Hang a Little Piece of Ball Corporation on Your Christmas Tree
Fruit jars, aerospace equipment, pop cans—those are the products that naturally come to mind when Ball Corporation is mentioned. Christmas ornaments, not so much. In the mid-1970s, Ball Corporation did get into the Christmas ornament business, one of several new products made when the company wanted to expand its product lines. In order to changes its product mix, Ball produced new products to sell directly to the consumer both in stores and by mail-order catalog.
Products included plastic storage containers, food storage bags, and etched zinc wall hangings, bookends, and planters. The most successful new product, however, was the Christmas tree ornament. They were made at the Evansville, Indiana Ball Plastics Division, a division which made high quality plastic parts, mostly for the automobile industry.
From 1975 until about 1980, Ball made and sold a number of different types and styles of ornaments. All had a Christmas or winter theme, and most were related to a Christmas carol or popular Christmas song. The success of the first series, “Medley of Carols,” led to several others series, including “Madrigals,” “Noels,” and “Silhouettes.” Products from both the Plastic and Zinc Divisions were combined into the “Medallic Medley” series, consisting of an embossed zinc medal surrounded by a plastic halo. A similar design was used for the all-plastic “Holiday Halos.” Dated, limited-edition ornaments were made each year for most series.
When and why did Ball stop making Christmas ornaments? According to Dick Cole, Minnetrista’s former curator of business and industrial history, “By 1980, the end was nearing for Ball’s Christmas ornaments. The sales of the direct-to-the-consumer items was not as robust as hoped. One oft-repeated reason for this was that Ball knew how to distribute fruit jars to the consumer in grocery stores, but had no experience in marketing novelty items through boutique shops. This may have had a more than just a grain of truth to it, but it may have been that the Direct Marketing department just tried to do too much too fast. The costs of developing new lines of ornaments, with the associated machinery, packaging design and advertising must have driven the budget well beyond the return.”
Even though the ornaments haven’t been made in more than thirty years, they can still be found. Check out flea markets and eBay to find some of these lovely, classic ornaments.