Ball Brothers

The Ball brothers (Lucius, William, Edmund, Frank, and George) were five American industrialists and philanthropists, who established a manufacturing business in New York and Indiana in the 1880s that was renamed the Ball Corporation in 1969. The Ball brothers' firm became a global manufacturer of plastic and metal food and beverage containers as well as a manufacturer of equipment and supplier of services to the aerospace industry. In addition to the brothers' manufacturing business, they were also noted for their philanthropy and community service. Earnings from their business ventures provided the financial resources to support a number of other projects in the community of Muncie, Indiana, and elsewhere. Most notably, the brothers became benefactors of several Muncie institutions including Ball State University, Ball Memorial Hospital, the YMCA, and Minnetrista. The Ball Brothers Foundation, established in 1926, continues the family's philanthropic interests.

The Ball Brothers from left to right: George A. Ball, Lucius L. Ball, Frank C. Ball, Edmund B. Ball, and William C. Ball
The Ball Brothers from left to right: William Charles Ball (1852–1921), Frank Clayton Ball (1857–1943), Lucius Lorenzo Ball (seated) (1850–1932), Edmund Burke Ball (1855–1925), George Alexander Ball (1862–1955)

The Ball brothers, whose glass company became known for its home canning jars, went into business together in 1880, and made the decision to move their glass manufacturing operations from Buffalo, New York to Muncie, Indiana, in 1886, due to the abundance of natural gas in the area. The brothers opened their factory in Muncie in 1888. The Ball company continued to prosper from their mass production of canning jars, known sometimes as "Ball jars".[1] The company has subsequently expanded and diversified. By 1937, the value of the company was estimated at nearly $7 million.[2]

Early life and family

The Ball brothers' parents, Lucius Styles Ball (1814-1878), a farmer and merchant, and Maria Polly Bingham Ball (1822-1892), a former schoolteacher, were born in Canada. They met in Greensburg, Ohio, and married on September 1, 1846.[3] Lucius and Maria had a total of eight children, six sons and two daughters: Lucina Amelia, Lucius Lorenzo, William Charles, Edmund Burke, Frank Clayton, Mary Frances, George Alexander, and Clinton Harvey (died in infancy). The children were raised in eastern Ohio and in upstate New York.[4][5]

The boys' sister, Lucina, was an educator who assisted in the founding of Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and served as its financial secretary. Their other sister, Mary Frances, married Joseph W. Mauck, who became a longtime president of Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan.[6] Their uncle, George Harvey Ball, who shared the Ball family dedication to higher education, founded Keuka College in upstate New York in 1890.[7] When their father became ill, the Ball brothers "found a friend and confidant" in their uncle. After the boys' father died in 1878, Uncle George provided financial support and some measure of stability.[8][9] Later in life, after the Ball brothers had become wealthy businessmen, they became benefactors to their uncle's college.[7]

The brothers

Lucius L. Ball

Lucius Lorenzo Ball (March 29, 1850 – July 22, 1932),[10] the eldest of the brothers was born in Greensburg, Ohio. He grew up in Ohio and moved with the family to upstate New York, where he attended public schools and Canandaigua Academy at Canandaigua, New York.[11]

Lucius, whose ambition was to become a doctor, received his medical degree from the University of Buffalo in 1889, at the age of forty, and served as the house physician in Adrian Hospital in Pennsylvania before establishing a medical practice in Buffalo, New York. He moved to Muncie, Indiana, in 1894.[12][13] In addition to becoming a shareholder and serving on the board of the Ball brothers' manufacturing company, Lucius practiced medicine in the Muncie community.[4] He was a member of the Scottish Rite and the Universalist church. Lucius also retained memberships in national and state medical societies and served as medical adviser to the Western Reserve Life Insurance Company.[5][13]

Lucius married Sarah Rogers in 1893; they relocated from Buffalo to Muncie the following year. The couple had one daughter, Helen.[14] Lucius remained a resident of Muncie for thirty years.[4][13] Instead of constructing a new residence in Muncie as his brothers did, Lucius purchased an existing home and had it turned to face Minnetrista Boulevard.[15] In the mid-1990s, following the restoration of Oakwood, George's home, Lucius's residence was renovated to serve as an orientation center for the Oakwood mansion and its gardens.[16]

William C. Ball

William Charles Ball (August 13, 1852 – April 30, 1921)[10] was born in Trumbull County, Ohio, grew up in upstate New York, and attended public school and Canandaigua Academy with his siblings. When two of his brothers, Frank and Edmund, moved to Indiana in the mid-1880s, William remained in Buffalo, New York, to close out business affairs. He moved to Muncie in 1897.[11] William was a Ball company salesman and served as the corporation's secretary.[12] Like his brothers, he was involved in Muncie's political and civic activities. William served on several boards, including the Muncie and Portland Traction Company, Merchants National Bank, and Hillsdale College. He was also a member of the Scottish Rite and the Universalist church.[17]

