CAST IRON COOKWARE MANUFACTURERS
Some Brief Histories and Information on Cast Iron Cookware Manufacturers
Cast Iron has long been utilized in the manufacture of cookware due to its durability and ability to retain its heat when used with lower temperature heat sources.
Known as Hollow Ware, this cookware was produced by a pouring molten iron (Cast Iron) into a mold prepared from an iron or brass pattern. Cast Iron was preferred for cooking, and after turning on a lathe, was coated with tin. This method was patented by Jonathan Taylor, a Birmingham (England) workman, in 1779.
“Since the introduction of these methods of protecting and beautifying the surface of iron, domestic vessels of this metal have greatly taken the place of those made from copper and brass.”
The Enameling of cast iron dates as far back as a 1779 patent and a subsequent patent in 1839 by Messrs T. and C. Clark of Wolver Hampton (England), which improved on the process. The difficulties in enameling cast iron were due to the expansion rate difference between the iron and the vitreous enamel coating, but this has subsequently been overcome.
With respect to the use / manufacture of Cast Iron Cookware in the US, the following is interesting to note:
“English hollow-ware is Bent to most civilized countries, but for export trade the best markets are found in the British colonies. Little or none is taken by France and scarcely any by the United States since the outbreak of the civil war, on account of the high duties.”
Also interesting to note:
“A great deal of cast-iron tinned hollowware is now made without being turned, an omission easily detected by the uneven surface which the inside of such vessels presents.”
Stuart, Peterson & Co.’s
One notable US manufacturer of Hollow Ware was the Spring Garden Stove & Hollow Ware Works owned by the Stuart, Peterson & Co.’s Foundry est. 1844 in Philadelphia. By utilizing an automated lathing process, they improved on the hand lathing process employed in England in addition to improving the tinning and enameling processes in use at the time.
Domestic manufacturers such as the Griswold (est. 1865) and the Wagner (est. 1881) at one time used to Lathe, or turn, their cookware but this practice is generally not employed anymore due to manufacturing costs, and the cookware is seasoned with oil and not tinned.
Matthew Griswold and the Seldon brothers started the Seldon-Griswold Manufacturing Company in 1865, manufacturing separable butt hinges and other articles of light hardware. They worked in a building know as the “Butt Factory” on West 10th and Chestnut Streets, on the bank of the Erie Extension Canal in Erie, PA. In the 1870’s, the added cast iron cookware items, such as pots, skillets, and griddles to their line of products.
In 1884, Mathew Griswold who was heading up the company bought out the Seldon’s and formed the Griswold Manufacturing Company and over the next 3 years rounded out their cookware offerings with Kettles, Dutch Ovens, Roasters, and various pots and pans. In 1889, Griswold started the aluminum cookware era by casting aluminum for cookware which became popular due to it’s light weight, and with their reputation for manufacturing the finest cast iron cookware at the time became a leading supplier of aluminum cookware as well.
In 1957, Griswold officialy closed it’s doors after decades of producing a variety cast cookware and other items. Their pieces remain as highly collectable to this day since their unique markings allow them to be dated easily.
The Lodge Manufacturing Company
Blacklock Foundry was established in 1896 by Joseph Lodge in South Pittsburg (ironic), Tennessee and today remains one of America’s oldest cast iron cookware manufacturers still in operation. In 1910, the foundry burned down, and after rebuilding was incorporated as the Lodge Manufacturing Company whose line included holloware, kettles, pots, vents, sad irons (for ironing clothing), andirons, and fireplace grates and fenders.
Lodge is still in business today making cast iron cookware like griddles, skillets, dutch ovens and baking pans.
Please visit their website at www.lodgemfg.com for further information.
The Wagner Manufacturing Company was founded in 1891 by Milton and Bervard Wagner manufacturing cast iron hollow ware and nickel plated ware in Sidney, Ohio.
Although manufacturing a wide range of products, cookware became their claim to fame and they vrtually pioneered the cast aluminum cookware industry in 1894 winning numerous awards internationaly. According to a 1998 article from the Shelby County Historical Society, Wagner was then the oldest continuously operating manufacturer of cookware in the country.
Wagner was acquired by The Randall Company of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1953 and acquired the Griswold line of cookware in 1957. Randall itself was acquired by Textron in 1959, followed by General Housewares in 1969. A group of investors known as The Wagner Corporation bought the Wagner factory in 1997 and closed it in 1999. The plant finally reopened in 2003 and started to produce iron cooking items.
Le Creuset began in 1925 in Fresnoy-le-Grand, France, a route for iron, coke, and sand, when Armand Desaegher, a casting specialist, and Octave Aubecq, an enameling expert, recognized and set out to improve the versatility of cast iron cookware by coating it in a porcelain enamel glaze. That same year, the first cocotte, or French oven, was produced, laying the foundation for what is now an extensive range of cookware and kitchen utensils. Le Creuset’s signature color was Flame, and modeled after the color of the intense orange hue of molten cast iron inside a cauldron (“creuset” in French).
The United States subsidiary was begun in South Carolina in 1974.
References and Quotes:
1) Chambers Encyclopedia, Vol. X., W. & R. Chambers, Edinburgh, 1869
2) A History of American Manufacturers from 1608 to 1860, Edward Young and Company, Philadelphia, 1868
3) Hexamer General Surveys, Volume 9, Ernest Hexamer