Griswold and Cast Iron Cooking, Part 3

First, here is a little history of cast iron.  The first metal castings took place in 4000 BC.  I’m just guessing those pieces would be fairly collectible :).  According to The Book of Griswold and Wagner by David G. Smith and Chuck Wafford (2010), the first casting of iron took place in China, during the 6th Century BC (other resources say 5th Century BC).

The advanced Native American civilizations made the first American castings in Central and South America before Europeans came, while the European cultures didn’t begin making cast iron until the 14th century.  The first piece of cast iron produced in the colonies was “an iron cooking pot made near Lynn, Massachusetts in 1642.”  (Smith & Wafford, 2010).  The earliest pieces of cast iron produced all had a raised mark, where the molten iron entered the mold, usually on the bottom of the piece.  This was no problem in the 17th century, when cooking was done over a hearth and many of the cast iron pieces had legs.  Most foundries in the first part of the 17th century left a round mark or “sprue” on the bottom of the piece, which transitioned, mid-century, to an “elongated line” or “gate” until the early 1800s.

Pictured below is one of Sid’s oldest pieces; it was a gift from his brother-in-law and sister, John and Bonnie Stanton.

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When the cookstove industry took off, cookware with a sprue or gate on the bottom would no longer work.  Cookware needed to have a smooth bottom.

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Picture from: http://www.thehenryford.org/index.aspx

Cookware or “hollow ware” companies came up with a more sophisticated method of pouring cast iron that involved “connecting another channel called the ‘in gate'” this allowed the gate (raised mark) to be located on the edge or side of the cast iron piece (Smith & Wafford, 2010).  After cooling the gate was cut off and ground down.  Cookware or hollow ware was sold with a new stove as an accessory at that time.  Some of the cast iron cookware was made especially for certain models of stoves, but most could be used for any stove.  Two companies ended up becoming the “world leaders” in hollow ware production:  Griswold, from Erie Pennsylvania and Wagner, from Sidney, Ohio.  

Buyer beware!  When it comes to collectible cast iron, many sellers are asking top dollar and/or ridiculous prices for collectible cast iron.  If you are interested in learning more, there are many resources available to help guide your collection development.  The book referenced above is available from Amazon for about $22 and can save you that on one purchase!

Here’s the info:  The Book of Griswold & Wagner:  Favorite, Wapak, Sidney Hollow Ware.  David G. Smith and Chuck Wafford.  2010.  ISBN:  978-0-7643-3729-1

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