Today in 1858 the US issued a patent for a device that food growers and eaters alike use all over the world: the mason jar.

And yes, the story of the mason jar starts with someone named Mason.

The specific someone was John Landis Mason.

He was born in New Jersey in 1832, the son of a farmer.

For as long as people have been growing food, they’ve been trying to find ways to preserve the food, or, as they say, put the food by.

We’ve used salts, sun, smokers and more to stop our supplies from spoiling, but it wasn’t until the early 1800s that a candymaker in France, Nicolas Appert, figured out a way to use heat and airtight sealed jars to preserve food.

His method kept food from going bad AND it preserved the flavor, but it involved sealing jars with wax, so it wasn’t something that many people at home had the time, resources and ability to do effectively. .

Mason’s system was more straightforward: he created a jar that had a kind of threading on top so that you could screw on a lid with a rubber seal, with no wax necessary.

You could see through Mason’s jars, so you could tell that your canning project was successful, and they were reusable.

Mason jars have become a standard way to preserve food ever since.

Mason himself hadn’t fully patented all the parts of his creation before they became popular, so by the end of his life all Mason had to show for his innovation was his last name on other people’s jars.

That said, his name has been on a lot of jars.

As Smithsonian reported, mason jars not only changed the food industry and what it could sell and produce, but at one point they influenced the home construction industry.

So many people were preserving food from their gardens in the first half of the 20th century that builders were putting up “summer kitchens,” separate structures next to the main house where homeowners could go about heating and canning without heating up the rest of the house.

One glass jar did all that!

Congratulations to this year’s newly-announced winners of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

The overall winner was Jason Moore, whose photo shows a kangaroo in a bright yellow field that looks like it’s playing air guitar.

A Brief History of the Mason Jar (Smithsonian)

WINNERS ANNOUNCED! (Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards) 

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Photo by Jim Choate via Flickr/Creative Commons