The Ball Brothers moved to Muncie to expand their tin can business. By 1905, their company was worth millions. Brynn Mechem, DN
Ball jars: The natural phenomenon that launched a university
Editor's note: In honor of the university's centennial year, The Daily News is counting down 100 days to the university's celebration Sept. 6 with 100 of Ball State's most famous traditions and figures. Check back each day to read about Cardinal history.
When people think of Ball State, there are few icons that come to mind: Charlie Cardinal, Beneficence and of course, Ball jars.
Edmund and Frank Ball owned a small shop in Buffalo, New York, where they made tin cans for paint, varnish and oil from coal. That is, until a gas boom began in Delaware County and the brothers decided to experiment with the production of glass jars.
The first strike of gas was in Eaton — a town 12 miles north of Muncie — in September 1886. By 1888, there were 35 gas wells in Delaware County.
The brothers heard this, and wanting to pay back the $200 loan they borrowed from their Uncle George, they decided to expand their business.
Frank decided to tour Indiana and Ohio and after visiting Muncie, then dubbed “The Magic City,” he was not impressed. In his memoirs, he wrote there were no paved streets, but there was a rusty dipper for everyone to drink out of in the courthouse yard.
However, Muncie residents offered the Balls free land and gas if they moved to Muncie and built a factory. So, the five brothers moved.
Frank served as president, Edmund was vice president and general manager, William was secretary and George was treasurer. Lucius Lorenzo, the oldest brother, was a practicing physician and served as director.
What started as seven acres and 100 employees quickly grew to 70 acres and thousands of employees. Even when gas gave out in Muncie in 1905, the brothers continued to thrive, becoming millionaires.
It was then that they decided to give back to the community that had initially given to them. Talks of establishing a college began in 1891, and in 1918, the Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division, later called Ball State University, was founded.
Information for this article was found in “The Ball State Story from Normal Institute to University” by Glenn White.