This is a very quick and dirty tutorial on the identification of unmarked corn stick pans and while the key to ID is easy enough to understand – it’s a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast rule. That’s because while the majority of corn stick pans were made by Griswold, Wagner, Lodge, BSR (Birmingham Stove and Range) and Martin Stove and Range, there are reproductions (especially of the more valuable Griswolds and Wagners’), and copies made by other foundries that aren’t as easily identifiable, or identifiable at all.
That is a subject for another day. For now let’s concentrate on the big five manufacturers – and the easiest way to identify them when they are unmarked. And that is to take the time to look at the handles. (Note I use marked pans in many of the photos to illustrate the article)
Here are some pictures to help you ID the corn stick pans. Notice that each have different handles with different shapes.
The handle is a vaguely D shaped one, which is typical of Griswold corn stick pans. The pan here you see is a marked Griswold. The following traits help identify it as well: 1) there are 4, one inch long feet located on the outermost sticks, 2) there is a single handle hole for hanging, and 3) the sticks are all aligned in the same direction.
The other pan that has the sticks aligned in the same direction, are the Lodge pans. Here are three variations of the lodge pan, the five stick, the seven stick and the nine stick (an almost identical version of the seven stick is still in the Lodge catalog today although the finish is significantly rougher). Note several differences, first the shape of the handle – a slightly rounded elongated handle that runs the width of the corn stick pan. These handles are typically marked with numbers and or letter (Often 0 2, or 2, plus a mold letter). Next, notice that each handle has a hole so the pan can be hung. Lastly note the the lack of “feet” on the bottom of the pan, instead there are two raised circles ~7/16” wide on the smaller end of the corn cob. These circles act as feet to balance the pan, as the Lodge pan rests directly on the surface it lays on, and the smaller edge of the pan is higher than the lower end.
BSR corn stick pans are often marked with numbers that read something like “27B” or “27S”. The handles are loop handles with an elongated hole on each side and a vaguely “M” like shape. Note that the BSR (as well as the Wagner and Martin) has no foot, or circle to balance it. It’s well balanced without it. Part of the reason it’s balanced is that the corn sticks alternate in direction.
Next is the Martin, which is very similar to the BSR in all respects, except for the handles which are rectangular (and about 2” long), and each of which have a hole for hanging.
The next pan we will look at is Wagner. There a three different Wagner corn stick plans pictured here – a marked pan, one marked as a Junior pan (but which is the same size) and an aluminum one. The handles are rounded which is typical of Wagner pans, and each handle has a hole for hanging. Please note that there may be footed Wagners’ – with feet that look much like the Griswold (but I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t a reproduction).
Next let’s look at the aluminum one a very interesting one. This one is a fake (well sort of). Superficially it looks like a Wagner – but it almost certainly isn’t. While it appears to have been made from a Wagner mold there are several subtle differences. The obvious one is the fact that it’s cast aluminum – not iron. The second is that only one of the handles has a hanging hole -which is atypical of Wagner, the last is the size. It’s smaller than the other two Junior sized pans and bigger than the teas size Wagner pans (which are the smallest Wagner corn stick pans at 7”1/8 in length). That’s pretty much a giveaway that it’s a recast. And while this one is a very nice recast, many recasts and copies aren’t, and that can be a giveaway that the piece you are looking at is a fake
The very last corn stick pan isn’t metal at all but a baking dish made of glass. Several companies including Wagner made dishes like this. The one pictured below however is a Miracle Maize dish believed to be from the 30s (It differs from the Wagner in terms of shape design). This was the next evolutionary step of the corn stick design which while it started in iron, turned later to oven safe baking glass similar to Pyrex, and of course aluminum gem pans.
Ask anyone from the era when radio and television were the social media of the day, they would have eaten from or cooked on cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, waffle-makers, Turk heads muffins tins to name a few. Today, if you are lucky enough to get your hand on one of these pre-1910s pieces, you would mostly read Griswold, Lodge, BSR, Wapak, Oneida marks. The metal worked well for the itinerants, migrants, ranchers, homeowners who valued rugged quality, durability and appreciation of the mirror-like finish of a well-seasoned piece of cast iron.
