Does your skillet have the words “THE FAVORITE” on the back? Then you have a piece of antique cast iron from the Columbus Hollow Ware Co. Unfortunately, there is little historical information on the company. But we know Columbus Hollow Ware manufactured “The Favorite” line of cast-iron cookware. And outsourced manufacturing to the Ohio State Penitentiary.
Here’s what you can learn from the article
- Company information
- The age of your vintage ironware
- The history of The Favorite ironware
- How to correctly identify Columbus Hollow Ware
- Final thoughts
The Columbus Hollow Ware Co
The Columbus Hollow Ware Co (previously, The Harker Manufacturing Company)
Records show the company operated between 1882-1902
The company most likely restructured after financial difficulties circa 1886
Note: The operational date refers to the company rather than the foundry.
Skillets, kettles, bailed griddles, and long griddles.
Columbus produced one cookware brand known as THE FAVORITE.
When did Columbus Hollow Ware make The Favorite cast iron?
I’ve searched high and low for manufacturing dates. Unfortunately, there is little information available. However, “The Favorite” line of cast-iron cookware is likely to be made circa 1882-1902.
Instead of building a new foundry, The Columbus Hollow Ware Company purchased a foundry previously known as the Harker Manufacturing Company. Unfortunately, Columbus ran into financial difficulties in the mid-1880s and had to restructure.
The financial difficulties likely came from competition from the prison nearby, which had plenty of cheap labor to offset costs. Undoubtedly, putting a financial strain on Columbus Hollow Ware and other local businesses. And it’s reported that every foundry in the area eventually closed. The prison was called Ohio State Penitentiary. After the closures of the other foundries, it grew to become the largest foundry in the State.
Ohio State Penitentiary and Columbus Hollow Ware Connection
In the 1800s, most people believed everyone should contribute to society. This included those in reformatories. After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
However, lower labor costs from penitentiaries put law-abiding citizens out of work. And as a result, businesses could not compete in a free market. So the Columbus Hollow Ware Company probably had little choice, to outsource manufacturing to the prison.
When did The Columbus Hollow Ware Company outsource manufacturing to the Ohio State Penitentiary? No one knows precisely. But it was likely after the company restructured and when new prison labor reforms came into effect after the 1886-1887 elections. The reforms introduced a contractual system between businesses and the prisons of the time.
More on Ohio State Penitentiary
It was not just in any prison but one of the most notorious State prisons of the 19th and 20th centuries. Apparently, the conditions inside were absolutely horrendous. Sadly, disaster struck in 1930, when a large fire within the prison resulted in many casualties.
Life in the prison must have been a complete nightmare for the prisoners. Here’s a quote from one of the former wardens of the time, when inmates were making cookware for The Columbus Hollow Ware Company.
The Ohio Penitentiary is before you.
A prison whose history is replete with as much that is thrilling and romantic as anything that can be found in the pages of The Count of Monte Cristo or the History of the Bastille.Warden B.F. Dyer
Correctly identify Columbus Hollow Ware.
Columbus Hollow Ware is easy to recognize. However, The Favorite brand is sometimes incorrectly identified as ironware from the Favorite Stove and Range Company.
So, how can you identify Columbus Hollow Ware?
Check the back of your pan for the words “The Favorite.” If it does, then you have a piece of cast iron from the Columbus Hollow Ware Co. On skillets, the logo is at the 12 o’clock position. And the lettering is all in capitals.
On the other hand, if your pan has “Favorite Pique Ware” or “Favorite Cook Ware,” it’s from a different foundry. And it’s ironware from either, Favorite Stove and Range or Chicago Hardware Foundry Co.
You can click the link to compare logos or learn more about vintage cast iron cookware from these foundries.
Did Ohio State Penitentiary make “The Favorite” ironware?
We all love the idea of our grandmother’s skillet being prison made in the 1800s. But did the Penitentiary manufacture THE FAVORITE ironware? After all, the State labor reform passed for a good reason. There was high unemployment during the time. And good honest people were out of work, while people in prison had jobs. Undoubtedly, this caused great resentment in the community.
One of the debates of the time was to persuade consumers not to buy prison-made goods. Some ideas floating around were to label items PRISON MADE. Another option was to make the goods unattractive to consumers. Or not to brand the goods at all.
I think the prison made THE FAVORITE branded ironware. However, there is a strong case the prison only produced unmarked ironware for The Columbus Hollowware Company.
Is The Favorite cast-iron brand collectible?
The antique cast-iron brand THE FAVORITE by Columbus Hollow Ware has everything collectors and enthusiasts are looking to collect. These include:
- thinly cast ironware
- smooth cooking surfaces
- heat rings
- old world charm
But any enthusiast that finds one of these beauties will be beaming. After all, you don’t come across Columbus Hollow Ware every day. Also, many Columbus Hollow Ware skillets have the same look and feel like the highly sought-after Erie skillets.
The Favorite cast iron by Columbus Hollow Ware are pieces of 19th century Americana. The brand is not as well-known as Griswold and Wagner. But Columbus ironware tends to be smooth and lightweight. Just like other ironware made in the era.
Sadly so many foundries were shuttered because of cheap labor from prisons. But your ironware was produced in a fascinating time of history. I think this makes your antique cast iron different from other manufacturers. And you are lucky to be a proud owner of Columbus Hollow Ware.