Learn the history of the Griswold Manufacturing Co.
There really is something special about using vintage cast iron pans and I’m not alone. Many 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 pan. 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. Also, the price of Griswold cast iron can vary greatly depending on the quality and rarity of the cookware, so I cover some important buying tips you may want to consider before purchasing.
Table of contents:
- The fascinating history of the Griswold Manufacturing Co
- Why Griswold cast iron is so good?
- Some buying tips when purchasing Griswold cast iron
- I’ll give you some final thoughts as a cast iron hobbyist
If you want to identify or date your Griswold cast iron skillet then click to our identification guide.
Table: How the Griswold Manufacturing company formed (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 company affectionately named 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)
Reason for closure
Rise of the Griswold Manufacturing Company
One of the original founders Samuel Selden past away in 1882.
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.
The foundry was severely damaged by fire in 1885.
And was renamed to the Griswold Manufacturing company after fires were complete.
Table: The History of the Griswold Manufacturing Company
The foundry operated from 1885-1957
The company was location in Erie Pennsylvania
The 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 logo and brands on their cookware. The Griswold cast iron 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 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 their range.
A huge labor strike affected operations at the foundry and city
officials and the police force were needed to settle the works
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 the Wagner Manufacturing Company.
Wagner Manufacturing was sold to Textron Inc of Rhode Island 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 Wagners.
Question; “Is Griswold cast iron really that good?”
Short answer; “Griswold cast iron is some of the best antique cookware you can cook with. I gotta say the reputation is well deserved.
Cooking with Griswold cast iron is a real pleasure, however, other foundries from the 19th and 20th centuries also made some topnotch iron.
Why is Griswold cast iron so good? In my opinion, Griswold cookware is a safe bet. Vintage pans are not cheap so if you’re looking for a quality pan then it doesn’t get much better than Griswold.
However there other great foundries that made equally amazing cookware. Many say Wagner made equal if not better cast iron than Griswold. I’m a fan of Sidney Hollow Ware and Favorite Piqua Ware. Of course, there’s Wapak and Lodge the list goes on. However, Griswold cookware remains number one for many cast iron enthusiasts and home cooks.
Griswold skillets were so good that other foundries used them as a template for their own cookware.
Griswold cast iron cookware really is superb. Even other foundries such as Wapak Hollowware and Sidney Hollowware used Griswold cast iron skillets as templates for some of their own products. It really shows the Griswold Manufacturing Co, were one step ahead of other players in the market and their products stood out as the standard to beat.
Today rare Griswold cast iron can cost thousands of dollars to the serious collector. However, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great pan. More on that later on.
Do you love vintage cast iron? If you do you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve research carefully, although I’m not a cast iron expert I love the history of these old foundries and have a fair collection of vintage cast iron. I have a soft spot for Sidney Hollow Ware, Favorite Piqua Ware and have several pieces of Griswold cast iron. In fact, my first vintage cast iron skillet was a Griswold. I was a bit hasty in my purchase so hopefully, I can help you avoid the same mistakes.
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 lighter, also they tend to be smoother than other markers.
Although other foundries made great cookware and will do you proud. Griswold seems to be one extra notch above other foundries. Therefore 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 Manufacturing Co and Wagner Manufacturing had a full range of products, therefore, collectors have a wide variety of products they can focus on. Many collectors focus on one age range or collecting a complete set. While other collectors may focus on one product such as coffee grinders or muffins pans. For cast iron collectors Griswold has it all.
Is Griswold cookware really that good?
Yes, it really is. The Griswold Manufacturing Company made fantastic cookware. In fact, some of the foundries of the 19th century may have used Griswold “Erie” molds or most likely used Erie skillets as templates to make their own molds.
It’s not uncommon the see Wapak skillets with a ghost mark with the word “Erie” lightly embossed into Wapak skillets. This practice would surely infringe on copyright and patent laws these days. However, it highlights if other foundries were trying to copy Griswold designs they must have been pretty good.
Griswold was respected in the industry after all they say “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.
Griswold Manufacturing Co. reigns supreme when it comes to antique cast iron. Although Griswold is not the only option, there are other standout foundries that also made great cast iron cookware.
There were many ironwork foundries which made fantastic cookware. Let’s face it Griswold pots and pans tends to be more expensive than cast iron from other foundries. Cast iron from these foundries are probably my favourites and their history is just amazing.
Wagner Ware was the other leading foundry which is also well known to have made very fine cast iron. However, Wagner cast iron tends to be cheaper. Favorite Piqua Ware, Wapak, Martin Stove and Range also made amazing cast iron cookware.
How about a vintage Lodge there’s a good reason why Lodge Manufacturing is still making cast iron cookware…it’s good.
Here are some considerations to buying Griswold cast iron.
- Griswold’s great however there’s plenty of great cast iron out there.
- Griswold cast iron can vary in price and condition, please take your time.
- Look closely and ask questions to the seller.
- 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 Manufacturing 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. It is highly sought-after by collectors and those who want a great vintage cast iron pan, Griswold is the name to have.
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 then you may have to pay internet prices.
If you find a Griswold skillet or Dutch oven at a reasonable price and in good condition then jump at the chance. But prices have rocketed skyward recently and there are other choices if you want a lovely vintage pan.
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 likely priced reasonably.
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 learnt this the hard way
I won the auction by entering a bidding war. 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 at 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.
So you want to buy a Griswold skillet, whatever you do do your research on prices.
The sold listings on eBay give you an idea on what people are paying. Also, have a look at the logos on the sold prices, a skillet with slant Griswold logo will sell for a higher price than a Griswold small logo.
There is also another problem there are a few sellers are asking huge asking prices. I shake my head in disbelief at the price. 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 I 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.
Some Griswold markings are a little 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 favourite logo.
Smooth Botton 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 these 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 with 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. However if you just a pan for cooking then a smooth bottom pan could 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 its also a great way to make friends that share the same hobby.
Griswold cast iron is it worth it? Let’s recap.
There is a good reason why Griswold cast iron skillets were used for templates by some of the early foundries. Today Griswold cast iron is the most sought-after vintage cast iron with collectors and enthusiasts. Griswold Manufacturing cookware does not disappoint the iron tends to be silky smooth unlike most of today’s manufactures.
Research before you buy, prices can vary greatly.
Although Griswold cast iron can be really costly you can still find bargains at Estate and garage sales and cast iron auctions. However, if you are buying online then expect to pay a bit more. I would recommend researching carefully before purchasing so you get a feel for what Griswold’s are selling for. I feel some online sellers have sadly overinflated their asking price.
A good way of seeing the current market value for antique cast iron is to check out the sold listing on ebay.com.
Heat ring or no heat ring.
A Griswold skillet with a heat ring is probably going to cost a little more than one without. Skillets with heat rings are favored by collectors so you might be able to pick yourself a great piece of vintage cast-iron that will cook just as well as one with a heat ring at a lower price.
However, I would still recommend a Griswold skillet with a heat ring. I think they have a lot more character and are more collectible if you want to start collecting.
Have a look alternatives to Griswold cast iron, there is plenty of other foundries that made fantastic ironware.
I have a fair amount of Griswold cast iron and it lives up to the reputation as being great cookware. However, there are alternatives to Griswold cast iron such as Wagner Ware.
Cooking in vintage cast iron is cooking with history.
I love history and find the stories of these old foundries fascinating and most of these foundries. 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. It has more articles on the foundries of the 19th and 20th century and their cast iron is pretty good too.