Learn the history of your Griswold cast iron cookware
There really is something special about using vintage cast iron pans and I’m not alone. Many enthusiasts enjoy collecting these old pieces of cookware from different foundries. However, you don’t need to be a collector to enjoy and preserve these old pans. You just need one. Of those looking to buy a single piece of vintage cookware, many decide to buy Griswold cast iron.
In this article, you can learn the history of the Griswold Manufacturing Company. I will also cover some important buying tips to consider before purchasing.
Table of contents:
- Learn the history of the Griswold Manufacturing Co
- Is Griswold cast iron any good?
- Buying tips when purchasing Griswold cast iron
- I’ll give you some final thoughts as a cast iron hobbyist
Table: The Griswold Manufacturing Company (Butt Hinge Factory)
The origins of the foundry date back to 1868 when two families joined in a business partnership to manufacture butt hinges.
This foundry was formed by Mathew Griswold, Samuel Selden and John Selden.
The Butt Factory
Since the small foundry made butt hinges it had the
most unfortunate of nicknames. And was known locally as the Butt Factory.
Selden and Griswold Manufacturing Company
The company was coming of age and in 1873, Griswold
and the Selden brothers registered the Selden & Griswold Manufacturing Company. And the small foundry affectionately known as the “Butt Factory” was dropped.
The Selden-Griswold is the earliest know logo of the company. I’ve only seen the logo used on waffle-irons, however, I’ve read the Selden-Griswold made a variety of cookware products including:
4. Scotch bowls
Selden-Griswold (The American)
S & G. MFG. CO.
Reason for closure
Rise of the Griswold Manufacturing Company
In 1882 one of the original founders Samuel Selden past away.
Selden-Griswold continued to operate until 1884 when
the Mathew Griswold bought out the Selden family stake
in the company.
I’m assuming Griswold at the time of the buyout already had in the back of his mind to further expand the range of cookware and increase production.
However, the foundry was severely damaged by fire in 1885.
After the repairs were complete the company was renamed to the Griswold Manufacturing company.
Table: The History of the Griswold Manufacturing Company
The foundry operated from 1885-1957
The company was location in Erie Pennsylvania
Griswold Manufacturing Company grew to become of the largest American foundries of the 20th century.
The Griswold Manufacturing Company made a huge range of goods including: hollowware, fruit pressers, gas burners,
heaters, stoves, grinders and even electric kitchen appliances
Griswold hollowware brands
Over the years Griswold used a variety of logos and brands on their cookware. The Griswold cast iron range of cookware includes the following:
2. Griswold’s Erie
3. Victor (lower priced range)
5. Iron Mountain (and is identified by the handle)
6. Good Health
7. Best Made S.R & Co
8. Puritan (made for Sears Roebuck Department Store)
9. Merit (made as an in-house store brand for the Sear Roebuck Department Store)
Table: Griswold Manufacturing History (the rise and fall of the company)
After Griswold rebuilt the foundry he quickly expanded the
hollowware range and labeled his product “Erie”.
Griswold added enameled cast iron to their cookware range in the 1920s. However, you are likely to see Griswold enameled cast iron dating from the 1950s.
The company added electrical ovens, sandwich makers and
waffle-irons to their cookware range.
A huge labor strike affected operations at the foundry and city
officials and the police force were needed to settle the workers
demands for higher wagers and better working conditions.
Unfortunately, in 1947 a disagreement within the Griswold families resulted in the company being sold to group of New York investors.
After this date no Griswold family members were involved in the business.
In 1957 the Griswold Manufacturing was sold to the McGraw Edison Company located in Illinois.
The company quickly off-loaded Griswold to the Wagner Manufacturing Company.
Wagner Manufacturing was sold to Textron Inc of Rhode Island soon after and for 10 years Griswold cast iron was made in the Wagner foundry.
This was under a leadership subsidiary company of Textron called Randall Company.
In 1969 the General House Ware Corporation bought the rights of
both Griswold and the Wagner.
Did you know other foundries used Griswold and Erie cast iron as a template for their own cookware?
Griswold cast iron cookware really is superb. The cookware tends to have few casting flaws and very smooth cooking surfaces.
It is known other foundries such as Wapak Hollowware and Sidney Hollowware used Griswold cast iron skillets as templates for some of their own products. You can often see a “ghost mark” an Griswold or Erie marking on the back of competing hollowware manufacturers of the early 20th century.
It really shows the Griswold Manufacturing Co, were one step ahead of other players in the industry and their products stood out as the standard to beat.
Table: Foundries that might have used “Erie” and Griswold cast iron as templates
Eagle Stove Works
You’re likely to see the Griswold large block logo on
Eagle Stove works skillets.
Marion Stove Company
You can sometimes see an “Erie” ghost mark at the 12:00 position on Marion cast iron.
The ghost mark is often very faint.
It’s not uncommon to see an “Erie” ghost mark on early Wapak skillets.
Sidney Hollow Ware Company
You can also find “Erie” ghost marks on some
Sidney Hollow Ware.
Griswold was leader within the industry and their products were often copied by other ironworksBoonie Hicks
Why do cast iron enthusiasts love Griswold cast iron?