In the Progressive Era money was flowing freely boosting businesses in their diversification of product lines. It is in the midst of this that a slightly lesser known brand or company that came to fore. Beautiful, simple and well thought out pieces of Kitchenalia combining both cast iron and steel made their way into American kitchens, dining rooms, restaurants and delicatessens.
It was an interesting “kitchen knife” with the markings. “N. R. S. & Co, Groton NY 93” displayed by The Cast Iron Guys that piqued my interest. Used to the abundant information related to cast iron cookware both in USA and overseas, N. R. S. & Co. was understatedly present.
Groton Borough, New York in the late 1800s was area as part of a thriving municipality in Tompkins. Famous for its steel and iron foundries which grew a whole generation and industries of bridge builders, carriage makers , metal sheet workers and supporting industries such as planners, surveyors and architects. At one point, there were more than 10 bridge building companies in the Groton area servicing the nearby states. This proved fertile ground for individuals and companies willing to further instil or incorporate steel and or cast iron items into the American households.
I believe such man was Nelson R Streeter, born in 1838 in Pitcher, Chenonga married to an Adelia Randolph also formerly of Chenonga. They had 4 children. Streeter was orphaned at the age of 8 along with his 10 other siblings. He was eventually apprenticed as a shoemaker. Success came and he was promoted to custom foreman of a shoe manufacturing plant.
Logic would dictate that his solid plant management skills, natural prowess or dexterity working with his hands, inventiveness, mechanically mind, problem solving skills and keen perception of needs unattainable to others; he was always going to be a man of interest. He was said to have more than 40 patents attributed to him alone in his lifetime. The count is rumoured to be as high as 75.
In 1869, he was courted along with his numerous patents to Groton by a local banker who had the foresight to build his bank coffers and the local industries. Together with a few Groton business leaders, they bankrolled a shoe factory. The predecessor of N. R. S. & Co., had its first office above the bank until the demise of that banker. According to Cornell University document, Groton and NY Vicinity – in 1870, Streeter sold his shoe business to Morris & Young and. in 1872; the latter sold to W. M. Peck. The following year or two Mr. Streeter withdrew from all connection with this shoe business for the purpose of concentrating his inventions. He later licenced the use of N. R. S. & Co. Groton NY.
We can only deduce that the abundance of raw materials in Groton and the progression and development of machineries made the way for the manufacture of smaller items, fastenings, bolts and etc. helped to move along his future kitchenalia production. Again, the Bull Run fatten the purses and
loosened the strings and the growing influx of migrants both fuelled and strained the state’s ability to feed its settlers from at a faster rate. New ethnic groups demand new and different kitchen tools.
As seen from his many and varied patents; including a trap, improvements on the hinge on tea or coffee pots, a vegetable or meat cutter, a fruit/vegetable and lard press, a smallgoods cutting machine, he was consciously or unconsciously slated to industrialise the food industry as a whole.
According to Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York – Including a History of Cornell University Edited by: John H. Selkreg D. Mason & Co., Publishers Syracuse, N. Y. 1894, “In 1876 he engaged in the manufacture of novelties under the firm name of N. R Streeter & Co., and though comparatively unknown outside this village, the firm is oneof the largest business houses in the county. The firm deals in useful and valuable novelties of all kinds, many of them being the invention of Mr. Streeter himself”. As of the writing of this article, no marketing materials for the company have been found.
Nelson’s ingenuity showcase a combination of steel and cast iron and sometimes even wood points to his deep understanding of each metal or material’s strong points. Steel for its ability to be shaped any old way and processed into desired “thinness” yet added strength. Cast iron for long lasting effect and wood for ease of use on hands.
Later pieces indicated the business and possibly the manufacturing plant were moved to Rochester NY. This is consistent with his selling off his rights to a Mr. Draper who mass produced out of Rochester. Streeter spent his retirement travelling around the country selling N. R. S. & Co. Groton and Rochester wares at exhibitions and shows.
