Tag Archives: WagnerWare Cast Iron

History Of Wagner Cast Iron

Rusty WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1058
Rusty WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1058

Go to our new site: The Kitchen Professor. We have a free eBook to help you find the date of your Wagner. Click HERE!

The use of cast iron for cookware is centuries old and many of the vintage pieces can still be used today. For example, cast iron Dutch ovens were used by the settlers of the United States as they traveled westward. Without their wood burning stoves, the camp Dutch oven provided a way for the travelers to cook their meals over an open fire.

Wagner Hollow Ware Company (Pre Wagner Manufacturing Company)

The  official start of the Wagner Manufacturing Company was in 1891 and you can see the centennial commemoration of this in the 1991 version of the cast iron frying pan.  However, the Wagner brothers, Bernard and Milton,  actually started making metal castings of light hardware for general stores back in 1881.  In addition, the brothers manufactured tin hollowware for government contracts. Tin hollowware is describes  general tableware like  sugar bowls, tea or coffee pots, soup containers, hot food covers, water pitchers, platters, butter plates and other metal items that went with the dishware on a table. Hollowware does not include flatware.  Bernard and Milton Wagner are credited as the first to cast iron for cookware in Sidney, Ohio. WagnerWare was born.

(A short footnote about the Centennial Commemoration of the 1991 version of the skillet, The Wagner’s 1891 Original Cast Iron Skillet – though it stated “Original,” along with a date, this line of cookware was manufactured in 1991 through the late 1990s.  You can tell the quality difference pretty much immediately. modemac over at Cast Iron Chaos has some additional details also.)

Go to our new site: The Kitchen Professor. We have a free eBook to help you find the date of your Wagner. Click HERE!

WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1058
WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1058

Wagner Manufacturing Company

This is the start of the Wagner cast iron dynasty as we are familiar with it. Two other brothers, William and Louis, were added to the mix in 1891 which triggered the beginning of WagnerWare cast iron cookware.  With the momentum of population growth and expansion, the Wagner brothers had a market ripe for growth and built the most modern and technologically advanced manufacturing facility for casting iron at the time.  Wagner Manufacturing was able to produce world class cookware, rivaling and later surpassing the other powerhouse in the cast iron cookware arena, Griswold.  WagnerWare Cookware was awarded in several nationwide as well as some international expositions, including but not limited to expositions in Chicago, Nashville, Paris, Buffalo, and St. Louis.

Size #3 Used for Serving
Cast Iron Skillet, WagnerWare Size #3 Used for Serving

Uniting Wagner and Griswold

In some circles, this is stated as “Wagner acquiring Griswold” but it is not that simple.  The real story is slightly more complicated and is quite common when small family operated business grow into large corporations.  Companies are bought and sold, consolidated and dismantled, and the cast iron cookware business is no different.  The Randall Corporation purchased Wagner Manufacturing in 1952. McGraw Edison Inc. bought Griswold on March 29, 1957 and then sold it in December 1957 to Randall who already owned Wagner.

Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
http://www.nmhistorymuseum.org/
Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
http://www.nmhistorymuseum.org/

 

Go to our new site: The Kitchen Professor. We have a free eBook to help you find the date of your Wagner. Click HERE!

Beginning of the End

WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1056
Frying an Egg – WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1056

 

Effectively, the Griswold manufacturing plant in Erie, Pennsylvania was shut down in 1957 and any Griswold cookware made after this period was out of the Wagner Manufacturing Sidney, Ohio plant.  This was the beginning of the end of the high quality cookware that both, Griswold and Wagner, were known for.  Well, that might be a little bit harsh but most experts do agree that the quality started to decline in quality at this point.  In 1959, the final nail in the coffin came when Randall sold off Griswold and Wagner to Textron.  It is widely accepted that post 1960 Griswold and Wagner cookware is not in the same collectable class as the pre 1960 cookware.  General Housewares Corp. bought Textron Inc. in 1969 and that included the Griswold and Wagner cast iron cookware lines.  One could argue that those cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, and griddles that were made after the merger and acquisitions are better than the ones made after 1990 or so, and that probably not far from the truth.  However, if you compare a modern day, Made in China, cast iron skillet to a 1970, Made in the USA WagnerWare cast iron skillet, to a 1920 Griswold or Wagner cast iron skillet, the difference will be clear.  An interesting note is that cookware that declares it was Made in the USA are typically not considered collectable pieces.


Modern Era

In 1996, a group of investors, which included a former employee of Wagner, purchased the Wagner and Griswold cookware lines.  This was known as the WagnerWare Corporation.  They continued manufacturing for another 3 years before closing their doors in Sidney in 1999.  In 2000, the American Culinary Corporation purchased the rights, legacy, and remaining facilities of the Wagner and Griswold lines.  The former employee noted above is Peter Pike and is the President/CEO of the American Culinary Corporation.  It is clear that Mr. Pike is dedicated to the legacy and quality of the Wagner and Griswold names.

