History of Wagner Cast Iron

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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.

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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.

Vintage-Wagner-Cast-Iron-SkilletsHollowware 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.)

Cast-Iron-Skillet-39-300x221WagnerWare Cast Iron Skillets

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Wagner Manufacturing Company

Click here to read about why you should cook with cast iron…

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.

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.

Griswold-Dutch-Oven1-300x225
Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
http://www.nmhistorymuseum.org/

 

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-Oven2-300x225
Griswold Dutch Oven at the New Mexico History Museum in the Cowboy Exhibit
http://www.nmhistorymuseum.org/

Beginning of the End

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.

Check out the latest price from South Pittsburg, TN – Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Dutch Oven

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.

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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 my blog entry for some of the finer points of Enameled Cast Iron vs. Cast Iron.

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

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Here are some comments from our old blog:

 

James
SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 AT 8:23 AM

Why is that Wagner 1058 Skillet silver on the outside? (the top picture) It is one of the aluminum skillets? J

Billy
SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 AT 1:23 PM

Hi James,
It isn’t aluminum but is just the raw cast iron. It was actually covered, and I mean covered, with black, gunk-y, cracked seasoning. So I had no idea that the hammered finish was there. After a few hours with some oven cleaner the beautiful, hammered finish was exposed.
Thanks for the question.

ron Smith
SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 AT 7:12 PM

How much is a Wagner Ware 1060 A worth?

diane
SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 AT 5:02 PM

how much is a fat free fryer worth 12 or 121/2 inch with ridges.

Billy
SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 AT 10:22 AM

It depends a lot on the condition but it could be from $50 – $170++. Check out eBay periodically to get a good idea. Also, is that one of the deep versions?

diane legendre
SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 AT 8:45 PM

is more like 11 inchs. is 2 inchs deep. good condition. does wagner make lids. would like to buy a lid.

Billy
SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 AT 6:26 PM

Hi Diane! Thanks for stopping by here again.
I think you could have a nice piece on your hands! What are the markings on the bottom? Can you tell me the labeling and lettering? Wagner does have lids and you’d have to watch eBay for a week or two to find the right one for you. The prices range from about $9 – over $50. Let me know if you need help locating a suitable lid.
Thanks!

diane legendre
SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 AT 8:54 PM

says 11 3/8 is the size and 2 inchs deep. does wagner make lids?

diane legendre
SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 AT 11:39 PM

i have my mothers corn bread pan, wagner c heavy. beleive from 1950′s any information about it.

diane legendre
SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 AT 11:53 PM

what is older wagner ware or wagner. i have a wagner fat free fryer and corn bread pan. think the corn bread pan c is from the 1950′s

Billy
SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 AT 6:32 PM

Hey Diane! Nice to see you back here. Can you tell me what is written on the bottom of the cornbread pan? That’s super cool that you have it. What is your standard cornbread recipe?
Thanks!

Margaret
SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 AT 8:13 PM

My dad has a Wagner 1891 original cast iron tea pot that is rustled or deteriorated inside Frm yrs of keeping water in it on their wood burning stove. Is it possible to clean the inside and is it of any value?

Billy
SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 AT 6:46 PM

Hi Margaret! Thanks for coming by.
Well, you can clean the inside but it will definitely take some work. Review some of the processes here. There’s another step after the oven cleaner sessions where you treat the rusted area with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. The acid of the vinegar helps to remove the rust.
However, the kettle might not be a “collectible” though it will probably hold some sentimental value. So, in the 1990s the company that owned the Wagner name started to make “The Wagner’s 1891 Original Cast Iron” series in commemoration of the original cast iron company. The bottom line is that if the tea pot says “1891 Original” then, against logic, the cast iron piece is probably only about 20 years old. Anyway, let me know about what the bottom of the tea pot says.
Thanks!

