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If you've begun looking for vintage, antique American cast iron cookware for your kitchen, it's practically a guarantee that you'll hear about Griswold and Wagner, brands considered to be the "gold standard" of cast iron cookware. But when you go looking for these pans on eBay and in antique malls, you'll soon find they are almost always overpriced and expensive. Because of their popularity, Griswold and Wagner pans can be difficult to find.
However, in your search for cast iron pots and pans, you will be much more likely to find something like…this.
"What is this? Is it made in the USA? Is it worth anything? Should I get this?"
To answer this last question: YES!
This is a cast iron pan from Birmingham Stove & Range, and this is one of the great secrets of cast iron cooking. There are many brands of antique, vintage cast iron that perform just as well as Griswold and Wagner; but because these brands aren't as "famous" they can often be found for far, far less in price. Among the most popular of that kind are the "unmarked" cast iron pans – ones that don't have the manufacturer stamp on the bottom. Many people across the country, and around the world, have one or more of these "unmarked" pans. They have no idea who made these pans, but they work wonders in the kitchen and are treasures to have, even if they are not "valuable antiques." The most common of these "unmarked" pans are from Lodge Manufacturing – the same Lodge that makes the cast iron pans you see in Wal-Mart today – Wagner, and Birmingham Stove & Range (abbreviated here as BS&R). Folks love these pans, because they can often be found for pennies…and when cleaned up, they perform like champions.
|Timeline of Atlanta Stove Works and Birmingham Stove & Range|
(Hosted on the Web site of Wagner & Griswold Society)
The members of the Facebook group BSR Cast Iron Cooking and More have compiled a detailed and historically accurate timeline of the history of Birmingham Stove & Range. The Facebook group is a "closed" group, and you must be a member of the group (which is free) in order to see the timeline posting.
|Business History of Birmingham Stove & Range, page hosted on Birmingham Wiki|
A brief and summarized history of Birmingham Stove & Range is as follows:
The Atlanta Stove Works company was founded in 1889 (originally named Georgia Stove Company) to produce cast iron stoves. Their original location was on Krog Street, home of the famous and long-lasting Krog Street Market. Initially, their business boomed to the point where in 1902, a separate foundry was built in Birmingham, Alabama especially for the production of hollow ware and cast iron cookware to supplement their stoves. This separate foundry was named Birmingham Stove & Range.
Many of the original records from Atlanta Stove Works have been lost, especially because the original factory burned down in 1915 and was re-built. It is known that the first series of Birmingham Stove & Range cast iron pans, the Red Mountain series, was introduced in the year 1930. This name was based upon the geographic area around Birmingham, Alabama, known as the Red Mountain area – an area so rich in iron ore, the rock faces have a reddish tinge from the hematite iron ore present in the landscape.
In addition to stoves, Atlanta Stove Works also produced a barbecue grill stand named the Atlanta Stove Works Cue-Cart, which is legendary among barbecue afficionadoes. Even today, the Cue Cart is seen as the standard to which barbecue grills are compared. (More about the Cue Cart: www.barbecuen.com/faqs/cuecart.htm#axzz2lsc4emvB )
In 1957, the original Atlanta Stove Works foundry on Krog Street closed, leaving Birmingham Stove & Range as the sole producer of cast iron for this company. There was still a lot of competition at the time, both from neighboring foundries such as Lodge Manufacturing, and also from the new influx of foreign cast iron from Asia.
1957 also saw the introduction of the Century Cookware series from Birmingham Stove & Range. This was essentially a re-naming of their brand. Red Mountain was replaced with Century – but the cast iron pans were exactly the same. The name "Century" was stated as "made to last 100 years," and it went along with a famous phrase, "Will Not Dent Or Chip."
Major changes came to Birmingham Stove & Range in the 1960s, with the introduction of automated production using DISAMATIC equipment during the years 1966 through 1968. (Wikipedia article on DISAMATIC). This removed a lot of the hand-finished procedures from the production of its cast iron – and the result was a cast iron pan that was still good quality, but it no longer had the "smooth as glass" feel of previous BS&R pans. With the introduction of DISA automated production, BS&R re-designed thir skillets to provide exact sizes and measurements. 1966 saw the introduction of skillets with a size number listed as NO. along with a size measurement of IN. The majority of BS&R pans, especially their skillets, were machine-polished to give the cooking surface a smooth feel; while the outside and underside of the pan retained a rough surface, rather than being smooth all over. Automated production greatly increased the output of the BS&R facility, and in only a couple of years a great number of these new pans were shipped to suppliers across the country.
