Identify and date your Wagner cast iron cookware using logos. Also, learn the fascinating history of Wagner Manufacturing.
Wagner cast iron cookware is regarded by many as some of the finest examples of 19th and 20th century cast iron. And much of the cast iron is over 100 years old and still very usable today. These antique pans are sought-after by enthusiasts and those preferring vintage cast iron to newer pans. But identifying and dating these old Wagner Ware Sidney -o- pans can be tricky.
So, with this article, I hope to help you and other proud owners identify and give an estimate on the age of your cookware. You can also learn the history of your cast iron manufactured by the Wagner Manufacturing Company.
Here is what you can find in this article.
- Wagner cast iron “why is it so collectible?”
- Learn the history of the Wagner Manufacturing Company.
- Where you can buy Wagner cast iron.
- Considerations when purchasing Wagner cast iron cookware.
- How you can identify and date antique Wagner cast iron using trademarks and logos.
- Final thoughts on collecting vintage Wagner Ware cast iron.
But first, here is a quick look at the Wagner Manufacturing Company.
Background to Wagner Manufacturing cast iron.
Milton M. Wagner and Bernard P. Wagner
The foundry in Sidney operated from 1891-1959
Wagner was located in Sidney, Shelby County, Ohio
Wagner was one of the largest American manufacturers of cast iron products in the 20th century.
Their product line included: skillets, kettles, bean pots, Dutch Ovens, roasters, fruit presses, scoops, broilers, Griddles, waffle irons, muffin pans, and cornbread pans.
The company also had a range of aluminum cookware.
Wagner used different logos and had a range of budget-friendly brands.
Wagner labeled their cookware under the following names:
Wagner, Wagner Ware Sidney -o-, Wagner Ware, National, Long Life, Magnalite, Wardway, and Ward’s Cast Iron
Wagner is best known for the Sidney -O- range of skillets and Dutch Ovens.
Reason for closure
The reason for the closure of the foundry came from two fronts.
Firstly, the Wagner family sold their interests in the company in 1953 and was ownership transferred to the Randell Company.
Secondly, the company struggled financially because of a drop in sales.
This was due to two World Wars, the Great Depression, the development of new cookware materials, and the increase of lower-priced imports from Asia.
Wagner after buyout
In 1957 the Randall Company purchased long-term competitor Griswold from McGraw Edison.
The Randall Company was sold to Textron Corp in 1959.
Textron was sold to General Housewares Corporation in 1969.
In 1994 production of Wagner Ware ended.
Why is Wagner cast iron collectible?
Super smooth cooking surface.
Wagner cast iron is highly collectible. Like most antique cast iron, Wagner manufactured high-quality cookware for their entire range of cast iron products.
Unlike, Wapak cast iron ironware that often has characteristic casting flaws. Wagner cast iron tends to have few casting flaws resulting in very smooth cookware on both the interior and exterior of the cookware.
Focus on quality
Imagine that workers would have worked on individual pieces of ironware. And machined smooth the interior and exterior of each pan. You can only see this level of detail in high-end cast iron cookware such as Le Creuset and Staub.
Today Le Creuset and Staub have the benefit of combining traditional and modern methods of manufacturing. However, for the workers at Wagner, to make cast iron cookware without casting flaws or bubbles. Must have taken great skill and attention to detail.
Wagner made a wide range of cast-iron cookware.
Sure, I think you can’t go wrong with an old Wagner cast iron skillet. It will serve you well for years, and they’re great fun to use. However, you may want to consider a Wagner Dutch oven. They are super smooth, and just like the skillets, they are reasonably priced. You can also buy cast iron muffin pans, which can be pretty cheap. But watch out for shipping costs that can increase to overall price drastically. Some of Wagner cast-iron cookware range includes:
- Dutch ovens
- Gem pans
- Waffle irons
You can even collect Wagner cast iron cornbread pans that are in the shape of corn cobs. Wagner Manufacturing also produced aluminum cookware. Which must have seemed revolutionary for the time.
Collect your favorite logo.
If you are looking for a vintage skillet, then Wagner skillets are a great choice. You can choose from sixteen different logos and trademarks or markings. I like pans with heat rings, while others may prefer a pan with a smooth base.
I think this wide selection makes Wagner cookware more collectible than other manufactures. Such as Vollrath and Martin Stove and Range, which manufactured a limited range of products.
