From Home Kitchen to Company Creations
Do you do your own canning at home? Did your mother or grandma? If so, chances are they had at least a few copies of the Ball Blue Book floating around the kitchen. Full of recipes and tips, over time the publication became a go-to resource for home canners. With the iconic Ball logo or jars incorporated into the cover art, anyone picking up a copy knew that the publication came with the same quality as the company’s other trusted products. What they may not have realized was that the Blue Book’s beginnings did not happen at the factory, but in the home kitchen of George A. Ball, secretary and treasurer of the company.
There are no known copies of the first version of the Ball Blue Book. It probably had a title similar to this version, called The Correct Method For Preserving Fruit. The title went through many changes before becoming known as the Ball Blue Book in the late 1910s.
George’s daughter Elisabeth often spoke to others about memories from her childhood. When asked about the Blue Book she recalled that the book’s forerunner was first compiled and written in 1905. Elisabeth’s mother, Frances, collected tried-and-true recipes from her own files as well as from friends and relatives. George then wrote out instructions that would be usable by a home cook. Together, the two tested the instructions of the recipes in their home kitchen to make sure they were both accurate and tasty.
This issue of The Correct Method of Preserving Fruit was published in 1911. It contained the printed recipe for orange marmalade seen here. The handwritten version was penned by Frances and adapted for the book.
This informal method of home testing and recipe compilation continued for several years after the book’s initial release. Over time the publication grew in popularity and soon requests began to roll into the company asking for specific recipes to be included. When the requests became a regular occurrence George and Frances turned the development over to a professional cook at Ball Brothers. Although the project was handed over to Ball’s professional kitchen, the spirit that Frances and George instilled in the publication remained. Their high standards were maintained, recipe testing continued, and home economists were on staff to answer inquires and keep the recipe selection modern.
Despite issuing an annual revision in the years leading up to America’s entry into WWI, George didn’t receive a copyright for a cookbook until 1916. By 1918, when this version was published, the name had been changed to The Ball Blue Book.
Although only eight years old at the time the Blue Book was developed, Elisabeth Ball said she was, “quite proud and thrilled that Father and Mother were doing something very good.” She was right, they were doing something extraordinary, and the impact likely became larger than young Elisabeth ever imagined. With the outbreak of World War I a little over a decade later, food conservation became a necessity around the country. For those canning, the Ball Blue Book provided the necessary recipes and guidance. After the end of the war it continued to play a role not only in daily kitchen needs, but also during times of future hardship such as the Great Depression and World War II. By working together and sharing the results, George and Frances’s project had an impact that reached well beyond the walls of their home.