Within two years after introducing the newly redesigned Century pans, BS&R began adding a MADE IN USA mark to its cookware. This was a marketing move meant to strike back against the surge of cheaply made imported cast iron pans from Asia. The MADE IN USA mark was added beginning in late 1967, and by 1968 almost all BS&R pans bore this mark.
Along with production of everyday cast iron skillets, BS&R is credited with the introduction of the popular corn bread skillet, a cast iron pan with eight separate wedges meant for making individual pieces of corn bread. The corn bread skillet was introduced in 1967, and its sales immediately skyrocketed, resulting in banner years for BS&R in 1967 and 1968.
During the 1970s, increased pressure from competition resulted in Birmingham Stove & Range redesigning its cookware, changing the size of its pans especially so they would be compatible with other accessories from outside the company, such as glass lids.
In 1976, for the United States' 200th anniversary, BS&R produced a limited series of cast iron pans with wooden handles, named the "Lady Bess" series.
|This section is intended to correct some misinformation regarding the closure of Birmingham Stove & Range.|
For a while, the energy crisis of the 1970s appeared to be a boon to Atlanta Stove Works, their parent company, as manufacturing of wood-burning stoves increased dramatically between 1974 and 1980. However, the market for wood burning stoves crashed as oil-based energy prices returned to regular levels, resulting in hard times for Atlanta Stove Works. In 1986, Atlanta Stove Works, along with Birmingham Stove & Range, was sold to Martin Industries. As the company was restructured, its wood-fired stove and cast iron production facility in Birmingham was shut down. (Source: Maria Saporta, "Atlanta Stove Works closes operations here," Atlanta Constitution, January 2, 1987): )
Martin Industries was in fact the company originally founded as Martin Stove & Range. They had long since ended their production of cast iron cookware, and had been producing gas heaters since the 1940s. Martin was in the process of its own restructuring, and their purchase of the Atlanta Stove Works' gas and stove production fit into their business strategy.  Their ownership of Atlanta Stove Works acquired the production facilities for various areas of the business – but not the cookware production facility. Martin Industries managed the production of stoves and gas heaters, plus other items. The cast iron cookware facility was legally spun off into a separate business entity, and BS&R officially changed its business name to A&B Foundry. Their official name changed, but they continued to retain ownership of the brand names and designs for "Birmingham Stove & Range" and "Century Cookware."
Production of cast iron cookware continued at A&B Foundry from 1987 through 1991. It was at this time that some of the later items in the Century Cookware line were produced, such as the Handy Dan Corn Stick Pan.
In 1991, Atlanta Stove Works entered into a deal with a neighboring foundry (Robinson Foundry) to continue producing its cast iron products. However, due to corporate wrangling, the contract was negated after BS&R had removed its production equipment from the original Birmingham foundry location. This left them without the means to produce any cast iron products on their own. To survive, the company entered into a temporary agreement with Lodge Manufacturing to distribute their cast iron, which lasted for two years; though Lodge did not actually produce cast iron for BS&R (or A&B) during this time.
In 1992, A&B Foundry (doing business as Birmingham Stove & Range) declared bankruptcy and folded completely in 1993. As part of its debt settlement with Lodge, the patents and designs for its cookware were acquired by Lodge, who integrated them into the design of their own cookware; especially the Sportsman grill and the cornbread pan. These products continue to be produced by Lodge through the present day, and they are consistent sellers, especially the Sportsman grill (or hibachi).
Former BS&R manager Hugh Rushing wrote on Facebook, "Martin bought the gas heater business in the late 1980s. DISA molding equipment began to be moved out in 1991 in an ill-fated joint venture with Robinson Foundry . Manufacturing had ceased by mid-1992, but product was made at outside sources for another year in limited quantities. Probably the last cookware was run in late 1992 or early 1993. BSR (in the form of A & B Foundry) entered bankruptcy in January, 1993."
As an aside, in the 1980s, the re-structured Atlanta Stove Works was involved with the development of modern-day carbon monoxide alarms. One of the first producers of carbon monoxide alarms, Quantum Group Inc., described in its company history:
In 1996, the former site of Birmingham Stove & Range was purchased by a recycling company called KMAC Services (now named Evolutia), who completely renovated the old foundry site.