Wagner Manufacturing Company focused on quality over quantity.
Quality was a focus from the very start for Wagner Manufacturing Company. They even advertised to consumers this selling point. Old advertisements read;
We do not strive to manufacture hollowware as cheaply as possible but as good as it can be made. We cannot afford to put on the market ware that will not sustain our reputation. The name Wagner is cast on the bottom of each piece of ware.
Wagner Manufacturing Company History
Founders and foundry
Who founded Wagner Manufacturing?
Wagner Manufacturing Company was founded in 1891 by Milton M. and Bernard P. Wagner. However, two more Wagner brothers, Louis and William Wagner, joined the company in the following years.
Another key player in the foundation of the company was R. Bingham. Bingham previously worked at Marion Stove Company and the Sidney Manufacturing Company.
|Where was Wagner cast iron and Wagner Ware made?||The company was based in Sidney, Shelby County, Ohio. |
Although early cookware was simply stamped Wagner, later Wagner included Sidney O. in their cookware around 1895. The term Wagner Ware first appeared in the logo in the 1920s.
Nickel plating, aluminum, Magnalite were added to the Wagner product line.
Nickel-plated cast iron
To complement their cast iron range, Wagner added a nickel-plated range.
Unlike cast iron and copper pots, nickel plating does not react to acidic foods such as tomatoes which can taint food.
It’s easy to look past the development of nickel-plating. But, in the 19th-century bonding, two metals together would have required a lot of expertise in metal casting.
Along with nickel-plated cast iron, the Wagner brothers in 1894 manufactured a line of aluminum cookware, and Wagner Manufacturing was one of the first companies to do so.
|Aluminum cookware exported to Europe||By 1913, Wagner cast iron and aluminum products were selling in Europe.|
In the 1930s, Wagner manufactured a cookware line with a patented aluminum alloy which they called Magnalite.
Wagner Manufacturing buys their Sidney competition.
|Wagner bought Sidney Hollowware Company.||In 1897, Wagner bought the Sidney-based competitor Sidney Hollow Ware Co. from the founder and owner Phillip Smith. |
Sidney Hollow Ware made very high-quality cast iron cookware that was extremely light and smooth. Sidney Hollow Ware Co. was also an early adopter of nickel-plating cast iron.
Why did Wagner buy Sidney Hollow Ware Company?
It was a brilliant idea to buy the Sidney Hollow Ware Company. After all, Wagner Manufacturing and Sidney competed in the same city and made comparable products.
However, it was common knowledge that Smith made a tidy profit from his original investment in the foundry. To run the Sidney Foundry, William H. Wagner joined the family business to oversee the operation.
Wagner sold Sidney Hollow Ware back to Phillip Smith.
In 1903 the Sidney Hollow Ware Company was sold back to the original founder Phillip Smith. Sadly due to health reasons, Phillip Smith did not reopen the foundry.
Wagner introduces a new product line to stop a decline in sales.
|The Great Depression|
I have to take my hats off to Wagner because they introduced a new product line called Magnalite in one of the deepest recessions the world has ever seen.
Wagner Manufacturing was steadfast in making only quality products. For this reason, the cookware is collected and highly usable to this day.
|The sales decline|
Although Magnalite was introduced to stop falling sales at Wagner Manufacturing, it was not due to their product range.
Magnalite was hugely popular, but it could not offset the effect of the worldwide recession.
From 1929-1941, the US was in the grips of what we now call the Great Depression. Therefore it was not only Wagner. But many foundries struggled financially to survive. Many didn’t.
The family sells their interest in the foundry.
Wagner family sells the company to Randall Corp.
Wagner Manufacturing Co. lasted longer than many foundries. However, in 1952 Wagner was sold to the Randall Company. Unbelievably the Randall Company was a car parts manufacturer.
|Textron buys Randall|
In 1959, the company was sold again. This time to a company called Textron. Textron also purchased Griswold Manufacturing Company.
At this time, it is considered production of Wagner Ware stopped. Wagner cast iron pans made after this date are currently considered not as collectible.
|General House Wares|
General Housewares Corporation in 1969 buys the rights of Griswold and Wagner.
|Is Wagner Ware still made?|
With the world rediscovering cast iron cookware, will we see Wagner Ware skillets manufactured again?
General Houses Ware stopped the manufacture of Wagner Ware 1994.