Mary
JULY 13, 2014 AT 8:22 PM

I inherited my grandmothers deep skillet which looks just like the one at the top of this site. However when trying to clean it up and put in the oven to season it the sheen turned to a thick glue like substance. I’ve no idea how to clean it. It doesn’t scrape out easily at all

greg
OCTOBER 3, 2013 AT 12:33 AM

I’ve always favored cast iron, and particularly Wagner or Griswold because they had smooth finishes to cook on. Easier to care for too. The “L” word while they have a fine line-up are too rough. I miss the craftsmanship. Thanks for a great site. Now to find steel skillets.

Billy
OCTOBER 7, 2013 AT 12:01 PM

Hi Greg, Thanks for coming by… You have precisely described the way I found Wagner and Griswold. I had a small set of Lodge cookware that I assembled over the last few years and they were just so rough. I eventually sanded down the interior of the pans and skillets to smooth them out. It’s remarkable how nice the Lodge pans are after sanded them. You got it right – a craftsman used to sand each one of the pieces of cookware down. The difference is really something.
What’s your prize piece of cast iron cookware?
Thanks,
Billy

greg
OCTOBER 3, 2013 AT 12:40 AM

Margaret’s cleaning question reminded me of something I did 20 years ago. I had a dutch oven that was seriously deteriorated with thick rust to boot. I worked at a place that had a shot peening machine. I put the oven in it and in minutes shot peening cleaned the oven to bare clean metal ready for a wash and seasoning. I tried for 2 days to clean it before that. We still use it to this day.

Jill Moncilovich
OCTOBER 7, 2013 AT 11:05 AM

Looking for a polished inside cast iron skillet that has handle with opposing loop on other side. My first one 10 to 10 1/8 inches was a Wagner and was stolen! Ugh. I like the ease of two hand pick up with the loop. Know where I could find one. I still have the lid from my old one, but if one is available with lid – I could always use an extra lid.

Billy


OCTOBER 7, 2013 AT 12:09 PM

Hi Jill – Oh, no. Sorry to hear about the theft.
eBay is the place to go for vintage cast iron since eBay is kind of like a consolidation of all the garage & estate sales across the country. There is a huge range of prices and quality. Try a search like “wagner 10 inch skillet” or “wagner #8 skillet” and you should have 10 or more results. Monitor for a couple weeks and if you’re savvy, you can set up an email alert to send you a message when new items are listed that meet your criteria.
Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!

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25 comments… add one
  • Victoria Jun 4, 2015, 12:15 pm

    I would like to know how old my dutch oven with lid are. At the 12 noon position on bottom is WAGNER and below that is
    SIDNEY – OHIO – USA and all encircled in an oval. On the bottom. 6 pm position, it says 5 QT./4.7 LTR. and below that is B 2 – 98. There is no raised circle around the bottom. How old might it be?

    • Patrick Jun 5, 2015, 10:24 pm

      America introduced metrics after “Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 “to coordinate and plan the increasing use of the metric system in the United States”. Voluntary conversion was initiated, and the United States Metric Board (USMB) was established…” (wiki “metrification”) disbanded after 1982.

      So, when I see dual capacity labels, I infer a early date of about 1975 to 1982. Pictures are a real need, here. cast lid, or glass with a clear glass knob? Wire Bail? and more questions…
      I suspect the “B2 – 98” might refer to a mold # plus, a patent date, first date of manufacture, of that item, not necessarily the date of your example, or Catalog Item Number.

      But, I defer to the “experts”, if any are present.

  • Lori Arnold Dec 2, 2015, 2:31 pm

    I searched everywhere to find out if a small aluminum coated (chromed?) skillet (4″) is really a Wagner. It has “WAGNER” imprinted on the bottom. It does not look like any I have seen.

  • Linda Dec 6, 2015, 11:18 am

    I have a Griswold number 7 cast iron fry pan with Erie, Pa, USA 701 C. It looks like it was covered with this shiny silver on the whole pan but on the inside, it looks like it has worn off in certain areas. Is it safe to still cook with this pan? I need to re-season it. Do I use the same method as used for the other cast iron skillets? I haven’t seen this type of finish before. Thanks.

