The History of the Griswold Manufacturing Company

 

The following account written by William M. Harned of, Pennsylvania, examines the long history of the manufacture and sale of Griswold Hardware products. Rather than rewrite or edit this fine account, we are publishing it as written by William Harned. 

Matthew Griswold, born, Old Lyme, Connecticut, June 6, 1833, son of Matthew and Phoebe (Ely) Griswold. Matthew spent the first 30 years in Old Lyme, Connecticut, on the family farm. In 1865 when Matthew Griswold came to Erie, Pennsylvania, from Old Lyme, he joined with J. C. and Samuel Seldon; forming the Seldon-Griswold Manufacturing Company. Their specialties, at first, were separable door butts (hinges) and other items of light hardware. Then they also manufactured stovepipe dampers, thimbles, and other stove furniture. It wasn’t until the 1870's that they included skillets, pots, grinding mills, waffle irons; and added a tobacco cutter to their line in 1883. At this time Matthew, Jr., was added to the business. In 1884 Matthew Griswold bought out Seldon, forming The Griswold Manufacturing Company . Also in that year he made and patented a cuspidor (spittoon on castors). Through the period of 1884 through 1897, (at which time Griswold Mfg. Co., was officially chartered and Matthew’s next son, Marvin, joined the firm), they added kettles, Dutch ovens, roasters, a grid iron, other various pots and pans and even a blank cartridge firing burglar alarm. 1889 called to passage the use of cast aluminum cookware. Legend has it that an engineer was searching for a foundry to try his newly discovered formulation process; therefore, allowing aluminum casting to be economical and efficient. He found Matthew Griswold warm to the idea. When Matthew asked his secretary, What would a woman want most in the kitchen that was light in weight? A tea kettle was her response! Thus started the era of aluminum cookware. The Griswold Mfg. Co. had become known as the manufacturers of the finest cast ironware that could be purchased at that time. Now they were also the pioneers in the casting of aluminum, hence the company began expanding further and became more diversified. Griswold salesmen took their line nationwide as transportation facilities improved; from Erie, to Maine, Florida, Washington and California, where one distributor who bought by the train car loads, even sold overseas. It wasn’t until the 1920's that they also included electrical appliances to accompany their wood, oil, gas or coal stove utensils. In 1884 Griswold Mfg. Co. had included in their line of wares, items for restaurants; equipment such as long griddles, and 6-8 unit waffle irons. It was in about 1925 they started their commercial lines and after World War II, included complete kitchenware packages. Aunt Ellen was one of Griswold’s employees, known by millions of housewives by her advice on cooking with cast-iron and aluminum as well as her recipes. Her real name being Miss Etta Moses, she was so well known that stacks of mail came across her desk every day for her hints and advice. There was a cookbook by Aunt Ellen on the market for many years as well as recipes and instructions with many items. One of the primary factors which makes the Griswold pieces collectible is that they have distinguishing markings. They include, Seldon Griswold, Griswold Mfg. Co., Erie, patents and pattern numbers, in many different designs and configurations. All are dateable as to period of manufacture. In 1951 Griswold Mfg. Co. had a float in Erie’s bicentennial parade. Two thousand small paperweight #30 pups were handed out to the crowd. In all about 3,000 of these pups were made. About 1,000 were made as giveaways to large distributors nationwide. In 1950 Griswold Mfg. Co. was turned over to two men from New York; and then in 1957 the company closed its doors. Of the many reasons as to why the Griswold Mfg. Co. closed down, this writer can only theorize; productions costs and competition with what is called pretty cookware, i.e. stainless, copperclad , and designed porcelain finishes. How ironic it is, cast iron is still unbeatable as cookware! To date we have 526 pieces catalogued, photographed and priced, as well as including the 92 years of history relating to the Griswold Mfg. Co.  My wife Denise and myself have been researching for the past six years; and I have been collecting Griswold for thirteen years.  Our forthcoming book, Griswold Cast Collectables should be available late in the spring. 

- William and Denise Harned