Are you interested in buying vintage cast iron?

Please check out my post on how I acquired my first piece of Wagner Cast Iron.  It might be a different scenario than you think!

Curious about enameled cast iron?  The pretty, colorful stuff – read this blog entry for some of the finer points of Enameled Cast Iron vs. Cast Iron.

Preheating - WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet - 1056
Preheating – WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet – 1056

 

Reference: http://www.americanculinarycorp.com/

 

Dating Wagner Cast Iron

How Old Is My Wagner Cast Iron Skillet?

Go to our new site: The Kitchen Professor. We have a free eBook to help you find the date of your Wagner. Click HERE!

WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillet: #3 and #6
Wagner Ware Cast Iron: 1053 (#3) and 1056 (#6)

I hear the question all the time: How old is my Wagner cast iron skillet? Is there a way to date my Wagner cast iron dutch oven?  Or even my Griswold skillet?

It is not an easy answer and there are a few factors to consider.  So, first off there is a line of demarcation for collectible cast iron cookware.  Roughly after 1960, the cast iron cookware that was made in the US is not considered a “collectible” item.  It just means it the collectors don’t hold those pieces of cookware as high as the other pre-1960 pieces.  I would say the 1960s – early 1980s made cast iron cookware is still pretty darn good and probably some of those pieces are better than what you can get today.  Read a little more about the history of Wagner Cast Iron and even Griswold Cast Iron…

In many cases, we cannot determine the exact date that a piece of cookware was made.  Unfortunately.  We can come pretty close to a range of dates once we understand a little bit about the manufacturing of the cookware. The iron foundries would have moulds for the various pieces of cookware and over time the moulds would need to be replaced.  Or through expansion the foundries would get more moulds to increase production or to make another piece of cookware.  Why is all this is important?  Well, the logos and markings on the bottom and handles of cookware would change over time.  In this way, we can assume within a range when a piece of cookware was actually made.

The two pieces to the right (which I found on ebay), are most likely from the period from 1925 – 1959.  It’s a pretty big range, I know.  And one of them, the #3 was apparently never used.  When I got it, there was a little bit of rust present on the gray, unseasoned, raw cast iron.  Amazing that it never had any food on it until I bought it.  I simply washed it with some soap and hot water, soaked it in 50% vinegar & 50% water for 20 minutes.  After that I seasoned it using the method outlined here.




One of the best ways to tell is by the font, location, and styling of the logo and trademarks on the bottom of the cookware.  I highly recommend checking out castironcollector.com with some photos and relative dates.  I used the photos there to review the font and location of the logo on the bottom of the skillet.  You can see the script-style on the “W” where there is a small loop in the center.  The logo and writing is in the center near the top, or opposite the handle.  The “Wagner” has a bit of an arc to it, while “Ware” and “Sidney” are written straight with no arc.  The guide at castironcollector.com has photos for a whole bunch of manufacturers: Favorite Stove & Range, Griswold Manufacturing, Lodge Manufacturing, Martin Stove & Range, Sidney Hollow Ware, Vollrath Manufacturing, Wapak Hollow Ware, and, of course, Wagner Cast Iron Manufacturing.

Wagner Cast Iron Skillet: My First Vintage Cast Iron Cookware

 Wagner Cast Iron Skillet

Wagner Cast Iron Skillets
My first vintage cast iron – three Wagner Cast Iron Skillets

Here is my first vintage cast iron!  I have heard about how great the vintage Wagner cast iron (or WagnerWare cast iron)  is versus the new modern varieties that you might find these days. Today, Lodge dominates they market and I have plenty of Lodge cast iron cookware (skillets, griddles, and dutch ovens).  You can also find some cheaper brands, probably made in China, and most likely inferior to the Lodge. These Wagner cast iron skillets were actually in pretty darn good shape overall.  The quality was apparent even it if was partly psychological.  Either way, I could immediately see how smooth the interior surface of the skillets were.

Buying Vintage Wagner Cast Iron

WagnerWare Cast Iron: #3 and #6
WagnerWare Cast Iron: 1053 (#3) and 1056 (#6)

I found this piece on eBay as part of a lot of 3 Wagner Cast Iron Skillets – there was an unmarked #3, a WagnerWare #3 1053H, and a WagnerWare #6 1056N. In the photo on the auction, it was clear the 1053H was never really used – there was no seasoning to be seen, the color was of raw cast iron (gray), and there was a little rust clearly visible.  The unmarked #3 and the 1056N looked fantastically seasoned – shiny and black! Well, there you go, you can see for yourself

I was seeking out good deals for some Wagner skillets on eBay.  The thing is some of the very clean pieces that have been stripped, de-rusted, and re-seasoned can fetch a pretty penny.  We’re talking $20 or $30 up to over $100.  Surely some of these items are over priced to some extent, maybe some of the pieces are just really rare and hard to find, or maybe some bidders let their emotions take over and the final, winning bid was higher than they intended.  It isn’t like there is manufacturers suggested retail price for this stuff.