William and his wife, Emma Wood, had one son.[17] Their home in Muncie was a red brick Georgian design that they named Maplewood. Completed in 1898, it was built on Ball family property just east of Oakwood, George's home.[15] William died at the age of sixty-nine.[5]

Edmund B. Ball

Edmund Burke Ball (October 27, 1855 – March 8, 1925)[10] was cofounder of the Ball manufacturing business with his brother, Frank. Born in Greensburg, Ohio, he moved with his family to upstate New York, where he attended public schools and Canandaigua Academy.[11] In the mid-1880s Edmund relocated from Buffalo, New York, to Muncie, Indiana, where he served as vice president and general manager of the company, and as treasurer and secretary of the Ball brothers' corporation. Edmund was also a humanitarian and heavily involved in Muncie's civic activities. He was chair of Muncie's park board and the city's planning commission. He served on several other boards that included traction companies and banks, Muncie's hospital, and Hillsdale College. Edmund and his wife, Bertha, donated funds to renovate property on Tippecanoe Lake in Kosciusko County, Indiana, for a Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) boys' camp. He was also a member of the Universalist church and a Scottish Rite Mason.[18][19][20]

Edmund married Bertha Crosley on October 7, 1903, in Indianapolis. They had four children, two sons and two daughters.[19] In 1904 Edmund hired Marshall S. Mahurin, a Fort Wayne, Indiana, architect to design his Gothic-Revival style home in Muncie.[21] The family's home, named Nebosham, was completed in 1907 and served as their residence for fifty years.[4] Following Edmund’s death, $3.3 million in assets from his estate were used to establish the Ball Brothers Foundation.[22] In 1975 the Ball Foundation donated Nebosham to the Ball State University Foundation for use as a continuing education facility. It was named the E. B. and Bertha C. Hall Center for University and Community Programs in 1986.[4][18]

Frank C. Ball

Frank Clayton Ball (November 24, 1857 – March 19, 1943)[10] was a cofounder of the Ball family business with his brother Edmund. Born in Greensburg, Ohio, Frank grew up in Ohio and upstate New York. He attended public schools and Canandaigua Academy.[11] He became company president in 1888 and served in that capacity for fifty five years. Frank was "a born leader" as well as "a strong, dynamic, and shrewd businessman."[12] Like his brothers, Frank took an interest in the public affairs of the Muncie community. He was president of the Muncie and Portland Traction Company, the Muncie and Western Railroad Company, and the Muncie YMCA. He also served as director the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, among his other activities in business and civic organizations. Frank was a Scottish Rite Mason and a member of the Universalist church.[23]

Frank married Elizabeth Wolfe Brady in 1893. They had five children, three daughters and two sons.[23] In 1893–94 Frank bought approximately 30 acres (12 hectares) of land along the north bank of the White River, outside Muncie, where he built a home designed by Indianapolis architect Louis Gibson. Frank's nineteen-room mansion, named Minnetrista, was the first Ball family home to be built on the site along Minnetrista Boulevard. The home, completed in 1895, was destroyed by fire in 1967. Minnetrista, Muncie's cultural arts center, was built on the site of his former home.[24]

George A. Ball

George Alexander Ball (November 5, 1862 – October 22, 1955),[10] youngest of the ball brothers, was born in Trumball County, Ohio, and grew up in upstate New York. He attended public schools and Canandaigua Academy.[11] George's interest in his brothers' glass manufacturing company was quickly identified after its inception; he joined the family business in 1883, at the age of twenty-one. George rose through the ranks in the family business. He worked as a bookkeeper and went on to become the corporation's secretary, treasurer, vice president, president, and board chairman.[12] In the 1930s George became a partner in a railroad empire that also included steamship lines, grain elevators, bus and truck lines, coal mines, and a fruit orchard in Georgia.[16] In addition, he served on the boards of organizations that included Borg Warner, Nickel Plate Railroad, several banking institutions, Indiana University, Ball State Teachers College (which became Ball State University), and Ball Memorial Hospital, among others. George was also active in politics, serving as a Republican national committeeman from Indiana. He was a Freemason, a Rotary Club member, and joined the Presbyterian church.[5][25]