If you have a Griswold skillet then you are one lucky owner, Griswold cookware is something quite special. You probably already know cooking in a pan that’s over one hundred years old is pretty cool. Not only does Griswold cast iron look great, the pans are much lighter than todays cast iron.
Griswold cast iron seems to be one extra notch above hollowware from other foundries of the era. So, many of those wanting a great vintage iron pan often opt for a Griswold.
“If it’s a Griswold then pretty much you know it’s going to be good”.
Griswold and Wagner Manufacturing had a full range of products, so collectors have a wide variety of products they can choose to collect. Many collectors focus on one age range or aim to collect a complete set. While other collectors may focus on one product such as coffee grinders or muffins pans. For a cast iron collector, Griswold has it all.
Here are some considerations to buying Griswold cast iron
- There’s plenty of great cast iron including ironware from other foundries
- Griswold cast iron can vary in price and condition, please take your time
- Look closely and ask the seller questions
- Choose your favorite Griswold marking, logo or brand before purchasing
- If you want a Griswold skillet, then do you want one with a heat ring or with a flat base?
- Learn about Griswold cookware from our site and other online resources
Griswold cast iron is fantastic but there’s plenty other vintage cast iron around
If you want to buy a Griswold skillet then it will most likely cost a pretty penny. Griswold made really nice cookware so people are willing to pay a premium. The cookware is highly sought-after by collectors and those who want a great vintage cast iron pan. Today Griswold is the name to own.
However, ask yourself a question do you want to pay big bucks for a frying pan? There are some great finds out there if you’re willing to take your time and effort you can still find a great pan at a reasonable price. Although if you’re buying online, expect to pay a little more.
But if you find a Griswold skillet or Dutch oven at a reasonable price and in good condition then jump at the chance. Just keep in mind prices of Griswold cast iron have rocketed skyward recently. And cast iron from other foundries might present better value.
Wagner Cast iron it’s often compared to Griswold cookware in terms of quality. Also check out Wapak, Favorite Piqua Ware, Lodge, Birmingham Stove and Range. These are some great pans and most are reasonably priced.
If you want to buy Griswold pots and pans take your time there’s no shortage
Griswold cast iron can vary greatly in price and I’ll be honest, I think some of the asking prices have really got out of hand by some sellers. Especially if you’re looking to buy online. I learned this the hard way
With my first online auction, I entered a bidding war in the final minutes for a Griswold #8. Can you guess what happened next? Ten minutes later there was another listing. It was another Griswold #8 skillet and in better condition.
The pan ended up selling for a lower price. Griswold cast iron is antique, however, it’s not scarce. You can really take your time, there are new listings every day.
How much should I pay?
The sold listings on eBay give you an idea on what people are paying. Also, have a look at the logos on sold pieces. A skillet with slant Griswold logo will sell for a higher price than a Griswold small logo.
There is also another problem, some sellers are asking huge prices. I shake my head in disbelief occasionally. Are sellers just trying their luck or are truly unaware of the market value?
Griswold Manufacturing used different logos, markings and brands. Which one is your favorite?
If you find a bargain at a garage sale then go for it, otherwise, Griswold cast iron especially skillets can command a bit of a price tag. So what would you do? If you’re willing to pay for a Griswold skillet in good condition then wait a little longer for a skillet with the markings you like.
What do the Griswold logos look like?
As mentioned earlier Griswold Manufacturing made several different cookware brands. Griswold and Erie are the most popular and within these two brands. Griswold also had some variations of their logo. The Cast Iron Collector is a great resource if you want to learn more about Griswold logos.
But I also have a great resource you can use to identify your Griswold cast iron using logos. To read the article just click the link.
Some Griswold markings are rarer than others which could affect the price. A lot of collectors focus on one Griswold marking for their collection. But if you’re looking for a single pan then wait for a pan with your favorite logo.
Smooth bottom pan or a skillet with a heat ring?
This is really up to you, a skillet with a smooth bottom is just like modern pan. However, skillets with a heat ring were designed for coal or wood ranges. Both choices are great and will not affect the results of your meals. However, if deciding which to buy, ask yourself two questions.
- Do you want to collect Griswold cast iron?
- Do you just you pan just to cook great meals?
Griswold skillets with heat rings are more sought-after by collectors and they command a higher price than skillets without a heat ring. If you want a really collectible Griswold then go for a skillet with a heat ring. But if you just a pan for cooking then a smooth bottom pan is be a great choice.
What would I do? If your budget allows, go for Griswold skillet with a heat ring. It’s just my personal preference. I think skillets with heat rings have more character and that old world charm.
Learn about Griswold cast iron from online resources and social networking
There’s a Griswold Facebook group, Reddit pages and clubs which have friendly meetups. You can share recipes seasoning tips. I like looking at what people are cooking, it’s also a great way to make friends that share the same hobby.
Cooking in vintage cast iron is cooking with history
I love history and find the stories of these old foundries fascinating. Sadly, most are no longer in operation. If you have vintage cast iron not only do you have a great pan you have a piece of history. Is it worth paying a little extra, I think it is how about you?
If you want to learn more about antique cast iron cookware you may find the Vintage Cast Iron page interesting. The page has more articles on the foundries of the 19th and 20th century and their cast iron is pretty good too.