In 2013, retail corporation Paces Properties purchased the original nine-acre area on Krog Street, including the former Atlanta Stove Works building. They redeveloped the area into a modern food mall, incorporating the Atlanta Stove Works building into the project. The new market opened to the public on November 24, 2014. News stories related to this: ,  The Web site of the new Krog Street Market is: www.krogstreetmarket.com/ ( Facebook: www.facebook.com/KrogStreetMarket )
Birmingham Stove & Range never put an identifying logo or manufacturer mark on their cast iron pans. However, there are several unique traits to these pans that allow them to be easily identified.
BS&R cast iron pans are very heavy, and they have a weight and a heft similar to modern-day cast iron pans from Lodge. However, unlike Lodge, the cooking surface of a BS&R pan is very smooth. The manufacturer milled down the surface of the pan and gave it a smooth surface, far more smooth than the surface found on any modern day cast iron pan produced today. This adds to the appeal of these older vintage pans.
The heavy weight of a BS&R pan differs from the lighter weight of the more famous Griswold and Wagner pans. However, the weight and thickness of a BS&R pan gives it an advantage over lighter, thinner pans: it is far more resistant to damage and warping. I've found quite a few older Wagner pans, and even some Griswolds, with warped surfaces that caused them to spin when placed on a flat surface. Birmingham Stove & Range pans almost never warp (though I've found at least one). Likewise, they are incredibly durable and resistant to scratches, dents, and chips. As with any cast iron pan, their greatest enemy was rust. If you take the effort to clean up a BS&R pan and restore it to working condition, it will look nearly new, even as good as the day it was manufactured. Many of the BS&R pans found at flea markets and junkyards are decades old, often dating back to the 1930s.
The Birmingham foundry used a size numbering system to match the stoves produced by Atlanta Stove Works. These size numbers were somewhat larger than the sizes used by most other manufacturers. With most vintage cast iron pans, the most common size available is the "number 8," which corresponds to a cast iron pan or pot with a diameter of slightly greater than ten inches (not including the length of the handle). This approximates to a No. 7 size in a BS&R pan, which is stamped on the Century series as 10 1/8 inches. The number 8 pan is a full half inch greater in diameter, or 10 5/8 inches.
|Size Number||Red Mountain||Century Cookware||Century Cookware |
|Skillet Depth||Dutch Oven Depth|
|NO. 3-S||6 1/4 IN.||N/A||N/A||1 3/16"||N/A|
|NO. 3||6 5/8 IN.||6 5/8 IN.||6 5/8 IN.||1 9/16"||N/A|
|NO. 4||7 3/16 IN.||N/A||N/A||1 1/2"||N/A|
|NO. 5-S||7 3/16 IN.||N/A||N/A||1 1/2"||N/A|
|NO. 5||8 1/8 IN.||8 1/8 IN.||8 1/8 IN.||1 3/4"||N/A|
|Size 6 Red Mountain||8 11/16 IN.||N/A||N/A||1 7/8"||3 5/8"|
|NO. 6 Century||N/A||8 11/16 IN.||9 3/8 IN.||1 7/8"||3 5/8"|
|NO. 7-S||8 11/16 IN.||N/A||N/A||1 7/8"||N/A|
|NO. 7||9 5/8 IN.||10 1/4 IN.||N/A||2"||3 3/4"|
|NO. 8-B (7)||N/A||N/A||10 1/4 IN.||2"||3 3/4"|
|NO. 8||10 5/8 IN.||10 5/8 IN.||N/A||2"||4"|
|NO. 9||11 5/8 IN.||N/A||N/A||2"||4 1/4"|
|NO. 10||12 5/8 IN.||12 5/8 IN.||12 7/16 IN.||2 1/8"||4 7/8"|
|NO. 12||13 3/8 IN.||13 3/8 IN.||13 7/16 IN.||2 1/4"||5 5/8"|
|NO. 14||15 3/8 IN.||15 IN.||15 IN.||2 1/4"||N/A|
One unique trait common to all Birmingham Stove & Range pans was the design of the handle. All of their pans had handles with a scooped hole on the underside for hanging the pan, shaped in the style seen here. The hole is teardrop shaped. There is a ridge or edge along the underside of the handle from the handle to the hole. This was a simple style that instantly identified any pan as being from BS&R.