George married to Frances Woodworth in Buffalo in 1893.[26] The couple had one daughter, Elisabeth, born on December 26, 1897. Elisabeth, who never married, lived in her parents' home until her death on April 29, 1982, at the age of eighty-four. Oakhurst, the family's shingle-style residence, was built in 1895, becoming the second of the Ball brothers' homes to be erected on the family property in Muncie. Indianapolis architect Louis Gibson designed the estate home on Minnetrista Boulevard. At the time of its construction the three-story residence stood on approximately 2 acres (0.81 hectares) of land.[27] George died in 1955 at the age of ninety-two.[12] The Ball Brothers Foundation deeded his home and its grounds to the Minnetrista Cultural Foundation, restoring it in 1990.[16]

Aside from his business interests, George was a collector of children's literature, a hobby he shared with his daughter. In 1964 Elisabeth Ball donated a part of their collection to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Following her death in 1982, other books that she and her father had collected were donated to the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and the Bracken Library at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.[21]

Manufacturing business

Main article: Ball Corporation

Frank and Edmund Ball founded the Ball brothers' manufacturing business in 1880 in Buffalo, New York. Three other brothers (William, Lucius, and George) soon joined the family business. In 1887–88 the brothers moved their manufacturing operations to Muncie, Indiana, where the firm would be closer to an abundant natural gas supply. As the brothers' company continued to prosper and expand, it became especially well known for its glass canning jars, but diversified into other industries. Beginning in the 1950s, the Ball Corporation entered the aerospace sector, and later became a global manufacturer of plastic and metal food and beverage containers.[9][28]


Due to the financial success of the Ball Corporation, the Ball brothers amassed considerable personal wealth and became influential men in Muncie's political and civic affairs. The Ball brothers made a number of philanthropic contributions to support the needs of the community and foster the city's growth, which included working with nonprofit agencies to provide aid to local and regional residents. The Ball Brothers Foundation, established in 1926, further expanded the impact of their philanthropic efforts. Over the years the Ball brothers made financial contributions to establish local branches of the YMCA and the YWCA, Ball Memorial Hospital, Ball State University, and Minnetrista, Muncie's cultural center, and assisted other groups.[22][29]

Ball Memorial Hospital

One of Ball Brothers Foundation's first projects was to establish Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie. The hospital opened in 1929 and later affiliated with IU Health.[22][30]


Main article: Minnetrista

In 1893 Frank C. Ball bought approximately 30 acres (12 hectares) of land along the north bank of the White River, outside Muncie, where the Ball family built their homes. His two sisters named the site Minnetrista, a combination of the Native American word for water, mine or minne, and the Middle English spelling of a word meaning a pre-arranged "gathering place", trist or tryst. Frank Ball's estate home, which was also called Minnetrista was the first to be built on the site in 1894; it burned in 1967. Frank's property became the site for a new a cultural center for the Muncie community. The center, which was named Minnetrista, opened in 1988. It preserves artifacts that document the history of Muncie and east central Indiana, and continues as a gathering place an important part of the Muncie, Indiana, community. Situated on 44 acres (18 hectares), visitors may still its gardens and natural areas, which contain an assorted community of native Indiana plant and animal species, for free.[24][31]

Ball State University

Main article: Ball State University

Eastern Indiana Normal University, a small, private teacher training school that was a forerunner to Ball State University, opened in 1899 to help boost the development of the city. After the college and subsequent efforts to established an institution of higher learning at Muncie had failed, the Ball brothers purchased the defunct school's land and buildings and donated them to the State of Indiana. In 1918 the school opened as the Indiana State Normal School, Eastern Division. In recognition of the Ball family's generosity, the school was name Ball Teachers College in 1922. The school became Ball State Teachers College in 1929 and was renamed Ball State University in 1965.[32][33] Ball State is one of only a few public colleges in the United States that includes a family name.[34]

Keuka College

Main article: Keuka College

Although the Ball brothers moved to Indiana early in their careers, they did not forget New York or the early support they received from their uncle, George Harvey Ball, founder of Keuka College, a private liberal arts-based and residential college based in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. After they became financially successful, the Ball brothers expressed their gratitude by donating additional land and providing funds to the college. In 1921 Ball Hall (Ball Memorial Hall) was named in honor of George Harvey Ball and the Ball brothers' contributions to the college.[7]

Other contributions

The Ball brothers made other donations to support hospitals, schools, and nonprofit organizations. In Indiana these included funding for James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis; Hanover College, in Hanover, Indiana; IU; and the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial at Lincoln City, Indiana. They also contributed to Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan.[30]

Ball Brothers Foundation

Grants from the Ball Brothers Foundation are awarded to organizations that demonstrate "better practices" or strive toward "best practice designation" in conducting their business and have continued interests in improving the quality of life for citizens of Indiana.[35] The foundation looks to fund innovation, programs that are just starting, and companies going through expansion.[35]


While only companies or organizations can apply for grants from the Ball Brothers Foundation, there is a wide variety of subjects and topics that the grants can go towards. Areas of interest that are eligible to apply include:

Grant types


Every year the Ball Brothers Foundation recognizes individuals for their outstanding work in his or her community.