Obviously, his novelties wasn’t enough to garner all his attention and time, he was also a poet who wrote about his drummer days in “Gems from an Old Drummer’s Grip”. He also served on the Board of Trustees, Board of Education and was a Past convenor of Knights of Pythias – Bryant Lodge. Death records showed a Mr. N. R. Streeter passed on in 1917 coinciding with onset or
outbreak of the Great Influenza Epidemic and that a Mrs. N. R. Streeter survived him for another two years. Husband and wife are buried in Groton Cemetery which Nelson help fund and administer before his demise.
Today, his vintage and antique inventions and items are highly sought after and quickly traded online, via auctions and I would like to think passed down to future generations. Prices vary from US$20 for the smaller pieces to an excess of US$5000 for larger pieces. Some of his wares are spread far around the world. A delicatessen meat slicer was recently found in Zambia and picked up by museum. So grab your own piece of Americana Kitchenalia while you still can.
Jonathan L of The Cast Iron Guys has a few tips on restoring these beautiful pieces. Electrolysis, lye bath, chemical rust remover, steel wool and fine grit sand paper to remove the rust and dirt. We do not recommend curing such items. Once restored, washing, drying then storing in a dry place after each use would do the trick.
Design Patent D22,394 issued May 2, 1893 to Josiah Austice and Warren E. Warner of Rochester, and Nelson R Streeter, of Groton, New York.
Design for an Ice-Pick
The invention consists of several improvements to ice picks to include the end having four picks with sharpened ends to form a knife edge and one end of the head is flattened and roughened for an ice cracker and the other end has a single four sided ice pick.
L – 8-7/8”, All metal tool,
“SENSIBLE” and “PAT PEND’G” on opposite sides of the tine support, taper four sided pick on one end of the tine support and hammer head on the other end. Tines are tapered on the ends.
People often ask me about cast iron. What they should buy? what do they need? how should they pick the pieces that they are going to get?
I usually start by asking a few questions.
1) Are you going to be using the pieces or collecting, or a combination of the two?
That’s because quality usable iron and quality collectible iron are different – not just in quality, but significantly in price. You can find great quality users relatively inexpensively, or you can pay a sometimes significant premium for usable collector quality iron that is just as functional, but may accrue significant value as you use it. We will expand on types of cast iron you can expect to find, and what we have found to be useful in our kitchens.
2) Are you looking for modern or vintage iron?
Modern iron, while readily available, is of significant different quality than vintage iron – that’s because the processes used to make it, the finishes and even the casting sand is different. Modern manufacturers have, as a cost saving measure, for the most part stopped milling and polishing their iron after casting, beyond the first cleaning. This is because the time taken in the multi-step process to polish each piece can literally double the cost of manufacture. Even the best modern iron usually pales in comparison of smoothness and non-stick ability compared to quality vintage iron for this reason.
The historical quality and location of manufacturer may matter too. While vintage iron found in the United States is usually a slice of Americana, the majority of cast iron being made today comes from Asia (the only major exceptions being pieces made by Lodge and a couple of artisan manufacturers who make their iron in the USA ). That does not preclude foreign made iron from being of high quality – some vintage iron from other countries is of high quality – including older pieces from Korea, Taiwan, Canada, and Mexico and you have to judge those on a case by case basis.
3) What are the most important things to you? Bang for your buck? Best cookers? Investment? Prestige of the brand among the cast iron community? History? Cost? Look?
Those are factors which really should help you find your direction. Those looking for collector value or prestige probably should be looking at collector type pieces – as probably should good chefs who want the very best that money can buy*, while the others probably can safely veer away from pieces which demand a premium beyond their use price.
4) How involved do you want to get right away?
That’s important to know right off the bat. Do you want to get a single piece and try it out before you commit to a whole set? or jump in whole hog and get a bunch? The answer to that depends a lot on you. If you have no thoughts of collecting but want great users, then getting several pieces at a time make sense (so long as you are getting them from a trustworthy source), but if you are thinking about collecting but aren’t yet settled on just what you want to collect, it might be smarter to start with either one or two pieces, so you can determine what you like, or don’t like about certain brands. That way you can compare pieces and find your own personal niche in collecting.
5) What are you buying them for? Use, display, or collecting?
Pretty straight forward there – it could be one, two, or all three of the reasons. Figuring out which of these apply to you can help you find the right piece for you (or help us find he right piece for you!).