Anyhow, I focused my search on some of the lower priced items initially.  Once I narrowed it down a bit, I looked for items with some apparent and visible defects.  My reasoning was that it would be easy in most cases to fix any of those defects.  If a skillet is rusty, then you can clean it well, use some vinegar at a 50% dilution with tap water and soak it for a little while.  Maybe use a little steel wool to get the last bit off.  If a skillet is a little crusty or even a lot crusty with old greasy seasoning, you can still deal with that.  You’d be able to use some restoration methods and end up with a pretty good result.

You also have to think about the shipping costs with cast iron, after all, that iron is pretty darn heavy! Some of the pieces are bulky and require a awkwardly shaped box.  Essentially, you have to take into account the shipping cost when bidding because in some cases the shipping can make up 50% of the total price.  Just keep that in mind…

Here are a couple other tips when buying on eBay:

Size #3 Used for Serving
Cast Iron Skillet, Size #3 Used for Serving
  • Ask questions!  You can just be direct and ask about the condition: Is there any rust on the item? Is there any pitting?  Are there chips, especially around the edges?  Is the bottom completely flat and absent of wobbling?  Are there any defects?  You only want to purchase from a reputable seller and a reputable seller will answer your questions promptly and honestly. I actually bought a pretty beat up Wagner 1058 that was a little rusty on the inside and had 1/8″ of visible gunk and seasoning in some areas. I cleaned it up using some oven cleaner and patience. It looked pretty beautiful once it was cleaned up but a crack was also revealed.  It’s not a huge deal since it actually doesn’t seem to affect the cooking at all even though you can see the crack on the interior and the bottom of the skillet.  That’s a long way of saying that, 1) a crack isn’t necessarily a big deal, and 2) defects may not be apparent if the cast iron cookware has a thick layer of seasoning.
  • Flat bottom usually means no heat ring rather than non warped.  Check out a few of the auctions that do have cookware with a heat ring and  you will see what I mean. Cast iron can become warped if it was heated or cooled too quickly and the result is a permanent disfiguring of the metal.  It is most critical if you are cooking on a flat glass top and if the warping is severe, you may not be able to use the cookware effectively on the stovetop but the oven or grill would still be fair game. If you are using a gas range, or electric coils, the impact of a warped piece is far less important. To reference the Wagner 1058 again, this skillet was flat on the bottom with no wobbling initially.  Well, after all of the cleaning it turned out to be a little wobbly.  I do have a flat, glass top stove top range so this isn’t ideal.  However, the skillet is still usable and seems avoid having a hot spot based on the point of the skillet that is actually touching the stove. I do need to do some more research on that though.
  • Beware of reproductions.  Here is another gotcha that you can ask about and while the seller may not admit it directly, you will have made it clear that you know what you’re talking about! Look out for the “Wagner’s 1891 Original” which was manufactured from 1991 to 1999.  You can find these often; you’ll know they aren’t vintage because of the engraving on the bottom dated “1891” and the fact that they are completely underprices for some cast iron that is over 100 years old.

 

WagnerWare 1056
Wagner Cast Iron Skillet – 1056

How Much Does Vintage Cast Iron Cost?

In this case, I won the auction for $12.05!  A great bargin if you ask me!  “How much was the shipping?!” you say.  The shipping for the lot of 3 skillets was $15.85. Yep, the shipping cost more than the goods.  Each of the skillets was less then $10 a piece, they can pretty much last for a few lifetimes if you take care of them right.  I felt great about this deal overall.  This may be an exception as far as the pricing but I think if you lurk around and take your time while monitoring the auctions, you too can find a good deal. As I mentioned, you can find a full range of pricing, from reasonable to outrageous.

Afterthoughts: Quality of Vintage Cast Iron

Well, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the unnamed #3 but it turned out to be wicked smooth and in excellent shape.  The seasoning on this one was first rate! The 1053H was pretty much pristine – It looks like it was in the original box for 50 years and got a little damp.  I am certain that it was never used and after a little vinegar bath for about 30 minutes, plus a little baking with canola oil (how to season), this 1053H was better than it was new.  The 1056N looked  great with a very solid looking seasoning.  I took it for a test run with an egg and it performed flawlessly – no sticking at all! I am really happy with my purchases and look forward to finding more great deals on eBay.

 

Wonder why you can use a #3 or 1053 cast iron skillet for?  Check out this recipe for calzones cooked on the grill.

For some additional information, I encourage you to check out The Cast Iron Collector site. It has a huge amount of valuable information and a very nice community and forum.