiday in our country and around the world.  We celebrate St. Patrick but we also celebrate the heritage and culture of Ireland and the Irish People.  In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has been an official public holiday since 1903.

The Lenten ban on drinking alcohol is lifted for a day, and we celebrate St. Patrick’s life and contribution by drinking Irish beer and Irish whisky and by wearing green and shamrocks.  Many communities around the world commemorate the day with a St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In Chicago, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day begins by dyeing the Chicago River green before the annual parade.  In New York City, the Empire State Building is lit in green lights, and since 2009, the water fountain on the north lawn of the White House has been dyed green to commemorate the day.

When my children were young, I would use food coloring to dye the milk green every year on St. Patrick’s Day.  I would also turn the clocks upside down and leave a box of Lucky Charms on the kitchen counter and green candy as well as some coins outside their bedroom doors.  Of course, I blamed all of this on those mischievous leprechauns!

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday we can celebrate whether we have any Irish heritage or connection to the Catholic Church.  It’s all in good fun and don’t forget to wear your green!

Write me a letter

Do you remember the last time you received an honest to goodness, on stationery, hand-written letter?  Weren’t you excited to open it and see what the writer had to say to you…to only you?


I have a friend who will occasionally write me a letter…a long, newsy letter to catch me up on her life.  She tells me about what’s going on in Michigan where I used to live, and about her job, and her husband’s company, and what each of her kids are doing in their lives.  She might tell me about a mutual friend she saw recently or what kind of flowers she will plant this year.

When I get a letter from her, I get a cup of coffee or tea and find a quiet place to sit where I can read and savor every word.  Receiving a hand-written letter from my friend across the country feels almost like we have had an actual visit.

In the days before computers, people corresponded by writing letters and cards.  Going back to earlier times before modern transportation and telephones, many a romantic relationship was nurtured along via the written word in the form of love letters and cards.

When I was in college, I would write letters to my parents and my younger brothers telling them about my life in college and asking about what was going on in their lives.  At one point, I was so homesick that I would sit outside my apartment waiting for the mailman in hopes of getting a letter from home.  The (young) mailman thought I had a crush on him and asked me if I would like to go out on a date!

Until her death at age 87, my farm grandmother would write me letters.  I would get most of them during the cold winter months in Northern Indiana when she was shut inside.  She would tell me how she longed for the melting snow and the first signs of spring.  She would tell me about the vegetable garden she was planning for that year and how much she looked forward to my next visit.  I so miss those letters from her.

Back when I was in college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, it cost 15 cents to send a first class letter.  On January 26th of this year, the U.S. Postal Service raised the rate to 49 cents for a first class letter.  The good news is that your Forever Stamps are still good no matter how many times the postage rates change.

Write a letter

We live in such a fast-paced time now.  We can send texts and email in a matter of seconds…and that is a wonderful thing.  But I hope that someone this year takes the time to write you a long, hand-written letter meant only for you.  And I hope I get one too!