Ball Minnow Trap
The Ball Minnow Trap is really a great piece of angling history. Let me first add by saying yes, this is the same maker as the famous Ball jar line.
For those that may not know here is a piece borrowed from the Society of Historical Archaeology Inc. Although its roots go back to the 1880 making wooden covered milk cans and then to glass inserts for metal cans that wasn’t the era of the minnow trap production.
“Ball Brothers Co., Inc. (1922-1987)
Between 1913 and 1929, Ball acquired four more of its competitors and reorganized
again on December 19, 1922, as the Ball Brothers Co., Inc. The firm replaced the now-outdated
Owens machines with Ball-Bingham, Miller JPM, and English Moorshead machines in the
1930s. The firm purchased the Three Rivers Glass Co. in 1936 and closed it down after filling
existing orders, a fate visited on many of the earlier acquisitions (Roller 1983:456-457;
2011:659; Smith 1989; 1996).
The Owens license expired in 1933, so Ball began negotiations with Hartford-Empire and
acquired a license for those machines on March 25. On January 8, 1935, Ball executive Fred
Petty announced that Ball would begin production of packers’ ware in response to a major
decline in fruit jar sales over the past three years (Birmingham 1980:115). Ball (1937:96)
illustrated a birds-eye view drawing of the Muncie plant in 1936 (Figure 4).
By 1937, the Ball Brothers made “fruit jars, packers and preservers ware, bottles” by
machine at 14 continuous tanks – reflecting the list of five factories at Muncie, Indiana; Wichita
Falls, Texas; Huntington, West Virginia; Hillsboro, Illinois; and Okmulgee, Oklahoma
(American Glass Review 1937:81). On December 11, 1939, the U.S. Government sued the Ball
Brothers, the Hazel-Atlas Glass Co., and the Owens-Illinois Glass Co. under monopoly charges
based on the Hartford-Empire and Owens licensing agreements. The plaintiff claimed that small
producers were being frozen out of business or prohibited from entering manufacture by the
nature of the licenses.
Almost a decade later, in 1947, the justices rendered a final verdict. The court prohibited
the Ball Brothers from purchasing or otherwise controlling any other businesses engaged in the
same manufacturing processes – in other words, the small jar producers. In addition, Ball had to
divest itself of the Three Rivers Glass Co. (already closed for almost a decade) that Ball had
acquired in 1936. Ball sold the property (Birmingham 1980:115-116).
Beginning in 1942, Ball shifted production to other glass containers, zinc shells for
batteries, and various rubber products – in addition to fruit jars – to support the World War II
effort (Birmingham 1980:116). Muncie Plant No. 1 burned in 1945. By 1952, fruit jar
production made up less than 10% of sales (Birmingham 1980:153, 159).
The rest of the decade was mostly quiet, with no notable changes. The firm opened the
Mundelein, Illinois, plant in 1961 and ended glass making at the Muncie plant the following
year (Roller 1999; Simpson 1962:63). The plant that saw the greatest fruit jar production in 9
U.S. history was over – as was the need for most of the jars it had produced.
Ball Minnow Trap Photo Gallery
It was in the 1960s that the Minnow Traps were made in Okmulgee Oklahoma. Its reported that only 1000 of these were ever made, so they are very difficult to come by indeed. There are a few different variations of them out there, so if you look real hard you may just get lucky.