Created in 1858 by John Landis Mason, the Mason jar's initial purpose was to preserve foods for long periods of time. Mason's design swiftly beat out his competitors, with its revolutionary airtight seal and the transparency of the glass which made the contents look visually pleasing. With its mass production in the early 20th century, the jars became symbols of the agricultural world. Farmers who lived in areas with quick harvest seasons used Mason jars to keep their jams and pickles in ideal conditions, to showcase their recipes at county fairs, and to give as gifts during holidays. The heyday of the original use of Mason jar's ended with the widespread adoption of refrigerators, migration from the countryside to the city, and drastic improvement in transportation. As optimum food preservation moved from canning to freezing, the jars were no longer used as much.
Seventy years later, the Mason jar is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. With people becoming more and more aware of the economic and environmental costs of transporting food around the world, there is a return to farm-to-table ideals such as locally grown produce and canning procedures. Furthermore, the Mason jar has become the king of the DIY world, which has taken the web by storm. If you Google "ways to use mason jars," there is an overwhelming amount of information on all of the ways they can be repurposed into drinking glasses, candles, lamps, soap dispensers, terrariums, planters, and so much more.
Curiously enough, the Mason jar has become a symbol of gentrification. Many trendy bars and restaurants serve fancy cocktails in Mason jars and 7-11 recently launched a line of the Mason jars to hold slurpees. When Mason jars are used in such a way their original context diminishes, that of frugality and practicality, and transforms them into an ironic object, void of meaning. Many people do not know the real meaning of the jars but they feel a sense of shared nostalgia of simpler times that the jars evoke. Chew on that the next time you dish out $14 to drink a beer out of a Mason jar at your local craft brewery!
Whether you love or hate them they are here to stay. The jars have ultimately been able to stand the test of time by being reusable, visually pleasing, and durable. Even though it seems like the jars are being overly commodified, around 70% of sold jars are still being used for canning. Even if the jar eventually loses its "cool factor," it will make its reappearance soon enough- it always does.
Including Mason jars in your photo composition makes for relevant and desirable imagery that are sought after by photo buyers. If you have any images of how you use Mason jars in your day to day life or images that evoke a rustic way of life, submit your photos to our new photo challenge Rustic Living!