When found in good condition, "Erie" cast iron skillets made from the late 19th to the early 20th century by Griswold and its predecessor, Selden & Griswold, represent some of the most coveted of collectibles. In studying the Erie brand, named for the Pennsylvania city in which it was made, the evolution of cast iron skillet design itself during this time period can be observed.
The Erie skillet timeline is divided in to six somewhat distinct periods commonly referred to as "series". Knowing what design features were implemented at what points in Erie skillet history can help collectors make a reasonably confident estimate of when their piece was produced.
The design changes over time can be narrowed to these seven categories:
· Handle design: scoop, full ribbed, partial ribbed, or blended rib
· Handle reinforcement pad: none, distinct, or blended
· Reinforced lip: distinct or blended
· Heat ring: outside or inset
· Maker's marks: none, various small graphics, or letters or numbers
· Pattern numbers: no or yes
· Trademark style: ERIE in quotes, the "artistic" ERIE in quotes, or ERIE without quotes
Using this table, the approximate time period of manufacture of an Erie skillet can be determined. Characteristics in capital letters represent those which are distinctive to the series and/or most prominently distinguish a series from its precursors.
Variations in characteristics can be found within each series. The shape of the handle reinforcement pad is seen both semi-circular and triangular. The squiggly "artistic" lettering of the 4th series' trademark aside, the typical "block" trademark is sometimes seen with wide spacing, with a curly-tailed "R", or with serifs on the tips of the letters. It is difficult to tell if these lettering variations reflect progressions in the Erie design or if they are merely the result of an individual pattern maker's taking of artistic license, as they are apparently not confined to a single series.
Midway through the Erie timeline came a curiosity: The Spider. Seen on a handful of pieces only briefly produced-- and on only one size skillet bearing attributes of both the 2nd and 3rd series-- was an unusual, raised logo in the form of a skillet-bodied spider on its web, with the word ERIE across its back. Why this logo came and went so quickly is uncertain. It may have been a special commemorative marking. Being raised, rather than incised, it was subject to wear, so finding an example in good condition is rare. Estimates put its production at only during the very early 1890s.
Since there is often an overlap of characteristics from one series to the next, and some changes to certain characteristics that occured during the production of a particular series, placing a pan definitively within a series can sometimes be confusing. You may have to concentrate on a combination of characteristics or the characteristics your particular pan does NOT possess in order to date it.
The information presented here condenses and summarizes the research and findings, originally published in collector newsletters over a decade ago, of longtime Erie skillet collectors Roy G. Meadows, W. Dean Fitzwater, John Madole, and Steve Stephens.
Of the Wagner Ware skillets with heat rings, only a very few are of the inset design, including the shallow, the wood- handled, the large "pie logo", and some rarely-seen National aluminum.