Who Made National Cast Iron Skillets?

National Cast Iron Skillets are iconic cooking tools known for their durability, even heating, and versatility. But have you ever wondered who made them and how they came to be so popular? In this article, we will dive into the history of National Cast Iron Skillets and the companies that were instrumental in their creation and success. We’ll take a closer look at the different styles, sizes, and features of these beloved kitchen staples and explore the cultural significance of cast iron cookware in American cuisine.

Quick Summary
Wagner and Griswold were two of the most popular makers of national cast iron skillets. Wagner was founded in 1891 in Sidney, Ohio, while Griswold was established a few years later in 1897 in Erie, Pennsylvania. Both companies produced various cast iron cookware, including skillets, griddles, and Dutch ovens, that were known for their durability and excellent cooking properties. Despite the fact that these businesses no longer exist, their vintage cast iron skillets still command a high price in the market today.

The History of Cast Iron Skillets in America

Cast iron skillets have been a staple in American kitchens for generations. The history of cast iron skillets in America dates back to the early 1700s when European settlers brought their cast iron cookware with them. Cast iron skillets were essential cooking tools for pioneers traveling westward, and they were carried with them on wagons and pack animals. During the Civil War, cast iron skillets were used for cooking by soldiers in both the Union and Confederate armies.

In the late 19th century, cast iron skillets began to be mass-produced in America. The development of foundry techniques allowed for faster and more efficient production of cast iron cookware. This led to the creation of several well-known cast iron cookware brands, including Lodge, Griswold, and Wagner. These companies have become synonymous with cast iron skillets and are still producing high-quality cookware today. Cast iron skillets have remained a favorite among home cooks and professional chefs alike due to their durability and versatility in the kitchen.

The Rise of National Cast Iron Skillets

The popularity of cast iron skillets rose significantly in the 1800s, with notable brands such as Griswold and Wagner becoming household names. However, it was National Cast Iron Skillets that truly made a mark on the industry. Founded in 1902, National became one of the largest cookware manufacturers in the United States during the first half of the 20th century.

National’s reputation for quality cast iron skillets was unmatched, which helped them establish themselves as a favorite among home cooks and chefs alike. Their skillets were known for being durable, long-lasting, and versatile in the kitchen. Despite facing challenges such as economic downturns and the shift towards cheaper, mass-produced cookware, National continued to thrive until the late 1960s when they were purchased by the Wagner company. Despite this change in ownership, National’s legacy lives on as countless home cooks continue to use their trusty National cast iron skillets in their kitchens.

The Innovations That Made National Cast Iron Skillets Famous

National Cast Iron Skillets became famous due to a series of innovations that significantly improved their performance and usability. One of the most notable improvements was the introduction of a smoother surface, which made it easier for cooks to slide food around the pan without sticking. This innovation also made it simpler to clean the skillet, making it one of the most popular kitchen utensils of all time.

Another innovation that made National Cast Iron Skillets famous was the addition of a lid. This feature allowed the skillet to be used for multiple purposes such as baking, braising, and stewing. Additionally, the lid helped to keep the food warm and moist, making it an ideal option for preparing one-pot meals. These innovations, along with the durability and versatility of the National Cast Iron Skillets, cemented their place in history as one of the most beloved and essential kitchen tools.

The Legacy of National Cast Iron Skillets in American Kitchens

The legacy of National Cast Iron Skillets in American kitchens is deeply rooted and spans over a century. Cast iron skillets have been an essential part of American cooking since the 1800s, and National was among the first to manufacture these sturdy and durable kitchen staples. National Cast Iron Skillets were made of high-quality cast iron, which made them superior in strength, durability, and heat retention, making them ideal for cooking a range of dishes.

The popularity of National Cast Iron Skillets has only grown over the years, and they soon became a symbol of traditional family values in American homes. Passed down from one generation to the next, these skillets have become an essential part of American nostalgia, representing a simpler, more wholesome time. Today, National Cast Iron Skillets are cherished by cooks and collectors alike and continue to be a staple in American kitchens for their superior quality and timeless appeal.

The Brands That Competed with National Cast Iron Skillets

As the popularity of cast iron skillets soared, several brands emerged in the market that competed with National Cast Iron Skillets. One of the prominent players was Griswold Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1865. Known for its high-quality cast iron cookware, Griswold competed fiercely with National Cast Iron Skillets in the early 20th century. However, it discontinued its operations in 1957 due to financial constraints.

Another brand that posed a challenge to National Cast Iron Skillets was Wagner Ware. The brand started its operations in 1891 and grew to become one of the largest producers of cast iron cookware in the USA. Wagner Ware was often compared to National Cast Iron Skillets for its durability and ability to cook food evenly. However, in 1952, Wagner Ware was sold to the Randall Company and later discontinued in 1999. Today, both Griswold and Wagner Ware are highly sought-after by collectors of vintage cast iron cookware.

The Decline and Revival of National Cast Iron Skillets

The Decline and Revival of National Cast Iron Skillets:

National Cast Iron skillets had enjoyed a long period of popularity since the early 20th century, thanks to their superior craftsmanship and high-quality construction. However, with the advent of new, cheaper materials and mass-production techniques, the demand for these skillets began to taper off in the later half of the century. As a result, production ceased altogether in the year 1999.

However, the resurgence of interest in traditional cooking methods during the 21st century led to the revival of National Cast Iron Skillets. The demand for cast iron cookware once again surged, and companies like Lodge purchased the rights to the National brand and reintroduced the skillets. The renewed interest in traditional cooking has also led to the creation of niche markets for authentic and vintage National Cast Iron Skillets, reflecting its enduring popularity as an American classic.

How National Cast Iron Skillets Continue to Inspire Cooks Today

National Cast Iron Skillets have a rich history that spans over a century. These skillets have been a staple in many kitchens across America throughout the years, and they continue to inspire cooks today. The benefits of using a cast iron skillet include even heating, durability, and versatility when it comes to cooking different dishes.

There are many ways cooks can be inspired by National Cast Iron Skillets. For example, they can be used for searing meats, baking cornbread, frying chicken, and even making pizza. The high quality and durability of these skillets make them an investment that can be passed down from generation to generation, ensuring that they continue to inspire many more cooks in the future. Whether you are a beginner cook or an experienced chef, National Cast Iron Skillets are a must-have in any kitchen.


Cast iron skillets are an important part of American culinary history, with a rich and fascinating backstory. Although the exact origin and inventor of the national cast iron skillet remains a mystery, it’s clear that its popularity quickly spread across the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From logging camps to farmhouses to urban kitchens, the cast iron skillet became an essential tool used by families and professionals alike.

Today, cast iron skillets remain a beloved kitchen tool for many home cooks and chefs, thanks to their durability, versatility, and ability to retain heat. Whether you’re cooking up a hearty breakfast or searing a steak to perfection, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of using a well-seasoned, time-tested cast iron skillet. While the exact origins of these iconic cookware pieces may never be fully understood, their legacy lives on in kitchens across America and beyond.

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