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‘Spider’s’ number

January 15, 2012
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

My "antique" aunt who bought, sold, and collected antiques her entire life once asked me if I ever found a six-inch Griswold skillet to add to my "kitchen tools" collection. At that time, I had other cast-iron skillets, but not that Griswold.

In the Adirondacks, skillets and frying pans were called "spiders." Fortunately, or not-so-fortunately, depending on how it turns out, I found an old, rusty six-inch spider in a box of junk from an Adirondack flea market. When I cleaned it up, I found the Griswold name and logo on the bottom.

The old spider did not interest me too much since I already had cast-iron skillets to use in cooking. Interestingly, a recent item in an Antiques Roadshow newsletter caught my attention; it read, "Pot of Gold in your kitchen? An old Griswold #1 Skillet can sell for $4,000." I immediately thought, "here comes my Antique Roadshow moment of fame." Did I have the number one Griswold? I went to the kitchen and took it off the wall where it was hanging. (Don't we all have that Roadshow dream that our antique is the priceless one?)

It was a Griswold skillet all right; the name was printed in block letters inside the cross that was inside a double circle-the Griswold logo. It had a number, 709, on the bottom. Above the logo was printed, "No ??," the number was worn off so I could not determine that it was, or was not, the priceless Griswold skillet. Further research was necessary.

Old catalogs are great sources of information so I went to my turn-of-the-last-century Montgomery Ward and Co. and Sears Roebuck catalogs to find the Griswold skillets. Sears had aluminum skillets; Montgomery had none. A 1970 copyrighted book, "Old American Kitchenware-1725-1925," did not offer any more help. They simply explained that skillets with three legs and long handles for cooking over embers were called "spiders."

'Tis too bad, but I had to resort to the computer - my enemy. I searched "Griswold Skillets"-243,000 entries, yes, 243,000 entries! Should I live to be 100, how would I read all of those -it's absurd. I picked a couple on the first list and found that Griswold began producing skillets in 1865. The location, ERIE, was added in 1874 with a spider design and by itself in 1905 The spider design, which also included a web, was only produced for about 30 years making it one of the most rare of the skillets. They are difficult to find today because the design was raised instead of incised, which allowed it to be worn off from use. Maybe, just maybe, I will find one of the "spider skillets" in my collection somewhere.

In 1897, the crossed logos were added. Later, the PA was included to ensure they were from Pennsylvania. I have heard that the computer information is not always correct. They indicated that Griswold skillets were made from No. 6 to No. 12; I wonder where No. 1 came from. Another report said No. 13 was hard to find. It appears from what little I can surmise, my Griswold was from the 1920s. I have yet to determine if it is, indeed, a $4,000 Number One Griswold Skillet. In my estimation, I rather doubt it; much like those who end the Roadshow each week, I had a good time thinking about it. There is some good news, though; the computer says although a Griswold may be caked with years worth of grease, grime and rust, "with a little cleaning and care, those heavy duty collectibles can function in the kitchen once again without worry about damage!"

 
 

 

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