Frank C. Ball, the fourth eldest Ball brother, invented the world’s first semiautomatic glass machine, served as the Ball Brothers Company president for 63 years, and was an active member of the Muncie community.
Frank C. Ball had a wide-ranging interest in the arts, and his family was closely involved in developing the collection. Together they purchased art from artists, auctions, estates, and dealers. This led to a great variety in his collection.
Frank C. Ball started giving his collection to the Ball Brothers Foundation in 1936. In the same year, the foundation loaned many of the important paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts in the collection to the gallery.
In February 1918, Frank and two of his daughters, Lucy and Margaret, were riding the elevator at the Plaza Hotel in New York. When the elevator reached the ballroom floor, several guests stepped out and worked their way into a crowd. Mr. Ball asked the elevator operator what was going on. The operator replied that it was the auction sale of the art collection of the late George A. Hearn.
Mr. Ball had recently undergone eye surgery and was delighted that he could see the paintings at the Hearn auction. He bought over 70 works of art at the sale. Both in number and in scale, the paintings purchased were more than could be contained in the Ball residence. For many years following the auction, the collection was housed at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis.
Frank C. Ball and his family returned to New York several times to acquire new works of art for the collection. Mr. Ball continued to purchase at auctions, but like many collectors, developed relationships with art dealers and galleries. Mr. Ball purchased many pieces from the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York.
Frank C. Ball’s brother-in-law was the Hoosier impressionist J. Ottis Adams. This relationship gave him access to the artist’s best works and an interest in the Hoosier Group of painters. On one occasion, Mr. Ball contacted several group members, including T.C. Steele, William Forsyth, Otto Stark, and J. Ottis Adams, to inform them he desired a painting from each and named the price he was willing to pay. Mr. Ball left the selection up to the artist. He believed that if the artists were able to choose they would pick for him their best work.
These works and Frank C. Ball’s collection at the Herron School were moved to the gallery at the center of the Fine Arts Building when it opened in 1936 forming the nucleus of the museum’s collection.