Griffith Laboratories Spice Jars – General Information
Griffith Laboratories Spice Jars
I'll say one thing about the folks at Griffith Laboratories, now known as Griffith Foods (as of 2017) - they were prolific. In the twenty or so years these jars were in production (late 1930's - 1950's), the label design was changed several times which kept them looking fresh and appealing. As for sets, rack mounted white milk glass jars were available in sets of eight, twelve, sixteen, eighteen, twenty-two and twenty-four. Rack mounted or clear jars in a cabinet were available in sets of twelve and twenty-four. But, I've seen other quantities listed on e-Bay selling with and without the racks.According to their website, before World War II the racks were made of plastic. During the war, they were made of wood and after the war wood/metal combination or plastic again. Following is a quote from the Griffith Laboratories website, used with their permission: "Around 1939, senior management wanted to make the Griffith Laboratories name familiar to the general public. The company came up with an imaginative and highly successful idea. Griffith created a set of twelve high-quality spices, each in its own stylishly designed, gleaming white glass jar. Each jar was sealed with an airtight metal cap with a convenient sifter set in the jar opening.
The [original] set of 12 spice jars, which came with an attractive plastic rack, contained allspice, celery salt, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, garlic salt, ginger, dry mustard, nutmeg, paprika, black pepper, poultry seasoning and roast meat seasoning. The company, concerned about contamination from mold and bacteria, used a revolutionary proprietary purifying method to make sure the spices were clean, safe and pure. Sold through the home furnishings departments of Marshall Field's, Macy's and other fine stores, the Griffith spice set was successful immediately. When asked the company spokesperson said, "We don't manufacture or sell our spice sets anymore. But we honor them as an important part of our history."Spices in the Original Jars
The available spices in the tall and short, white jars Include: Allspice, Anise, Barbecue Smoke Salt, Basil (Sweet Basil) Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, Caraway Seed, Cayenne Pepper, Celery Salt, Chili Seasoning, Cinnamon Sticks or Ground Cinnamon, Coriander (original??), Curry Powder, Dry Mustard or Mustard Flour, Epicure Salt, Fennel Seed, Garlic Salt, Ground Bay leaf, Ground Cardamom, Ground Cloves, Ground Ginger, Nutmeg, Mace, Marjoram, Mint, Onion Salt, Paprika, Poultry Seasoning, Roast Meat Seasoning, Rosemary, Sage, Salad Herbs, Steak Seasoning, Thyme, White Pepper, Whole Cloves. Some of these are only available on the very old sets 4-1/8" tall with the yellowed paper half-moon labels. Clear jar spice set names gathered so far: Anise, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, Celery Salt, Celery Seed, Chef Seasoning, Chili Seasoning, Coriander, Cumin Seed, Curry Powder, Dill Seed, Epicure Salt, Fennel Seed, Fenugreek, Garlic Salt, Ginger, Marjoram, Meat Tenderizer, Mustard Flour, Mustard Seed, Nutmeg, Onion Salt, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley Flakes, Poppy Seed, Poultry Seasoning, Roast Meat Seasoning, Rosemary, Salad Herbs, Sesame Seed, Steak Seasoning, Sweet Basil, Thyme, Turmeric. And, as I find more names for either set, I will add them. Most of these spices are still available in your local grocery store or on the internet. For those that are not (such as the Epicure Salt), you can have fun making your own blends. Description of Jars The standard heights are (1) 4-1/4" tall with the lid on, 4-1/8" tall without lid and 1-3/4" square or 3-1/2" tall with the lid on and (2) 3-1/4" without lid and 1" square. White milk glass Griffith spice jars for sale here on e-bay have been described in several different heights including 2-3/4", 2-7/8", 3", 3-1/2", 4-1/8", 4-1/4", 4-3/16 and 1-1/2", 1-3/4") in clear and white milk glass. The milk white jars themselves seem to have a pinkish, bluish or grayish cast to them that is probably related to the time frame in which they were produced ( pre and post World War II). I've also seen a drop dead gorgeous set in a milk chocolate brown color with brown or copper lids. Speaking of lids, colors seen so far are yellow, beige, black, red, turquoise blue, pink, pale Jadeite green, dark green, white and medium blue. The lids on the shorter clear jars were silver, gold, black or copper. Label colors are clear and yellow on the front and "white but yellow-ing from old age" on the back.