Honors and tributes

The remains of the five Ball brothers are buried at Beech Grove Cemetery, Muncie, Indiana.[40]

In 1929 Edmund Ball's wife and children commissioned Cyrus Edwin Dallin to create a bronze replica of his sculpture, Appeal to the Great Spirit. The replica was erected in Muncie in 1929 and donated to the city.[41]

In September 1937 a bronze sculpture named Beneficence was installed on the Ball State University campus in Muncie to honor the Ball brothers' contribution to the community. The five columns of Indiana limestone that surround the sculpture represent the five Ball brothers.[30]


  1. Ball Mason Jars, Mason Jars Headquarters
  2. Ball State University. "The Ball brothers". Ball State University. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  3. Frank D. Haimbaugh, ed. (1924). History of Delaware County Indiana. 2. Indianapolis, IN: Historical Publishing Company. pp. 81, 664. OCLC 7224336.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Barbara Quigley (2005-01-24). Ball Family Photographs Collection Guide (pdf). Indiana Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Our History: History of Ball—the Ball Family". Ball Corporation. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  6. Haimbaugh, v. 2, p. 80.
  7. 1 2 3 Philip A. Africa (1974). Keuka College: A History. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press. pp. 114–115. OCLC 745947.
  8. Anthony O. Edmonds & E. Bruce Geelhoed (2001). Ball State University: An Interpretive History. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. p. 47. ISBN 9780253340177.
  9. 1 2 Haimbaugh, v. 2, p. 82.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Barbara Quigley, "The Ball Brothers" in Gugin, Linda C.; James E. St. Clair, eds. (2015). Indiana's 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-87195-387-2.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Haimbaugh, v. 2, p. 668.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Quigley, "The Ball Brothers", p. 15.
  13. 1 2 3 Haimbaugh, v. 2, pp. 664–65.
  14. "Dr. Lucius Lorenzo Ball". Find A 2010-12-30. Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  15. 1 2 Ray Boomhower (Winter 1995). "Destination Indiana: Oakhurst, East-Central Indiana's Natural Beauty". Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 7 (1): 45.
  16. 1 2 3 Boomhower, p. 48.
  17. 1 2 Haimbaugh, v. 2, 648.
  18. 1 2 "E. B. and Bertha C. Ball Center Records, RG.05.09.01, Finding Aid". Ball State. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  19. 1 2 Haimbaugh, v. 2, p. 83.
  20. Edmonds and Geelhoed, p. 51.
  21. 1 2 Boomhower, p. 46.
  22. 1 2 3 "A History of Philanthropy". Ball Brothers Foundation. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
  23. 1 2 Haimbaugh, v. 2, p. 27.
  24. 1 2 Boomhower, pp. 44–45.
  25. Haimbaugh, v. 2, p. 668–69.
  26. Haimbaugh, v. 2, p. 669.
  27. Boomhower, pp. 44–46.
  28. Quigley, "The Ball Brothers", pp. 14–15.
  29. "Ball State University: The Ball Brothers". Ball State University. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  30. 1 2 3 Quigley, "The Ball Brothers", p. 16.
  31. "Minnetrista History". Minnetrista. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  32. "Ball State University History and Mission". Ball State University. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  33. Haimbaugh, v. 1, pp. 334–35.
  34. Edmonds and Geelhoed, p. 1.
  35. 1 2 3 "Our Grant Programs". Ball Brothers Foundation. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  36. "Types of Grants". The Ball Brothers Foundation. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  37. "Organizational Effectiveness Grant: Request for Proposals". The Indiana Youth Institute. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  38. "BBF Announces New Award". Ball Brothers Foundation. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  39. "The John W. & Janice B. Fisher Governance Award". Ball Brothers Foundation. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  40. See "Dr Lucius Lorenzo Ball". Find A 2010-12-30. Retrieved 2016-03-24. "William Charles Ball". Find A 2010-12-30. Retrieved 2016-03-24. "Edmund Burke Ball". Find A Retrieved 2016-03-24. "Frank Clayton Ball". Find A 2010-12-30. Retrieved 2016-03-24. "George Alexander Ball". Find A 2010-12-30. Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  41. The original sculpture by Dallin is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. See Thomas A. Sargent (1989). The House and Its History. Muncie, IN: Ball State University. p. 35. ISBN 0937994154.


Further reading

External links

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