Wagner vs Griswold – The Battle of Cast Iron Pans

Everyone just prefers a non-stick pan rather than a cast iron pan, but the versatility that a cast iron pan comes with, a non-stick never can.

Cast iron pans are regarded as vintage today, but everyone needs one in the kitchen because of how roughly you can use them and how they can still survive for a very long time.

Wagner and Griswold are the two companies that have been in the business for the longest.

But now that the companies are no more, and have stopped producing their legendary cast irons, people are trying to get a hold of these collectibles. But the debate existed since they were in business and still exists today, which one is better?

There can hardly be a right answer, but we can still explore the pros and cons, so here goes.

The Companies

Before we can get into the debate, you need to know about the history and background of both these companies. This will give you a better idea when you have to make a choice between the two.


Griswold Cast Iron Skillet Resto Project

Griswold was a family venture and was originally named Seldon-Griswold, and was owned by Matthew Griswold along with his cousins Samuel and J.C. Seldon. It was founded a long time ago in Pennsylvania near the Erie Canal, probably close to where Griswold and Seldons resided.

They started off with light hardware, and the introduction of cast irons to their products was actually a later decision, which was made sometime in 1870, yup this stuff is THAT old.

You are all probably wondering how the company went from Seldon-Griswold to just Griswold, well as it happened Griswold bought the company from the Seldons to become the lone owner.

The company changed ownership in 1884, but the name of the company was officially changed in 1887. After Mathew Griswold’s death, his son, Griswold Jr. took control of the company’s affair.

But in 1914 Griswold Jr. decided to drop out and the company went into the hands of his brother, Marvin. Marvin had a bigger vision and it was during his control of the company that it expanded greatly and became globally known.

But the reign of success did not exactly last very long and by 1940 the products of the company had begun to drop in quality. Not long after in 1946, the Griswolds sold the company to their rivals, the Wagners.


Wagner 1891 Cast Iron Pan

Founded in 1891, the Wagner Manufacturing company was founded by two brothers, namely Bernard P. and Milton M. Wagner. This company was originally only dedicated to producing cast iron products, but slowly they expanded to include nickel plated products, and are also recognized as the company that pioneered in creating aluminum cookware.

In an effort to expand, Wagner bought another company in 1897. Although Sydney Hollow Ware was sold back to its original owner, it did contribute to William H. Wagner joining the company too.

It was long before the company went global and was regarded as one of the best cookware producers globally. Seeing their success the company decided to launch a completely new product in 1934. Magnalite cast aluminum ware was born.

The great depression of the 30’s affected business greatly for the Wagners and by 1953 they sold to Randall Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. It was also under the Randall company that they bought Griswold, and hence the two companies became one.

Unfortunately, today they don’t exist!

After being sold to Randall the companies changed quite a few hands, from Randall it went to Textron, Inc. from that to General Houseware Corporation and then to Slyman Group and from there it went to American Culinary Corporation.

Even though no company managed to retain hold of their company, they still made some great products during the time that they were acting under their original name and those products are still much coveted today.

So, Which is Better?

Well as you may have concluded on your own after reading about the past of these two companies, there is no easy way to decide which one could be better than the other.

Although if we were to compare certain different products that the companies came out with, we could pinpoint which product had better results and reviews. But all in all some products from Griswold win and some from Wagner, it is somewhat of a tie.

Griswold introduced a line of skillets that had a spider web emblem engraved on the bottom, this protected the cast iron from heat damage or the bottom from rubbing and scratching against the stove. These are much sought after even today because of their unique design.

Also, a cast iron is said to get better as it ages since it becomes lighter. And the ones produced by Griswold and Wagner have a very smooth surface that could almost be as good as a non-stick pan.

The modern-day cast iron skillets lack the quality of being lightweight or smooth, which is why enthusiasts are so keen on getting their hands on a collectors cast iron pan.

The Griswold Vs Wagner debate comes to a close with the conclusion that these are two great companies in their own right, and as a collector, one would be lucky to own a cast iron pan by any of the two great companies of their time.

Image Credit via Flickr Creative Common; Jeff Cushner and Bruce 

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