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 19th and 20th century cast iron. This could be due to the fact, 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 to 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’s 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 buying 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’s a quick look at the Wagner Manufacturing Company.
Table: Background to Wagner Manufacturing cast iron
Milton M. Wagner and Bernard P. Wagner
The foundry in Sidney operated from 1891-1959
Wagner was location 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, boilers, 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
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
Firstly, the Wagner family sold their interests in the company
in 1953 and was ownership transferred to the
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
(non collectable cast iron)
In 1957 the Randall Company purchased long tern 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 for good reason. Like most antique cast iron, Wagner, manufactured very high-quality cookware for their entire range of cast iron products.
Unlike Wapak cast iron which often has very 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
It’s really neat to think that workers would have worked on individual pieces, 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 huge range of cast-iron cookware
Sure, I think you can’t go wrong with a good old Wagner cast iron skillet it will serve you well for years and they’re great fun to use. However, you may want to to consider a Wagner Dutch oven. They are super smooth just like the skillets and reasonably priced. You can also buy cast iron muffin pans, which can be pretty cheap. Although watch out for shipping costs, cast iron can be weighty. Some of the 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 made a limited range of products and used fewer logos.
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 hollow ware 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. to their cookware around 1895. The term Wagner Ware was used when Wagner added “Ware” to their logo in the 1920’s.
Nickel plating, aluminum, Magnalite added to the Wagner product line
Nickel plated cast-iron
To complement their cast iron range, Wagner added a nickel
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 however,
in the 19th century bonding two metals together would have required great expertise in metal casting.
Along with nickel plated cast iron the Wagner brothers in 1894 manufactured a line of aluminum cookware which 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. Here is an eBay article on Magnalite if you want to learn more.
Wagner Manufacturing buys their Sidney competition
|Wagner bought Sidney Hollowware Company||In 1897 Wagner bought a Sidney based competitor called 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. were also early adopters of nickel plating cast iron.
Why did Wagner buy Sidney Hollow Ware Company?
It was quite shrewd 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, Willian 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 have ever seen.
Wagner Manufacturing was steadfast on making only quality products because of this the cookware is collected and used to this day.
|Drop in sales|
Although Magnalite was introduced to stop falling sales at Wagner Manufacturing it was not due to their product range.
Magnalite which was hugely popular could not offset the effect of one of the biggest recessions.
From 1929-1941 the US was in the grips of what we now call the Great Depression therefore not only Wagner but many other foundries struggled 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 had also purchased Griswold Manufacturing Company earlier.
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
Remember I’m not a cast-iron expert, however, here’s my tuppence worth as an enthusiast.
1. There’s plenty of Wagner cast iron around, take your time
There’s no shortage of Wagner cast iron. In fact Wagner had a huge market-share of the cookware market back in its hay-day. And there are plenty of fantastic Wagner skillets and Dutch ovens around in great condition.
2. 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. If you’re interested in a Dutch oven then a Wagner Ware Dutch oven could be just your ticket.
3. Inspect carefully, some 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 made of just cast iron, heavy seasoning can hide nickel plating. Nickel plated can wear off or be patchy in places. Take a close look before purchasing.
4. 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’s 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 from all accounts, they’re also great cooking pans.
5. 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 your cooking on a flat surface such as induction or glass.
Learn how to date and identify your Wagner Cast iron using loges 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 1915-1920s
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 to the best of my knowledge (different authoritative published works are inconsistent).
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 Montgomery Ward Department store to produce an in-store label. 1930s.
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.
Final thoughts on Wagner cast iron.
The Wagner Manufacturing Company was known for quality over quantity and therefore had a great reputation for trustworthy products. Today Wager cast iron is highly prized with collectors. However, you don’t need to be a collector to enjoy vintage cast iron.
Although many cast iron enthusiasts may look for a Wagner made skillet, you’re not limited there. Wagner Manufactured a huge selection of cast iron goodies, therefore you may find yourself becoming interested in:
- muffin pans
- Dutch ovens
- Scotch bowls
Since Wagner made some of the finest cast iron of the 19th and 20th century Wagner cast iron is enjoyed by cast iron fans and hobbyist alike. If you have found this article interesting, take a look at our vintage cast iron page, if you want to find leading foundries from the 19th and 20th centuries.