From 1865 until the late 1950s, the Griswold Manufacturing Company of Erie, Pa. made various cast iron implements for home use, including many types of hardware. Their selection of cookware included skillets, muffin pans, roasters, bread molds, waffle irons, kettles, dutch ovens and even miniatures. These pieces stood the test of time and are the items most often found by collectors today.
Since they were usually made with black iron, collectors easily recognize them now. The distinctive mark on the back of each piece frequently confirms a Griswold cast iron find, but this firm actually used a number of different signatures during the life of the company.
More About the Marks
The first mark used by Griswold was simply "Erie." Later pieces found their identity with a cross shaped mark within a circle similar to the one shown in the illustration at right. There were several variations of that mark used through 1957 when the company was sold.
Other companies manufactured cast iron using the name after the company changed hands, but collectors look for the words "Erie," "Erie PA" or "Erie PA USA" under the logo to confirm that their treasures were indeed made in Pennsylvania. The later use of the Griswold logo was legal, so newer pieces aren't technically considered to be reproductions. Ardent collectors don't favor them as much as the older pieces, however, and the price they are willing to pay reflects this judgment.
The Significance of Size Numbers
Since many of these items, skillets for example, came in a variety of sizes, the numbers located on the backs of most pieces helped consumers communicate the size they needed when they were new. Now, collectors use these numbers as indicators of value and rarity, since most price guides list Griswold pieces by item type and then by size number. For instance, collectors may find #12 and #14 skillets (although not inexpensively for early marks) fairly readily, but have more difficulty locating a #13 to complete a Griswold skillet collection.
Collectible Cast Iron in the Kitchen
One of the best parts of collecting cast iron comes with being able to really enjoy the functionality of these pieces in the kitchen. Many cooks hang iron skillets and pans on walls for pleasing displays and easy access.
Often found caked with years worth of grease, grime and rust when discovered at flea markets and estate sales, with a little cleaning and care, these heavy duty collectibles can function in the kitchen once again without worry about damage.
Learn about cleaning and seasoning cast iron on page two.