The Favorite, vintage cast iron by The Columbus Hollow Ware Co.

Antique cast iron skillet called The Favorite by Columbus Hollow Ware Company

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)

Operational Dates

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.


Columbus, Ohio

Cookware Range

Skillets, kettles, bailed griddles, and long griddles.

Cookware Brands

Columbus produced one cookware brand known as THE FAVORITE.
Columbus Hollow Ware Co
Columbus Hollow Ware contracted Ohio State Penitentiary to make THE FAVORITE range of cookware.

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.

The Favorite cast iron skillet
Columbus Hollow Ware Company made cast iron cookware, including skillets, griddles, and kettles between 1882-1902.

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.

Identify vintage cast iron called "The Favorite".
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 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

However, Columbus Hollow Ware is unlikely to sell Griswold or Wagner prices. These two brands are well-known and tend to command higher prices online and at auctions.

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.

Final thoughts

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.




  1. Looking for help….have a 10-1/2” chicken fryer (bottom only)…has the slot for the “hinged top skillet/lid. 2-1/2 side wall. Base markings are at 6 o’clock “10-1/2 INCH CHICKEN FRYER” under that is “MADE IN USA” under that is “Z”. The handle does not flatten to wall, has a 2 step protrusion. Top of handle is marked “8” & handle has raw rounded teardrop opening.

    I’ve looked in various lighting for ghost marks & can not detect any.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Lori

      Thanks for the contact and detailed description.

      I believe you have a late Wagner Ware Chicken Fryer manufactured by General Housewares Corp. Unmarked pieces are notoriously hard to identify, but I suspect the fryer was made before the company introduced their own logo. As for an approximate age, I’d say late 1960s to early 1970s.

      Cheers Lori, hope this helps

  2. I’ll admit that if it is cast iron, I can’t pas sit up, so now I have a well fairly encrusted 5 quart dutch oven with cover. As near as I can tell, it says 5 QT DUTCH OVEN on the bottom and probably says Made in Korea, below that, but nothing else, as far as I can tell. The cover has a #4 stamped on the inside. I’m guessing it is worthless, but might be worth cleaning up to actually use. what do you think? Wayne

    • Hi Sawyer

      Thanks for reaching out.

      It’s good to hear from an enthusiast. I know the Asian made cast-iron is frowned upon by many collectors. And if you clean it up, you’ll probably only receive the value of a second hand pot. So it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort to restore the oven. Unless you’re restoring a whole heap of ironware at the same time.

      But it you’re going to use it yourself, there’s no reason not to clean it up and put it back in to kitchen service.

      Many vintage Korean and Japanese made ironware are fine quality, but there simply don’t have the collectability.

      Hope this helps

      • Well, that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t try to restore it, but I did scrub it up good, reseasoned it a couple of times and popped a chicken into it and stuck it on the woodstove on the special rack that I made years ago. Tasty chicken! We’ve given our daughters all of the cast iron they’ll ever need, I guess we’ll put this one in a grandchild’s lap someday…Wayne

  3. Two Columbus Hollow Ware Companies

    1. The first Columbus Hollow Ware started 1882 to 86 purchasing the Foundry from John Harker. The take away is a Waffle Iron marked “THE FAVORITE” and John Harker plus a Tea Kettle with a John Harker patent of 2-13-1883 date also marked “THE FAVORITE”. Owned by Whiting and bankrupt by AG Patton who had the contract with Columbus Prison.

    2. Second Columbus Hollow Ware entered into a contract with the Columbus Penitentiary in 1897. Unmarked Prison Ware.

    • Hi H.W.

      It sounds like you’re another collector. Thanks for taking the time to send in your thoughts and to pass your knowledge on Columbus Hollow Ware.

      It’s most appreciated.


    • Hi Lawrence

      Thanks for your feedback and it’s most appreciated. I currently work in Japan and thought it was a good idea to add information on Japanese cast iron while I’m over here. I have a couple more articles planned on Japanese enamelware. Then, I’ll shift focus back to American ironware. Hopefully, I’ll add some more on articles on vintage hollowware.

      However, longer term, I’ll start doing historical cooking. I hope you’ll find it interesting. And I think it will appeal to a wide audience.

      Lots of thanks


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