  • Linda Dec 6, 2015, 11:23 am

    I have another question. I have some old cast iron skillets from my mother and they have a buildup on the outside of them. In reading, some have said to put them thru a self cleaning oven cycle and this buildup will turn to powder. Is this the correct way to clean these skillets up? They look like they have like a black shiny finish and it is worn off in the center of the inside and around the edges. Is that buildup or was it coated with something in shiny black?
    They are also Griswold skillets. Thanks for you help.

  • Glenn Rogers Dec 12, 2015, 6:55 pm

    Hello…..My son is interested in metallurgy and knife making. So it doesn’t surprise me that he asked me to buy him a cast iron skillet. I went to our local used store/community service store and bought a used Wagner #10 skillet.
    Reading the above notes you have here, I assume that it is likely a modern skillet with the “Made in the USA” on the bottom, “Wagner Ware” and “11 3/4 inch skillet.
    I did not buy as a collectible, but rather as a skillet that he plans to use daily or routinely.
    The skillet appears to be in excellent condition. IT has the typical dark, seasoned finish with no rust at all.
    Question: What is the age of this skillet and what care/maintenance should be done to keep it in tiptop condition for routine use.
    Cheers….Glenn Rogers
    Canada

    • Doug @ The Kitchen Professor Dec 17, 2015, 6:01 pm

      Hey Glenn, that’s a great skillet for your son! Great find.
      It is probably from the ’50s or ’60s. As you mention, the “Made in the USA” is the sign we need to say that.

      Use the skillet often with oil & grease. Avoid using soap if you can avoid it. I like to use a Lodge plastic scrubber or a green 3M scrubby. Dry it right away and don’t let it soak in water. Once it is dry, lightly coat it in oil and wipe away all excess oil.

      Tell your son “congrats” – That’s a great skillet!

  • Carol Dec 22, 2015, 4:00 am

    I have a old 4 qt ice tea picture made by wagner ware early 1900.I cant find none on any sites.It some kind heavy metal. If you know what it is pleae let me know

  • Sherree Dec 31, 2015, 10:56 pm

    Hi, I have a Wagner Sidney O waffle iron, with the Pat’n of Feb. 22, 1910, is that the date it was made?

  • CJ Jan 4, 2016, 9:25 am

    Thanks for all the posting info. There’s a wonderful shiny smooth frying pan I wouldn’t trade
    for anything! It’s a sweet 8″ WagnerWare, sidney -0- (at 12 o’clock) and 1056 F (at 6 0′
    clock) Your postings fostered my curiosity as to it’s age. No matter, tho, it’s NOT for sale !!!
    I do have some Lodge pieces and they’re okay, … no complaints …. the WagnerWare cooks
    tastier food !!! 🙂

  • Teresa Feb 12, 2016, 9:48 am

    When my mothers passed away I collected her cast iron pans. Now that I am cleaning them I have 3 that say Wagner ware. The largest is a 13 1/2 in skillet that says made in USA. The smallest is 6.5 inches and has pour lips on each side. It also has 1053 N on the bottom. The third piece is a flat grill (?) or lid approx 12 inches with 1109 Bon bottom. The 2 smaller pans do not say made in USA. Any info you could provide would be great. Thanks!!

