Vintage cast iron: Learn the history of the Sidney Hollow Ware Co.

Sidney Hollowware skillet showing the logo on the base.

The History of Sidney Hollow Ware Co. How those lovely Sidney skillets came to be.

If your lucky enough to have a piece of vintage cast iron made by the Sidney Hollow Ware Co. then you have a real piece of history. It’s amazing that you can find old Sidney skillets at Estate sales, antique auctions, online, and at thrift stores for a relatively small price. I have a couple of Sidney Hollowware skillets and they are really are wonderful to use. Just like other cast iron made during the time Sidney cast-iron just like Favorite Piqua Ware and Griswold cast iron have smooth cooking surfaces and tend to be lighter than modern cast-iron.

Sidney Hollowware Co made fine cast iron cookware. in the picture is a man holding a cast iron skillet.

The beginnings of Sidney Hollowware Co.

Smith rolled the dice and took a chance.

Like many businesses back in the day it all started with one person packing up everything and taking a chance. In the case of Sidney Hollowware, it was a young man named Phillip Smith.

Smith was born in Pennsylvania, however, in 1859 he moved to Sidney Ohio. Even though he was only 21 at the time Smith brought with him the knowledge of molding he learned from a company called Thompson, McGregor and Callahan. 

Phillip Smith and his brother founded P. Smith Bro. & Co. for the grand sum of $25. Although Paul Smith would later buy out his brother.

Vintage cast-iron. This Sidney No8 skillet straight from an estate sale.

The young company took on any work it could to get established.

Like many of the early foundries P. Smith Bro. & Co did not manufacture cookware. First, the young company took any work it could find. Like many young companies such as Selden & Griswold, it wasn’t easy. Even though we know Sidney Hollowware for cast-iron cookware this was to come later. 

Sidney Hollow Ware founder Phillip Smith
Photo credit goes to Shelby County Historical Society.

When the future of the foundry was looking bright disaster struck.

After Smith and the company became established. The company began producing bells for churches and schools. Unfortunately when business was picking up disaster stuck, with a fire burning down the foundry sometime in the 1860s. Without insurance, the foundry struggled to get back on its feet. However, through sheer hard work and determination, Smith managed to rebuild. 

Sidney Hollow Ware Co, In the picture is a cast iron skillet made by Sidney Hollowware. The skillet shows the script logo.

Smith was on his feet again.

By the 1870s Paul Smith must have gotten back on his feet. Smith bought out a company that was making ploughs at the time. With play straight out of modern business Smith rehired the former owner as a consultant. Along with early cookware such as kettles and ploughs. Smith made more precision casting such as steam engines, boilers and was now producing quite a number of cast-iron bells. To do this Phillip Smith must have had a great understanding of metal casting and been very good at what he did.

Sidney Hollowware company. Historical photo of the Phillip Smith Company later to be known as the Sidney Hollo w Ware Co,.
Photo credit goes to the Shelby County Historical Society.

Was this the time when Sidney Hollowware came to be?

Philip Smith proceeded to expand the business. In 1886 he expanded the business to include cast iron hollowware, what we often refer to pots and pans today. Was this when the name Sidney Hollowware Co. come to be or was it earlier after the fire, referring to kettles and bells as hollowware? Today it would seem strange to change the business name for a new product range especially when Smith had worked so hard rebuild his company and was doing well. Interesting the script logo which is considered to be older of the two logos only had the word Sidney and the letter O. No mention of Sidney Hollow Ware on the Skillets. 

Sidney Hollowware Co,. This super smooth skillet was made by Sidney Hollowware.

Sidney Hollow Ware may have started making spokes for wagons but they jumped on the cast-iron cookware bandwagon like other foundries.

Like many foundries, during this time Sidney Hollowware may have seen an opportunity to make cookware. There was great demand from customers wanting cast-iron cookware for use on coal or wood ranges instead of a simple griddle or kettle hung above an open fire. To have an indoor range during this time must have seemed ever so modern. However Phillip Smith was an obviously skilled metal caster, and many pieces of Sidney cast-iron were plated in nickel. From what I’ve seen of Sidney Hollow Ware products they must have been highly priced. Our Sidney skillets are incredibly smoothed and obviously machined polished with great care. The company also cast milling machinery and copper tub wringer-washing machines. To keep up with demand the company had to employ an extra 20 staff. 

Breakfast cooked in a Sidney Hollow Ware skillet.

The Wagner buyout of the Sidney Hollowware Co.

The Sidney Hollowware Co, continued to well under Smiths leadership until the company was sold to Wagner Ware in 1897. Reportedly Sidney Hollowware, was sold to Wagner for $35000 not bad for the initial investment of $25. Unfortunately for Sidney Hollowware it would no longer be a stand-alone company.