During the 1960s through the 1980s, BS&R produced several modified pans that differed from their skillets, including the Chef Skillet, Breakfast Griddle and Square Skillet. These pans hand a handle design shaped slightly different from the handles of "regular" BS&R skillets. This handle was longer and thinner, and the hanging eye hole had more of an oval shape than a teardrop shape. More notably, the handle was curved rather than straight. More information on these pans can be seen on this page: Special Pans by Birmingham Stove and Range
All cast iron skillets from Birmingham Stove & Range, up until the 1970s, were made with a heat ring: a circular ridge on the underside of the pan. BS&R pans in particular had a very thick and distinctive heat ring. Also, as stated previously, each of these pans have the teardrop-shaped scoop on the underside of the handle.
The first series of cast iron pans produced by Birmingham Stove & Range had very few markings on the underside. As noted above, they had a prominent heat ring, and the distinctive teardrop-shaped hanging hole on the underside of the handle. However, as this photo shows, the only identification stamps used were a large number and a letter, such as the ones on the pans shown above: 3 W and 5 . (5 plus a dot). The number indicates the size of the pan – in this case, the number 5 indicates it is a size 5 pan. The letter W on the left photo is a mold marker, and it could be lettered A through Z. (Some molds used two letters for identification instead of just one, as seen in the 8 K G example above. That pan is a size 8, with the mold marker KG.) This indicated exactly which iron mold was used to cast the pan, and it assisted with easy identification if pans began showing flaws as the molds wore out or cracked from use. Some pans had a dot after the size number, instead of a pattern letter, as shown in the photo on the right.
Closeup photos of a No. 8 sized 1930s-1960s era Red Mountain skillet, showing the surface detail. Click on each picture for a larger image.
This original label shows that BS&R added a sticker to each of their pans, even though they did not include their own name on the pan itself. Click on the picture for a larger image of the label.
The Red Mountain #14 size differed from all of their smaller skillets in one aspect: it did not have the angled ridge on the underside of the handle. The most likely reason for this was the design was simply too big to fit into the pattern used for casting, and it resulted in a pan that had to have the handle with a more curved surface, without the tradenmarked ridge shape. The #14 skillet was produced in this style until the introduction of DISA automated manufacturing in the late 1960s. The new machines were able to produce molds with the ridge on the underside of the handle.
However, for several years the largest skillets (size 12 and 14) continued to have only a size number of 12 or 14, without the NO. descriptor added to all of BS&R's smaller pans. They finally changed the size to NO. 12 and NO. 14, with a size measurement in inches, in the early to mid 1970s.
The Red Mountain series included a set of three skillets of an unusual size. These pans were marked with size numbers of 3-S, 5-S and 7-S. These pans are slightly smaller than other Red Mountain skillets of the 3, 5, and 7 sizes. This makes them of interest to BS&R collectors, though otherwise they are exactly like other skillets of the Red Mountain series.
"Veri Similitude" wrote on June 4, 2015: "We don't know yet what S stood for or why they were made. So far we've captured 3, 5 and 7 in the wild. The 5 was made from a 4 and the 7 from a 6 so you will often see those with ghosted 4 and 6 marks. My theory is a special portable stove was made, but we really don't know." Later, the question of "why" the S series was made produced this remark: "To compete with another foundry. They made a camping set that featured a smaller size to complement that camping set." (Jason Walker, April 19, 2016)
Posted to the Cast Iron Cooking group on February 19, 2014 by Chris St. John: "And finally what appears to be another Red Mountain series, marked 5 Bx, and another marked 8Y. But notice that the marks are obviously scrawled by hand, rather than printed like the other Red Mountain." A number of these pans have appeared in the hands of collectors and cast iron enthusiasts. While much of Atlanta Stove Works' production records from its early days have been lost, speculation on the Facebook group for Birmingham Stove and Range came to a reasonable conclusion that these may be among the "first series" of Red Mountain pans, produced during the 1930s or possibly even earlier. The hand-etched molds may have been produced before the size numbers were standardized and permanently added to the design of the mold.