However, there is a glimmer of hope for Wagner Ware. In 2014 American Culinary bought both the Wagner and Griswold trademarks.
So fingers crossed cast-iron fans, one day they may decide to manufacture Wagner cast iron again.
Where can you get your hands on some Wagner Ware?
- grandparents (best deal and great to keep your heritage in the family)
- antique stores (check online to compare the store price)
- garage sales (rescue those poor skillets from the tip)
- flea markets (search the markets for hidden gems)
- online (largest selection available, however, asking prices can vary greatly)
Buying considerations before you buy antique Wagner Ware
There is plenty of Wagner cast iron around, so take your time.
There is no shortage of Wagner cast iron. In fact, Wagner had a large percentage of the cookware market back in its hay-day. And there are plenty of fantastic Wagner skillets and Dutch ovens around in excellent condition.
What size skillet or Dutch oven suits your needs?
The first thing you may want to think about is the size you need. There are often plenty of #8 skillets around. This size seems to be the most common. Not only for Wagner skillets but for most of the other vintage cast iron manufacturers such as Favorite Piqua.
Inspect carefully since a lot of Wagner Ware is nickel-plated.
Check the cookware carefully. The Wagner Manufacturing Company were early adopters of nickel plating. Although much of Wagner cookware will be simply cast iron, heavy seasoning can hide nickel plating. Nickel-plated can wear off or be patchy in places. Take a close look before purchasing.
Would you like a Wagner Ware skillet with a smooth bottom or with a heat ring?
Do you want a pan with a smooth bottom or one with a heat ring? The older Wagner Ware skillets will have a heat ring while the later made pans have a smooth flat base. It is really a personal preference. I tend to like the older skillets with heat rings. I think they have more character, but the smooth bottom Wagner cookware tends to be a little cheaper. And they are great cooking pans too.
Does the cookware sit flat?
As with all antique cast iron, it could be a good idea to ask the seller if the pan sits flat. This is especially important if you are cooking on a flat surface such as induction or glass.
Learn how to date and identify your Wagner Cast iron using logos and markings.
Although I’ve researched carefully, please use the dates as an approximation only.
Wagner cast iron cookware, to my knowledge, has sixteen known logos, brands, or markings. These include:
Straight Wagner logo 1890s-1915
Wagner arc logo 1891-1910
Double Arc Wagner Sidney O 1895-1915
Sidney Arc logo circa 1897-1903.
Straight Sidney logo circa 1897-1903.
Straight Wagner Sidney O. (Centered.) 1910-1915
Wagner Sidney O. Wagner slightly arced while the Sidney lettering is straight. Circa 1915-the 1920s
First Wagner Ware Sidney O. with Arc Wagner and straight Ware and Sidney. Circa 1920s.
Stylized Wagner Ware Sidney O. for regular skillets. Circa 1920-1924 with heat ring and single-digit size number. 1924-1935 with heat ring and a four-digit pattern number. Around 1935-1959 for skillets with no heat ring.
Centralized Stylized Wagner Sidney O. 1924-1935 with heat ring.
Pie Logo 1924-1934. However, manufacturing dates are uncertain.
National cast iron 1914-1940s.
There are several different versions of cast iron with the National marking. This budget-friendly range was manufacturing from circa 1914 to 1940.
Long Life logo 1930s.
Wardway and Montgomery Ward. Wagner Manufacturing Company was contracted by the Montgomery Ward Department store to produce an in-store label. Circa the 1930s.
Final thoughts on Wagner cast iron.
Fortunately, Wagner cast iron is easier to date than other foundries of the time. Wagner Ware also has a huge collector base, so dates are well documented. The Cast Iron Collector is a valuable online resource for enthusiasts. Also, there are Facebook groups you can share your love of cast iron cookware.
The Wagner Manufacturing Company was known for quality over quantity. And, therefore had a good reputation for making trustworthy products. Today Wagner cast iron is highly prized by collectors. However, you don’t need to be a collector to enjoy vintage cast iron.
Although many cast iron enthusiasts look for Wagner-made skillets. But you’re not limited there. Wagner Manufactured a wide selection of cast iron goodies. And you may find yourself becoming interested in:
- muffin pans
- Dutch ovens
- Scotch bowls
Since Wagner made some of the finest quality cast iron of the 19th and 20th centuries. Wagner ironware is enjoyed by cast-iron fans and hobbyists alike.