  • andy cappellano Feb 24, 2016, 11:56 am

    I hope you can help me. I have some Lodge pans and I use them all the time. I just cond my brother into giving me this pan and I would like to know how old and the worth. It’s not black like my other pans.it’s silver. It says Wagner
    Are sidney -o- at the top and 1058B at the bottom . Also a #8 on the handle

  • Nancy Mar 2, 2016, 4:56 pm

    My Husband recently brought home & gave to me a large semi U shaped skillet, that I immediately recognized as a possible Omelet Skillet (never used one, but it wasn’t a stretch to figure out it’s possible use)! It needs a good cleaning, but I can read the Engraving that’s on the underside of both sides! It’s Engraved as;
    Wagner
    Ware
    Sydney
    – O. –
    ….and at the bottom center;
    821
    …..plus it has Wooden Handles w/ Metal Rings at the end of each Handle, obviously for hanging it up by the Stove or Fireplace, that appear in good condition! I’m wondering, based on the Info I’ve given & laid out, would you be able to give me a general idea of it’s possible age or time frame of use? I do have Pictures, but not sure how to include them w/ my Comment/Question! Thanks for your help, & look forward to your answer soon!

  • Lenore Apr 7, 2016, 2:44 pm

    I need the bottom piece to a Wagner Ware lid 1081A. Will a 1088A fit that lid?

  • Bonnie Aug 2, 2016, 11:15 pm

    I’m just going through some old pots and pans and came across my grandmothers 5 qt. Dutch a Oven with glass lid. It says “wagoners 1891 original 5 qt.” with seasoning directions on the bottom. I’m guessing it’s at least 40-50 years old since my grandmother passed away 32 years ago. Any ideas on worth? Should I hang on to it???

    • Dick Aug 8, 2016, 1:40 pm

      Hi, I just read an article that stated the Wagner 1891s were manufactured from 1991 to 1999. I have two of those, a skillet and a chicken fryer..

      • Doug @ The Kitchen Professor Aug 12, 2016, 9:09 am

        Hey Dick, that’s right. It was a revival in the 90s.

    • Elizabeth Oct 19, 2016, 3:33 pm

      Hi, I seem to have a 5qt like yours (lid missing) with seasoning instructions on the bottom. Can you tell me what the instructions say? I am unable to make out all of what is stamped on mine.

  • Mary Aug 22, 2016, 10:50 pm

    I came across this tiny little cast iron skillet and while cleaning a logo appeared on bottom can only make out part of it. Words in a circle bottom portion reads international cast iron there is a design in the middle kinda like a fluer de li with some other markings above it. Tried to look it up but to no avail. Would like to know the history of any can you help identify.

  • Justin Aug 23, 2016, 1:11 am

    I have a skillet, 10.5″ with only a B on the bottom. No marks on the handle (blank) made in USA. Stamped 1891 Original [Cast Iron Cookware]. With ‘Seasoning Instructions’ 1 thru 4. Last stamp says “Ready for use – Reseason as necessary”. Any idea of of its age? Yes it has 2 pouring lips.
    Take care.

  • Leroy Aug 27, 2016, 10:41 am

    Just yesterday, 8/26, a friend of mine gave me a Wagner cast iron skillet. If it is of value, I would like to return it to him. I’m simply looking for an older skillet for baking cornbread.
    It has WAGNER (all caps) on the bottom, and what appears to be II (perhaps eleven) also on the bottom near the handle. There is no rise on the handle where the thumb would rest while holding the pan.
    Thank you in advance for any information you may provide.

  • rina magdalene Sep 6, 2016, 4:59 am

    my boss required DD 1056 last year and came across a business that has a ton of fillable forms . If people have been needing DD 1056 too , here’s a http://goo.gl/zCjbRg.

  • joan grandell Sep 25, 2016, 5:41 pm

    i have a high logo wagner ware sidney with 8H at the bottom. what is the meaning of the 8 and the meaning of the H. also, i have seen other alphabetic letters, what do they mean. what is a heat ring.

  • Peggy Hutchinson Nov 13, 2016, 7:22 pm

    I received a complete set of MagnaLite Wagner Ware as a wedding present in November 1954. That is still used everyday.

  • Patsy Owen Nov 26, 2016, 3:08 pm

    I have a small Wagner Ware Sidney 0 #2 skillet. I wonder how much it is worth?

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