BS&R began using the name "Red Mountain" on their stoves in 1922, and they filed for a trademark on the "Red Mountain" cookware name in 1926. Their stoves were the primary product and the cookware was meant to supplement the stoves, and it's believed the earliest "handwritten" pans were produced for their stoves during this time. I personally would think the "handwritten" series continued to around the 1930s, and after that they used stencils to put the more familiar large, rounded letters on their pans.
These photos show a close-up comparison between a Birmingham Stove & Range "handwritten" Red Mountain skillet and a special "S series" Red Mountain. The handwritten markings on the bottom indicate both of these pans are from the same approximate time period, 1920s to 1930s, though there could be as much as ten years' difference or so between the two. The 7P skillet has casting flaws on the bottom that appear to be cracks, but close examination shows the skillet is intact and will cook just fine. The 7-S also has a B mark, which likely indicates a mold ID in the same way the 7 has a mold ID of P. The 7-S is identical in size to a number 6 Red Mountain skillet (8 11/16 inches, according to the Red Mountain catalog), while the 7 is 9 5/8 inches in diameter, or exactly 1 inch smaller than a size 8 skillet. (Click on each photo for a larger high-resolution image.)
The Century Cookware series of cast iron was officially introduced by Birmingham Stove & Range in the year 1957. While collectors usually assume all BS&R cast iron with the designs listed above were Red Mountain series pans, the change to Century Cookware actually took place before the designs were updated and changed. A fair number of pans were shipped to suppliers with the "Century Cookware" label, while still bearing the maker's marks of the "Red Mountain" series – even as late as the 1960s! The only difference was the adhesive label attached. As such, it's impossible to tell which pans were "early Century" and which were "later Red Mountain."
Birmingham Stove & Range re-introduced its cast iron pots and pans as Century Cookware, beginning in 1957. At this time, the cast iron pans themselves were exactly the same as the original Red Mountain series pans. The only difference was that BS&R produced new labels, stickers, and boxes to ship the same pans with the name of "Century Cookware." Because the pans themselves were the exact same pans, this change was entirely cosmetic and didn't apply to consumers.
Collector and researcher Dwayne Henson wrote on the BS&R Cast Iron Cooking And More Facebook group:
Here is a series of photos of a #12 skillet that is likely to be of the Century series, paired with an "older" Red Mountain #12 lid. This may be the heaviest BS&R lid I've ever held. It's a huge #12 lid, yet it still feels thicker and heavier than other BS&R lids. The handwritten #12 on the lid, and larger basting dimples, suggests it may be an "earlier" Red Mountain perhaps even made before the 1930s. However, it fits this "later" Red Mountain #12 skillet like a glove. The "later" Red Mountain is likely of 1960s make, due to the rough surface on the outside, and machine-polished inside. In contrast, the surface of the lid is smooth all over, top and bottom.
The years 1966 through 1968 were a landmark period for Birmingham Stove & Range. It was at this time the company's production facility introduced automated DISAMATIC cast iron production equipment. Dwayne Henson writes:
Closeup photos of a No. 8 sized 1966-1967 era Century Cookware skillet, showing the surface detail. Click on each picture for a larger image.
This is a "number 8" size pan of the "Century" series, with a diameter of 10 5/8 inches. It's slightly larger than the "number 8" sized pans from other manufacturers, such as Lodge or Griswold. Be sure to note the following:
BS&R's dutch ovens of the Century series were essentially the same as their older Red Mountain series in general design, with smooth bottoms and no heat rings underneath. The identifying marks underneath were identical to those used on BS&R Century cast iron skillets, complete with identical size numbers and measurements. The lids were interchangeable and would fit on both the dutch ovens and skillets.
Closeup photos of a NO. 10 sized Century Cookware cookware dutch oven, dating from 1966 to 1968, showing the surface detail. Click on each picture for a larger image.
The Birmingham Stove & Range chicken fryer, or deep skillet, was produced for the entire length of the company's history. These pans were made in only two sizes, number 7 (10 1/4 inches diameter) and number 8 (10 5/8 inches). Of the two, the number 8 is more commonly found. As with most BS&R pans, these chicken fryers are huge beasts, a full three inches deep. The regular skillet lids will fit these pans. The chicken fryer has a flat bottom without any heat ring.
(At least one specimen of an early Red Mountain #10 sized chicken fryer has been found, but this was apparently discontinued by the time Century Cookware pans were produced.)
