Skillets are the workhorses of the kitchen, used morning, noon, and night to cook up everything from bacon and eggs to dirty rice. Accordingly, skillets are typically built to take almost non-stop use, with cast iron being a favorite medium for manufacturers.
In the second half of the 19th century, one particularly legendary cast-iron cookware maker was Griswold Manufacturing Company. Based in Erie, Pennsylvania, Griswold made its first skillets in 1865. Dating Griswold skillets, which were produced in a range of sizes (from #6 to #12), can be tricky because so many different marks on the bottoms of Griswold pans were produced concurrently.
For example, the word ERIE or “ERIE” was stamped on the bottoms of Griswold skillets through 1909, but in 1874, Griswold also began to combine the stamped word ERIE with a depict...
A skillet with an unblemished spider and web is especially difficult to find because the design was raised rather than incised, which means it was susceptible to wear from contact with stovetops and other surfaces.
Two other pre-1900 Griswold logos were launched in 1884. One squeezed the word ERIE inside a horizontal diamond, while the other branded the skillet as GRISWOLD’S “ERIE.” And then, in 1897, the first of the famous Griswold cross logos appeared. These were produced until 1957, in a slanted font until around 1920 and a blocky font thereafter.
Griswold skillets produced after 1940, which generally have small or medium-sized crosses on their bottoms, are not collectible since the metal used in casting is deemed inferior to that which had come before.
Another major manufacturer of cast-iron skillets is the French firm Le Creuset, which was founded in 1925. Production was interrupted during World War II (the German army seized the foundry to make hand grenades), but by the early 1950s Le Creuset was a major exporter of cast-iron cookware, including skillets, to the U.S. and Europe.
Although the casting techniques used by Griswold and Le Creuset were virtually identical, the finishes on skillets by each company could not be more different. Griswold skillets were tough and utilitarian, with no effort made to disguise the material used in their manufacture. Le Creuset skillets, of course, are enameled in bright colors on the outside (orange is the classic) and matte black on the inside, giving them a more polished appearance than trusty Griswolds.
Copper was another material used to make skillets. Some had handles made of Delft china, others like those made by Philippe LaFrance were copper clad with tinned insides. Vintage Revere Ware skillets from the postwar years were also copper clad—look for square Revere skillets with matching square lids.
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