Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Griswold Cast Iron

Entire books have been written about Griswold cast iron. I haven't written a dedicated post about this company or their products because I could not decide where to begin.
Griswold cast iron is really sweet. There, that is my beginning.
Griswold cast iron's story began in Erie PA in 1868. Matthew Griswold and John Selden produced hardware items. In 1873 the company was formally named Selden & Griswold Manufacturing Co.
After a fire destroyed the foundry in 1885 a reorganization took place and the company was renamed to Griswold Manufacturing Co. The Griswold family retained ownership until 1947 when the firm was sold to an investment group. In 1957 the Griswold Mfg. Co. was sold twice resulting in Griswold's main competitor, Wagner Manufacturing, taking ownership of the name and trademarks.

Production of cast iron cookware began around 1880 under the ERIE brand.
In 1905 the brand name was changed to Griswold's ERIE and in 1906 the famous Griswold cross logo appeared.
This logo design is known as the Slant/ERIE and it dates from 1906 to 1912.
FYI - Any Griswold piece lacking the word Erie was produced in Wagner's Sidney Ohio plant.
This 100 year old Griswold #12 is getting happy with some Nueske's bacon. No show pieces in my collection - they earn their keep.
There is a crispness and a uniformity to the casting of an older Griswold that is certainly one of the reasons the name is so admired among collectors and users.
This logo design is known as the Slant/Erie PA U.S.A. (or EPU for short) and it dates from 1909-1929. These are my personal favorites.
This logo is known as the Block/Erie PA U.S.A. and these date from 1930-1939. Notice the lack of a heat ring that was seen on the older pieces.
This #8 is the pan that got me interested in old cast iron. I was happily using modern Lodge iron and then I bought this #8 and was immediately impressed. I have been collecting old iron ever since.
Some handle detail showing the difference between the generations.

This quick and dirty blast through Griswold history leaves out a lot of information. If you are interested in learning more I highly recommend you visit http://www.panman.com
This is David G. Smith's website and you can purchase his invaluable books (co-written with Chuck Wafford) directly from the author. David also sells fine old cast iron at very reasonable prices from this site.

27 comments:

Rev. Biggles said...

I've been lucky throughout the years, most all of my cast iron has been given to me. I do have a few newish pieces and the lack of craftpersonship shows easily when compared.

I do have a question though. My brother inlaw has some old Gris (got the cross on the back, but they're enamel coated and nearly unused. Bright red on the outside and white on the inside. Pretty darned cool, but am not a personal fan of the enameled fry pans of any ilk. Know anything about such items?

Biggles

Greg said...

The red exterior with white or cream interior pieces were mostly (entirely?) made in the 1950s.

I'm not a fan of the enameled skillets either but they did made some red/white baking pieces in this time period that look just like modern Le Creuset.

I'd like to find a couple of those.

Rev. Biggles said...

That's what I figgered, just "felt" like the 1950's to me. Yeah, now baking pieces, that's what I'm talkin' about. I have some old descoware, only 1 good sized dutch though. I could use 1 more though ...

Anonymous said...

Greg,
the slant Griswolds are your favorites but is there any difference in quality between the the ones that have just "ERIE" and the ones with the EPU?

How about the even older ones that only have the Erie mark with no Griswold cross at all? I've seen a few lately and since I'm just starting out I want to get the best quality pans. Bobbi

Greg said...

Hi Bobbi - That is a tough question. We would have to find a supply of mint conditioned versions of the ERIE, Griswold Erie and Griswold EPU (all with heat rings) to know for sure.

I have one ERIE #7 that is really rough with grinder marks. I've never seen a latter Griswold in that kind of condition. The thing should have been melted down and redone. That being said there are some really nice Eries.

ALL cast iron cookware made in this time period was largely handmade so there can be a great deal of variance. I suspect that the Slant EPUs are a little more consistent but I'll never own enough pieces to do more than guess.

IF you are interested in collecting these and occasionally cooking in them I can say I like the Griswolds better than the Eries I've handled.

Eries are light! Pick one up and you'll know what I mean. I find the Griswolds like the slant EPUs and the block EPUs to have the ideal heft. They are between the lightweights (like Eries and non Indian head Wapaks) and todays clunky doorstops.

I like them all. I was bidding on some Eries last weekend but somebody else wanted them more.

