The Favorite, Vintage Cast Iron By The Columbus Hollow Ware Co.

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

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

Company Name

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

1. Skillets
2. Kettles
3. Bailed griddles
4. Long griddles

Cookware Brands

Columbus produced one cookware brand known as THE FAVORITE.
Columbus Hollow Ware Company
Columbus Hollow Ware Company made cast iron cookware such as skillets, griddles, and kettles.

Note: For Collectors And Antique Dealers

If you are a cast-iron collector or an antique dealer, you will come across multiple resources sharing contrasting information. Unfortunately, this is due to the lack of information readily available. 

The company’s outsourcing to a low-cost manufacturer under a new owner resulted in manufacturing shifting from the foundry to Columbus Penitentiary, leading to two company timelines and historical uncertainty.

Separating the timelines is particularly challenging, resulting in two schools of thought among enthusiasts. 

  1. The Columbus Hollow Ware Company produced Favorite marked ironware in-house only.
  2. 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 be inaccurate. I recommend reading multiple resources such as 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 separating the company into two eras, from 1882 to 1885 and 1897 to 1902, accounts for restructuring so you can more accurately date your ironware. 

  1. The Favorite is likely to be made circa 1882-1885.
  2. In 1897, AG Patton obtained the Columbus Hollow Ware Company naming rights, and the reestablished company probably sold unmarked prison-made ironware. 

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

Was The Favorite Ironware Manufactured Using Prison Labor?

Unlikely is my best answer.

Cast iron historians may point to the lack of evidence of a contractual agreement 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 private businesses. And the two parties that did not require a public declaration before 1887. 

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 the 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. It leads me to think the prison would unlikely have made branded products for Columbus Hollow Ware.

Prison-Made Ironware

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, 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 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.

Identify The Favorite Cast Iron
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.

Is The Favorite Cast Iron Brand Collectible?

The antique cast-iron brand THE FAVORITE by Columbus Hollow Ware has everything collectors and enthusiasts want to collect. These include:

  • thinly cast ironware
  • smooth cooking surfaces
  • heat rings
  • old world charm

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

But any enthusiast who 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. 

Final Thoughts

The Favorite cast iron by Columbus Hollow Ware is a piece 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 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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