Identifying Sidney Hollowware skillets under the leadership of Smith to those made under Wagner’s ownership

Today cast-iron cookware made under the ownership Wagner is often referred to as “Wagner Made” Sidney cast iron. The logo may have changed slightly. Keeping the simple wording Sidney, however, the logo took on more of a Wagner cast iron skillet characteristic being block printed instead of the script stylizing bringing an end to what we know as Sidney Hollow Ware under the leadership of Phillip Smith. Learn how to identify Sidney HollowWare cast iron “here”. Wapak Hollow Ware also has an interesting history you can read “here.”

Smith wanted his Sidney Hollowware back

Smith bought back Sidney Hollow Ware Co. from Wagner Manufacturing Company in 1903. I would love to know why. To place a guess id say it would have been hard to give up something he poured his heart and soul into. However, Smith did not restart the foundry and in 1907 he retired from the business. Unfortunately, this was due to health reasons. Smith and his wife traveled and continued to contribute to the community until his death in 1914.

This Sidney skillet shows how smooth the cooking surface of vintage cast-iron .

Sidney Hollowware Co. makers of fine cast-iron cookware

The history of the Sidney Hollowware Co is truly amazing. If you are fortunate enough to have a piece of Sidney made cookware made under the leadership of Phillip Smith, you really have a piece of history in your hands. Keep an eye out for them in estate sales, garage sales and of course online where you can find a wide variety of cast iron. Occasionally Sidney skillets, griddles and kettles come up for sale. You don’t need a Griswold if you want a great skillet. If you’re looking a piece of Sidney Hollowware and starting out in the world of collecting then the Boonie Hick’s guide to Sidney Hollowware may be useful, happy cast iron hunting.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Boonie Hicks
    I recently purchased a deep large oval roaster with lid. The only marks are on the lid, a cursive 7. There is a gate mark inside the lid. The handles on both the pot body and the lid are smooth half moon comfortable handles. I think it is a Wagner, can you please help me?

    Best regards,
    Michael Hayes

    • Hi there Michael thanks for the question

      If you have an oval Wagner Roaster the half-moon handles may indicate an early design. Circa early 1900s.

      Check your roaster in a good light for the “Wagner” marking it could be very lightly cast. I’d also check the gate mark to see if it’s vertical on the lid as another indication of a Wagner.

      Hope this points you in the right direction.

  2. My husband came across a “Sidney Hollow Ware Co”, Sidney O #9 skillet in a dumpster. The logo is right up against the rim. I’m curious it’s worth and how to safely remove the old seasoning and then reseason without risk of warping the skillet since its thinner than normal.

    • Hi Tabitha

      Well done and what great find. Sidney Hollow Ware skillets are becoming very scarce so, your husband should be very proud. Good on him for rescuing a piece cast iron history.

      Sold listings on eBay will give you an indication of the value. Two main factors which affect the value of Sidney Hollowware are:
      1.Does the pan sit flat, have any warp or bow? As you know these pans are super thin and are prone to warping.
      2. Condition of the logo. Some of the Sidney logos are shallow and not clear. However, from your description, your skillet has a rarer logo on an already hard to find skillet. Because your logo is near the rim of the pan, I have my fingers crossed the logo is crisp and clear.

      As for seasoning, it’s a topic for much debate.

      I would remove the seasoning by waiting for a nice sunny day, opening up your windows and baking the seasoning off in the oven. However, I would try to get as much crud off as I could with a Steelo scourer or SOS pad to reduce smoke. I’d recommend watching a youtube video for this method.

      As for seasoning, I find simply using a pan as a vegetable roasting dish a couple of times. I find this builds a nice initial layer of seasoning. In Asia, they use vegetable scraps and have a fry up almost burning them onto the pan. Cooking nonstick food and the seasoning will build. But with Sidney’s pre-heat very slowly the cast-iron will want to move.

      Hey, thanks for getting in contact and congratulations, enjoy your skillet.

  3. I have a cast iron skillet with Sidney written in script and a #8 on bottom. There is no -O- on it anywhere. It belonged to my husband’s grandmother. She started housekeeping in early 1900’s in eastern Kentucky. Can you help?

    • Hi Sue

      Thanks for the comment. You have a great piece of family history.
      It’s fantastic your husbands grandmother used her skillet as a young lady in the early 1900’s.

      Unfortunately, there is little information on the foundry and the different variations including Sidney without an 0. But they were only in operation between 1887-1898. So your family skillet was made between this time. However, the script logo is considered the older of the two logos.

      Your husband’s grandmother will have a smile on her face with you researching her old skillet.

      Thanks for sharing.

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