Becky said...

Curses, Black Iron Dude! Thanks to you, I never can return to the heavy, cheap "modern" (well...30 years old is modern by comparison) skillets I was (mostly not) using my entire life...

Although I did know that my mother's Favorite chicken fryer, and my Piqua Ware dutch oven, were something special, I hadn't looked at my frying pans with a critical eye, until I found your blog.

Now, those pans are banished to the basement, and I've been haunting junk stores and Ebay for a month. Suddenly, every surface of my kitchen is covered with Griswolds and Eries and Wapaks and Wagners in various stages of restoration, and I fear checking my bank account online.

Okay, I'm not really ranting. :-)

I love this stuff. As a culinary historian (in my earlier life) I can not help but appreciate the history and craftsmanship of this early cast iron, and I thank you for opening my eyes to it. And cooking in it is a joy.

I do, however, suddenly have Storage Issues.

Greg said...

Becky -
The workbench in my garage has quite a pile of cast iron waiting to hit the electrolysis tank.

The workmanship of the old iron really is something else. Sounds like you've got the dreaded "castironitis".

I have enough iron that it is difficult to use them all on a regular basis so I see myself cutting way back on the acquisitions. I still have 4-5 pieces that are on my list but I can take my time about finding them.

You should check out the Wagner and Griswold society. The link is on the main page and you'll meet some real experts over there.

{I consider myself an enthusiast, WAGS has the experts.}

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Zank said...

Greta Article Greg! Any idea what ebay item 150338641668 is? Is it woth the money?



Zank

Greg said...

If 150338641668 is the deep skillet with lid I'd say 80 was a good price. The lid alone books for $35.00 and that set is super clean.

chicodaisman is a great seller! I've bought from him before and would do so again.

If you bought it spring the extra money for insurance. ($1.70 usually)

Brian said...

Great blog. I have recently been smitten by the love of vintage cast iron. I just picked up Wagner 6 1/2 and an unmarked (at least I think it is unmarked since there is quite a lot of caked up gunk on the bottom) Two questions what is the best way to remove the gunk from the pan and get back to a smooth surface and are there any resources for information on unmarked pieces of cast iron?

Greg said...

Hi Brian,
See http://blackirondude.blogspot.com/2009/01/easy-cast-iron-skillet-reconditioning.html for an easy method.

I recommend the books "The Book of Griswold & Wagner" and "The Book of Wagner & Griswold" They also cover Favorite, Wapak, Lodge, Martin, Sidney etc etc. In these books you also see the store brands (Merit, Puritan, National) as well as unmarked pieces and the characteristics that help ID the maker.

Look at the link at the bottom of the Griswold article to buy these from one of the authors.

Bosch said...

Great post....its very important for cast iron with high quality...thanks for some tips and information share. we will come back often.

c said...

i bought my first griswold skillets the other day. one was a #3 with small logo in middle and erie pa and 709 I also i found a #9 with epu slant logo with heat ring and 710 b markings was $ 65 for both skillets a good price?

Greg said...

Bosch - thanks!

C - it depends on the condition of the pans. A slant logo #9 is a beauty when it is in good shape.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have name or contact information for the large Griswold dealer in Kentucky, who visits the Hillsville VA Flea Market every Labor Day weekend?

Anonymous said...

I picked up a Gris Dutch Oven about 10 yrs ago at a yard sale for $1. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I found it in a box and asked what they wanted for the piece of Cast Iron. They said they wanted $1 for the whole box of cookware. I told them I didnt want the whole box, just the Cast Iron. We settled on $1 and she could sell the rest of the box to someone else. It wasn't until now that I decided to see exactly what I have, and maybe get a ballpark figure as to its worth. It isn't for sale, but I'd like to know what I have.

This piece of Griswold is in mint condition. I dont think it was ever seasoned, although there is a light coat of what appears to be black oil or some other form of protector in spots around the inner and outer surfaces. I am guessing that the coating is from the factory. I am positive that this piece ever had contact with a stove top or oven. Having worked in a foundry and machine shop in my younger years, I know that metal products are almost always coated before shipping to prevent rust.

After reading your comments about Griswold in general, I was wondering if you can give me an idea as to what I have.

