Home PageGeneral Cast IronI love thinking about the history of these old pans.

I love thinking about the history of these old pans.

Jan 10, 2016

In:General Cast Iron, History

"Hazel Friend cooking lunch in her little mountain home." Vicinity of Richwood, West Virginia. June 1942. Library of Congress Photo. Cool to see the string of chili peppers in the background on the wall.

Recently I became kind of transfixed by some of the photos maintained at the Library of Congress. I love to think about the history of the old cast iron pans that come into my hands – where they might have been and the stories they could tell. Our pans come from all areas of the United States, and are vintage mid to late 1800s to around the 1960s. A great many of our pans were manufactured between 1920s to 1950s. During that time, of course, the United States entered into a time of great poverty with the Great Depression. World War II followed. I’m certainly not a historian, but I did enjoy looking through photos from these time periods, and seeing some of this old iron in use. I put together this little post with a few photos and a timeline, so you can see how pans were being used during this time of American history.

I do wonder where my pans have been and what they have seen; I wonder where yours have been as well. I hope that these photos give you a little inspiration in your flights of fancy.

1797: John Adams elected second US president.

"The Old Kitchen in Cottage of John & Abigail Adams." Date unknown. Library of Congress photo. John Adams, of course, was the second President of the United States. b 1735, d. 1826. Abigail b. 1744, d. 1818.

“The Old Kitchen in Cottage of John & Abigail Adams.” Date unknown. Library of Congress photo.  I can see at least two cast iron pots in this photo; one on the fire grate and the other on the floor.

June 1812 – December 24, 1814: War of 1812

April 12, 1861 – Spring 1865: Civil War

December 6, 1865: Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ratified, abolishing slavery.

1898: Spanish-American War.

Two Native American "women and a child seated on ground, by pot on campfire." 1899, unknown location. Library of Congress photo.

Two Native American “women and a child seated on ground, by pot on campfire.” 1899, unknown location. Library of Congress photo. Cast iron kettle on campfire.

"Photograph shows Theodore Roosevelt stiring a pot cooking over an open flame at an outdoor campsite." 1903, Hugo, Colorado. Library of Congress photo.

“Photograph shows Theodore Roosevelt stirring a pot cooking over an open flame at an outdoor campsite.” 1903, Hugo, Colorado. Library of Congress photo.

"Mr. and Mrs. Henpeck get supper." He's cooking in cast iron, but I can't tell what it is. Fun to imagine! Circa 1903, Library of Congress photo.

“Mr. and Mrs. Henpeck get supper.” He’s cooking in cast iron, but I can’t tell what it is. Fun to imagine! Circa 1903, Library of Congress photo.

BooHoo

“‘She said she’d come early today, boo-hoo.” “Never mind, dear, I’ll do the cooking'”. 1903, photo from Library of Congress. Sad irons on the stove; griddle hanging on the wall.

Postcard shows early American cooking utensils and dishes displayed at a museum in Deerfield, Mass. Library of Congress photo from 1907.

Postcard shows early American cooking utensils and dishes displayed at a museum in Deerfield, Mass. Library of Congress photo from 1907. Many pots and pans hanging on the mantle.

July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918: World War I

August 18, 1920: 19th Amendment passes, giving women the right to vote.

October 29, 1929 – 1939: Stock market crashes; Great Depression follows.

"Brooke Manor, Ashton vic., Montgomery County, Maryland." Library of Congress photo, 1932.

“Brooke Manor, Ashton vic., Montgomery County, Maryland.” Library of Congress photo, 1932. Cast iron cooking pots hanging in fireplace.

"Photograph showing a number of three-legged iron kettles being used for cooking the Southern food staple known as chicken pilau (or perlou) at a cookout in Florida." Library of Congress photo, exact date unknown but circa 1930 - 1941.

“Photograph showing a number of three-legged iron kettles being used for cooking the Southern food staple known as chicken pilau (or perlou) at a cookout in Florida.” Library of Congress photo, exact date unknown but circa 1930 – 1941.

Tortillas

“Mexican woman cooking tortillas.” San Antonio, Texas. In a cast iron skillet, of course. 1939 Library of Congress photo.

"Adam Thoroughgood House, Norfolk vic., Princess Anne County, Virginia." Between 1930 and 1939, Library of Congress photo.

“Adam Thoroughgood House, Norfolk vic., Princess Anne County, Virginia.” Between 1930 and 1939, Library of Congress photo. Cast iron pots hanging in fireplace.

FarmersWife

“Farmer’s wife cooking meat preparatory to canning. Lakeview Project, Arkansas.” December 1938, Library of Congress.

Migrant

“[M]igrant woman cooking cabbage in tent home. Edinburg, Texas.” She is using one of those old long-handled steel skillets, as well as a cast iron skillet. February 1939, Library of Congress photo.

Beans

Library of Congress, January 1939. “Wife of evicted sharecropper in tent along highway cooking beans obtained from surplus commodities.” New Madrid County, Missouri. She is cooking the beans in a cast iron skillet.

MrsShorts

“Mrs. Shorts Cooking Dinner” (in a cast iron skillet, of course). July 1938 Library of Congress Photo.

SoupCook

“Daughter of Minnie Knox, Cooking Soup.” Library of Congress Photo, December 1937. She is cooking the soup in a cast iron kettle.

CookingHogSoup

“Cooking Hog Soup.” Library of Congress Photo, October 1936.

'Mexican man sitting by makeshift cooking stove. It is not unusual to find Mexicans cooking over these fires and coals in galvanized tubs. San Antonio, Texas." March 1939, Library of Congress photo.

