Do you have a piece of ironware with the words THE FAVORITE on the back? Then you have antique cast iron from the Columbus Hollow Ware Co.
The Favorite skillets and other ironware from the Columbus Hollow Ware Company are scarce compared to other manufacturers such as Griswold and Wagner. So I hope you consider yourself fortunate to own a piece of cast iron history.
Table Of Contents
- Note for collectors and antique dealers
- Company information
- Dating 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.
Note For Collectors And Antique Dealers
If you are a cast-iron collector or an antique dealer, you will come across multiple resources sharing different information. This is due to the lack of information readily available. And the outsourcing to a low-cost manufacturer under a new owner.
This has led to two timelines of the company and manufacturing shifting from the foundry to Columbus Penitentiary. Unfortunately, separating the timelines is particularly challenging, resulting in two schools of thought amongst enthusiasts.
- The Favorite marked ironware was manufactured in-house only.
- Columbus Hollow Ware Company contracted the prison to manufacture marked The Favorite ironware.
Therefore the following information is based on my current thoughts and may not be entirely accurate. I recommend reading other resources such as other websites and contacting cast-iron Facebook groups for a balanced opinion.
When Did Columbus Hollow Ware Make The Favorite Cast Iron?
Cast iron enthusiasts may use the timeline of 1882-1902 to encompass the entire history of Columbus Hollow Ware. This timeline includes marked cast-iron cookware with the words The Favorite and later unmarked ironware. But if you separate the company into two eras from 1882-1885 and 1897-1902. This accounts for restructuring so you can more accurately date your ironware.
- The Favorite is likely to be made circa 1882-1885.
- Unmarked prison-made ironware from 1897, when AG Patton obtained the Columbus Hollow Ware Company naming rights.
As a side note, ironware was likely produced in the foundry before 1882. Since the Harker Manufacturing Company manufactured ironware in the same foundry before the founding of the Columbus Hollow Ware Company.
Why Did Columbus Hollow Ware Go Out Of Business?
It is recorded in official documents the company ran into financial difficulties resulting in the restructuring of the business in 1885. The actual reasons for these difficulties are unknown, but it was likely due to competition. And it is unlikely the company produced ironware in the foundry after 1886.
Unfortunately, Columbus Hollow Ware was located near a State Penitentiary with a working foundry. The prison had the advantage of using a cheap and willing labor force. Undoubtedly, this placed further pressure on the local foundries and is a likely contributing factor to the financial struggles of Columbus Hollow Ware.
The Penitentiary negatively impacted local businesses to such an extent that it was reported that every foundry in the area eventually closed.
Was The Favorite Ironware Manufactured Using Prison Labor?
Unlikely is my best answer.
Cast iron historians may point to the lack of evidence between the Penitentiary and Columbus Hollow Ware between 1882 and 1885.
However, this opinion may not consider the changes in contractual agreements between State prisons and businesses may not have needed to be declared before 1887. And my conclusion is due to changes in public opinion toward the growing influence and power of State-run prisons.
Public Opinion On Prison-Made Goods
There is a clear connection between Ohio State Penitentiary and Columbus Hollow Ware at a later date. And this is the reason so many assume The Favorite ironware is prison-made.
However, the law changed in 1887, and there were increasingly negative perceptions toward prison labor of the citizenry in the 1880s. So we can deduce the local State prison probably did not manufacture The Favorite marked ironware. I have two reasons to come to this conclusion.
- The negative impacts of cheap labor on businesses and high unemployment in the 1880s resulted in State labor reforms after the 1886-1887 elections. The reforms introduced a contractual system between business and the prisons of the time.
- 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.
There was growing anger in the populous in the 1880s towards the anti-competitive practices of State prisons. And this leads me to think the prison was unlikely to have made branded products for Columbus Hollow Ware.
Under the leadership of AG Patton, Columbus Hollow Ware contacted the State prison in 1897 to manufacture cast iron cookware.
Here is the known connection between the State prison and Columbus Hollow Ware. Cast iron produced for Columbus Hollow Ware in the reformatory is likely not marked The Favorite.
Correctly identify Columbus Hollow Ware
Early Columbus Hollow Ware is easy to recognize. However, The Favorite brand is sometimes incorrectly identified as ironware from the Favorite Stove and Range Company since it has similar wording.
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 12 o’clock. And the lettering is all in capitals.
Here’s a nice clear photo to identify your own vintage cast iron made by The Columbus Hollow Ware Company. Note the simple logo “The Favorite” at 12 o’clock.
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 about vintage cast iron cookware from these foundries.
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 won’t come across Columbus Hollow Ware every day. Also, many Columbus Hollow Ware skillets have the same look and feel as 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.