The Dutch Oven is marked as such:

CAST IRON
8
TOP-TITE DUTCH OVEN
ERIE PA., U. S. A.
PATENT 1,333,917
1278

GRISWOLD appears to be Block. Any info would be appreciated.

Thanks,
j

CrabDaddy said...

i have a #5 skillet with no identifying name or maker marks.....it has a heat ring, and the pan is a tad more rounded that most other skillets i have seen.....the only marks on the bottom are 5.X.

i was wondering if anyone had any idea who might have produced this skillet?.....i have cleaned it and begun re-seasoning it.....it seems to be older iron because it is so smooth inside.....any ideas?

Greg said...

J - It sounds like you have a New Griswold Dutch Oven. Value would be highest to collectors.

I can't even give you a good guess - over 100.00?

CrabDaddy - Send me some pictures, especially of the bottom and I'll see what I can tell you.

Stan said...

Greg,
I have a 10" SQUARE pan with the handle in the center of the side (not in the corner). It has a "block" logo with the only other marking as the number "57". Do you think this is a fake, and would you have any info? Thank you.

Stan

David said...

Greg,

I have a small kitchen and as much as I would love to build a collection of old CI like yours, I simply don't have the space. That said, you definitely know your stuff when it comes to old CI so if I was only going to get one or two old skillets which makes and sizes would you recommend? I'm a bachelor and rarely cook for more than a few people at a time so I know I don't need a huge 14" skillet, but I would like your insights as to what are one or two essential pieces.

Thanks!
David (Mission Viejo, CA)

Greg said...

Stan - Your piece may have been cast in the Wagner foundry after 1957.

David - I wrote a post about this question that you can read here >

http://blackirondude.blogspot.com/2008/09/what-cast-iron-would-i-buy-if-starting.html

You can mix and match brands. I am often amazed at how nice Favorite Piqua Ware CI pieces are and they command much less money. Griswolds are sweet but you pay more for them.

Good luck!

Sarah said...

Thanks to your blog I was able to dig my old cast iron and tackle the reconditioning process. I had only found intimidating and conflicting information online and your articles made the task seem totally manageable.

I picked this one out of a stack a few years ago knowing absolutely nothing about this stuff. Turns out it was a lucky grab, it looks like the exact same block erie #8 that got you started.

Except for the K on yours, do you know what that means?

Here are some pics. I'm loving it so far already fried some onions and roasted brussel sprouts. It looks happy.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2106395&id=5903861&l=b080278743

Greg said...

Sarah, That is great news.

One of my goals with this blog is to get people to rescue these great old pieces and put them back to use.

Very happy to see your Griswold is back in business. Take care of it because nobody will ever make them like that again.

Lauren said...

Hi Greg, et al.!

My husband is the major chef of our little newlywed family, and hinted a while back about wanting a cast iron skillet. After some researching, I've ditched the idea of those Lodges, and am now on the hunt for a nice, smooth, old Griswold (or Wagner?). I'm not really interested in purchasing a collectable for collectability's sake or paying for hype/ego, but just really want one or two really fantastic good-quality skillets. I'll check out the offerings at the Pan Man's page, but thought I'd ask for some input:

1. What's a good beginning to a skillet collection? Most versatile sizes/types?

2. Is Griswold truly the best way to go, or do Wagners, Favorite's have their own virtues?

3. What's best (size/type-wise) for (a) your basic fryup, (b) for grilled sandwiches, or (c) for steaks?

4. Can you recommend any other reputable sellers? My big fear is wasting money on a fake when the cheap Lodges would have been better...

I'm limiting myself to around $150. What would be the best use of this Christmas Skillet Budget? (If that's even enough, I don't know!)

Ever so many thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have a little skillet I found at an estate sale. It has a 3 at the 12 o'clock position. A "Y" at 6 o'clock and 3 little vertical lines under it. The heat ring is broken at 12, 3 and 9. No letters or numbers on the handle. Its very smooth under all the grime. 2 little pour spouts. Any idea what it could be?

Greg said...

Lauren - You'll find the answers to your questions in other posts on the blog.

Anon - You have a Lodge skillet.

Gerard said...

Have #9 Dutch Oven Slant/Erie "2552" but the cover "834" Slant/Erie spells it "GIRSWOLD" Otherwise it matches. Is this a "Monday Morning Hangover" mistake?