‘Mexican man sitting by makeshift cooking stove. It is not unusual to find Mexicans cooking over these fires and coals in galvanized tubs.” San Antonio, Texas. March 1939, Library of Congress photo.

December 7, 1941: Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. US enters WWII.

19-0446a 19-0919a 19-0923a 19-0424a 19-0428a 19-0376a 19-0363a19-0453a

Lititz, Pennsylvania. Scrap collection drive. Each household placed its contribution on the sidewalk. It was then picked up by local trucks whose owners had volunteered their services for civilian defense. Old iron cooking utensils. Library of Congress photo, November 1942.

Lititz, Pennsylvania. Scrap collection drive. “Each household placed its contribution on the sidewalk. It was then picked up by local trucks whose owners had volunteered their services for civilian defense. Old iron cooking utensils.” Library of Congress photo, November 1942.

"Why greases must be saved. A soldier of the home front--and there's one in every American kitchen--saves all waste fats and greases so that they can be processed into ammunition for America's soldiers on the battlefronts. Pan and broiler drippings, deep fats, renderings from bacon rinds, these are some of the fats which should be put through a strainer to remove meat scraps and other solids, and poured into wide-mouthed cans such as coffee or fat cans." Library of Congress photo, June 1942.

“Why greases must be saved. A soldier of the home front–and there’s one in every American kitchen–saves all waste fats and greases so that they can be processed into ammunition for America’s soldiers on the battlefronts. Pan and broiler drippings, deep fats, renderings from bacon rinds, these are some of the fats which should be put through a strainer to remove meat scraps and other solids, and poured into wide-mouthed cans such as coffee or fat cans.” Library of Congress photo, June 1942.

"Manpower, junior size. Junior commandos of Roanoke, Virginia, follow up on their fat collection drive with a visit to the local rendering plant to see what happens to the household fats they have collected during the week. They're learning firsthand how explosives are derived from bacon grease and meat fats." Library of Congress photo, October 1942.

“Manpower, junior size. Junior commandos of Roanoke, Virginia, follow up on their fat collection drive with a visit to the local rendering plant to see what happens to the household fats they have collected during the week. They’re learning firsthand how explosives are derived from bacon grease and meat fats.” Library of Congress photo, October 1942.

1942 photo from Library of Congress. Shows conversion of frying pans to aircraft parts. Using a lathe converted from manufacture of egg poachers, frying pans and radio parts, this employee of a small Eastern plant is milling an aluminum alloy flap hinge forging to be used on American fighting planes. Precision Metal Company, New York, New York.

1942 photo from Library of Congress. Shows conversion of frying pans to aircraft parts. “Using a lathe converted from manufacture of egg poachers, frying pans and radio parts, this employee of a small Eastern plant is milling an aluminum alloy flap hinge forging to be used on American fighting planes.” Precision Metal Company, New York, New York.

"Escambia Farms, Florida. Mrs. McLelland cooking fried chicken for Sunday dinner." That is a Wagner chicken pan with lid! June 1942, Library of Congress photo.

“Escambia Farms, Florida. Mrs. McLelland cooking fried chicken for Sunday dinner.”
She is cooking in a Wagner chicken pan with lid. June 1942, Library of Congress photo.

"Hazel Friend cooking lunch in her little mountain home." Vicinity of Richwood, West Virginia. June 1942. Library of Congress Photo. Cool to see the string of chili peppers in the background on the wall.

“Hazel Friend cooking lunch in her little mountain home.” Vicinity of Richwood, West Virginia. June 1942. Library of Congress Photo. Cool to see the string of chili peppers in the background on the wall. I see she is using a tin lid; I wonder if she gave her cast iron lid to the scrap drive. My friend’s 87-year-old mother told her that many homemakers did so, as they wanted to do their part for the scrap drives and the lids were less necessary for cooking than the cast iron pans.

"Washington, D.C. Jewal Mazique [i.e. Jewel] cooking dinner after a hard day's work in the Library of Congress." Winter, 1942. I found it interesting to note that she was not using a cast iron lid on her pan. This was around the time of the War Scrap Drive effort. I wonder if she donated the lid to the cause?

“Washington, D.C. Jewal Mazique [i.e. Jewel] cooking dinner after a hard day’s work in the Library of Congress.” Winter, 1942. I found it interesting to note that she was not using a cast iron lid on her pan. This was around the time of the War Scrap Drive effort. I wonder if she donated the lid to the cause?

"Batavia, New York. Elba FSA (Farm Security Administration) farm labor camp. William Sloan is looking after these boys while they work in the harvest. He is doing the cooking and keeping them out of trouble. They will return to school later in the fall." Library of Congress photo, Sept. 1942.

“Batavia, New York. Elba FSA (Farm Security Administration) farm labor camp. William Sloan is looking after these boys while they work in the harvest. He is doing the cooking and keeping them out of trouble. They will return to school later in the fall.” Library of Congress photo, Sept. 1942. Mr. Sloan is cooking in a small cast iron skillet.

"Trampas, New Mexico. Maclovia Lopez, wife of the majordomo (mayor), cooking tortillas directly on the stove." January 1943, Library of Congress photo.

“Trampas, New Mexico. Maclovia Lopez, wife of the majordomo (mayor), cooking tortillas directly on the stove.” January 1943, Library of Congress photo. She is also cooking something up in a cast iron skillet.

"Washington, D.C. Lynn Massman, wife of a second class petty officer who is studying in Washington, cooking dinner." Library of Congress photo, Dec. 1943.

“Washington, D.C. Lynn Massman, wife of a second class petty officer who is studying in Washington, cooking dinner.” Library of Congress photo, Dec. 1943. She is cooking in a cast iron skillet.

August 15, 1945: WWII ends.