Graniteware describes enameled metal coffee pots, colanders, salt-and-pepper shakers, cake molds, muffin pans, and skillets produced throughout the Midwestern and Eastern United States from the 1870s until the end of World War II. Patented in 1848 by New York inventor Charles Stumer, graniteware was also known as agateware, enameled ware, and speckleware. Among the many manufacturers of graniteware was the St. Louis Stamping Company, which marketed a line of Granite Iron Ware products for the kitchen.
St. Louis Stamping was one of the earliest producers of graniteware, as was Lalance and Grosjean, which won the Grand Gold Medal at the Paris Exposition of 1878 for its blue and white pieces. Soon, Lalance and Grosjean was producing graniteware for Sears, Roebuck and Company, which the famous catalog company marketed as Peerless Gray Ware. Other early graniteware producers included Bellaire Stamping Company and Vollrath.
Close cousins of graniteware are those pieces whose grays and other colors were mottled or marbled. Colors appeared to blend into each other, or swirl and curlicue separately to create random, eye-catching patterns and effects. Today, mottled enamelware is a favorite of kitchen collectors, but it is usually treated as a separate category from graniteware.
One of the many benefits of graniteware was its low cost—Sears sold a set of 24 pieces for just $4.37. Because of its light weight, graniteware was much easier to handle than comparable cast-iron pieces, and its smooth surface made it easy to clean (white graniteware was popular in nurseries and doctor’s offices). As for pieces that resembled the outside of a speckled robin’s egg, they were simply cheerful and fun to use.
Unfortunately, graniteware was prone to cracking, which would expose the metal underneath and cause it to rust clear through. This tendency was so widespread that a company called Mendets sold patch kits containing a tool that was sharp on one end to ream out the hole, with a wrench on the other to tighten down the patch.
For a while, consumers were scared away from graniteware due to claims of antimony, lead, and arsenic in the enamel, a claim made most prominently by Lalance and Grosjean against its competitors. But in the 1930s, a new, more pressing threat would prove the end of graniteware’s popularity—aluminum.