Hopefully info I requested from Griffith Labs will help collectors to know which colors are original and set a standard for buyers and sellers. But, in the meantime, these four milk glass jar designs are most commonly seen on e-Bay:
1-plain (no columns) front, backs and sides which are usually found on the 3" or 3-1/2" jars (#5 in photo above);
2-plain (no columns) front and back with two long vertical bars and one short horizontal bar on each of the sides usually found on the 3"-3-1/2" tall jars (#5 in photo above);
3-two short inset columns joined by an inset bar along the bottom on the front;
4-three graduated raised columns on two face sides; with two raised horizontal bars and four short/narrow raised columns on the back (one in each corner.) The shorter descriptive label usually fits in the center on this side. This configuration is found in the 4-1/8" - 4-1/4" tall jars (#3 in photo above);
5-four raised varying height columns on three face sides with two raised horizontal bars and four short/narrow raised columns on the back (one in each corner) where the descriptive label fits. This is also usually found on the 4-1/8" - 4-1/4" tall jars (#2 and #4 in photo above.)
Front Label Styles
So far, I've seen one paper label style, three black painted/appliqued label styles and three different methods of application:
1) White (or yellowed from old age) paper with black text (middle photo) a rounded half moon atop a long front label. These labels were probably applied with some type of durable glue and appear to be the oldest applied label. Found on both 3-1/2" or 4-1/8" tall jars (#3 in photo above.) The text on the front labels for these jars appears in two different layouts: (1) "Griffiths Purified" is printed under the oval and the spice name is printed in single letters down the front. And, (2) "Purified" along with the spice name is printed under the oval and "Griffiths" is printed in single letters down the front of the label.
2) Yellow paint with black text, rounded half moon atop a long front label. These rarely seen labels appear to have been applied by a special two step manufacturing process or painted by hand. Found on 3-1/2" or 4-1/8" tall jars (#3 in photo above.) Clear front label with black text decorated by a rounded half-moon atop a long front label that appears to be hand applied and fired by a kiln. Found on both the 3-1/2" or 4-1/8" tall jars (#1 in photo above.)
3) Clear front label with black text decorated with curves and flourishes. These labels were hand applied and looks to be fired by a kiln. Found on both the 3-1/2" or 4-1/4" tall jars (#2 and #4 in photo above.)
4) The 3" clear spice jar has a white painted graphic of a housewife performing various chores. All of the printing on these is white. There is no back label/text on these jars. Although the design on the front and back of the various size jars differ, both of the front label designs on the taller jars are about the same length and width minus a millimeter or so. All of the back labels appear to be the same size.
Back Label Style Back label on all 4-1/4" Jars
Back labels on the taller jars are small, rectangular and centered between two horizontal bars. The short jars have no horizontal raised bars on the back of the jar. So far, I've seen only an off-white or "yellowing from old age" paper label on original bottles - no clear back labels. These were probably applied with some type of durable glue. They are difficult to remove in spite of their age 60+ years.
Although the design on the back of the two jar sizes differ, the size of the back labels appears to be about the same.
Some of the older jars also included a 3/8" wide, 3-1/2" long narrow paper label set in between the columns on the left or right side with more detail about the spice. Usually, because the jars are handled by the sides, these labels are long since gone. Of the 100 or so jars I've handled, there was only one with this label still intact and regretfully, I did not take a photo. If I can find another one, I will add its' photo to this guide.
Spice Jar Display Stands
Over the years, Griffith updated the design and introduced bright colors to coordinate with the popular color schemes of the time. When the supply of suitable plastic declined dramatically during World War II, Griffith changed the display rack material to wood. After the war, inexpensive and mold-able plastic became available and a fresh design was created. The company used polystyrene, a light and sturdy plastic that can be molded into virtually any shape, for its new post-war rack design.
If you are interested in refurbishing a set of jars or adding to your collection, check out my other e-Bay Guides in this blog. If you still have a question or need info about Griffith white milk glass spice jars that you don't see above, drop me a line. I'll try to get an answer for you. I love to hear from other people who love these jars, too!
If you love these jars as much as I do, take a look at my other Griffiths Jar Guides in this decorating blog: Discontinued eBay Griffiths Spice Jar Guides (c) 2007-present. -- Blessings from an avid Griffith Spice Jar Collector
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