Closeup photos of a NO. 8 sized Century Cookware chicken fryer, dating from 1966 to 1968, showing the surface detail. Click on each picture for a larger image.
In the late 1960s, Birmingham Stove & Range added a MADE IN USA mark to the underside of its newly designed Century pans. This is believed to have occurred by the years 1967 to 1968. A large number of the newly designed Century pans were produced before the MADE IN USA mark was added to the majority of BS&R molds, from 1966 to late 1967 or early 1968, and these pans did not have a MADE IN USA mark. Until only recently, it was believed these pans had been produced in the 1950s, and the MADE IN USA mark indicated these pans had been produced after the year 1960. This is actually not correct. While Wagner Ware had begun marking its pans with MADE IN USA during the early 1960s, other major cast iron cookware makers waited until the later 1960s to add this mark to their pans. This included Lodge Manufacturing, and Birmingham Stove & Range.
The addition of MADE IN USA marks to all DISA production machines did not occur overnight. This is believed to have taken place between 1967 and 1968. If a BS&R pan had a MADE IN USA mark on the underside, this indicated it was made with a mold from an automated DISA machine, beginning in the year 1967 to 1968. If the MADE IN USA stamp was absent, the pan was older and was cast between 1966 and 1968.
While a BS&R pan marked with MADE IN USA can be guaranteed to have a manufacture date later than 1967, there have been individual pieces discovered that did not bear this mark. Other identifying traits on these pans still suggest they were cast in the 1970s or later, in spite of the lack of this mark. This is seen as proof that there was no law or government ruling declaring all cast iron to bear this mark. Rather, it was voluntarily added by manufacturers as a marketing strategy.
In the 1970s, BS&R made adjustments to the sizes of the pans in their line, in response to requests from distributors for a pan that would fit popular glass lids from third-party makers. The size markings of their pans changed slightly as these adjustments were made, as seen in these photo of the NO. 10 size.
At this time BS&R added a new size 8-B This photo of a 1970s Century series dutch oven shows a "number 8" (NO 8-B) sized pan measuring 10 1/4 inches, as opposed to the 10 5/8 inch size of the earlier pans. This particular size, 8-B, was introduced as the new standard, and the larger size 8 pan saw a reduced number in production, if not phased out completely. These more modern BS&R pans are harder to find than the older vintage pans. Hugh Rushing writes on Facebook, "The other reason the [size] 7 became an 8-B is so that we could run it two up on a DISA 2013 machine. That enabled us to actually lower the cost of the 8-B as opposed to the older model 8 which was 10-5/8" in diameter." – February 12, 2015
Also in the 1970s, BS&R added mold ID numbers to the markings on its pans, as seen by the 5H-2 mark in this photo. According to Hugh Rushing (posted to Facebook on March 4, 2015), "The 5H was the pattern designation and the 2 was the second impression in the pattern. [This was] needed so if something went wrong you would know which cavity to work on."
Closeup photos of a NO. 3 sized 1970s Century skillet, showing the surface detail. This pan has a rough surface, but the inside of the cooking surface is soothed and milled. This particular pan shows the spiral pattern of the milling marks, created when the cooking surface was ground down to a smooth finish. Click on each picture for a larger image.
This is a 1970s-era original label from Atlanta Stove Works, using the same model cast iron pan; only with a different brand label ("ATLANTA") on the label. Click on the picture for a larger image of the label.
Former BS&R marketing manager Hugh Rushing writes, "The Lady Bess line was introduced to celebrate the [United States] bicentennial. Retailers were interested in glass lids, so the patterns and resulting diameter of the pans in that line were designed to fit standard available glass covers. Lady Bess also had wooden handles on the skillets and sauce pans. They were originally packaged as sets in a wooden crate. All very Early American. Later those patterns were used to make Con Brio, a short line with white porcelain handles which were sold mainly on the West Coast. This was also the first cast iron with a nonstick finish."
The size number marked on the bottom of the Lady Bess series did not match the earlier sizes of 3 through 14 used in the Red Mountain and Century series. The Lady Bess size had a W next to the number, which indicated "width." A pan marked 8W was 8 inches in diameter – and this was much smaller than a Century or Red Mountain size 8 (10 5/8 inches diameter). This was unintentionally ironic, as the Lady Bess series was intended to imitate an "Early American" style cast iron pan – yet, it would not fit in a genuine antique cast iron stove.
About ten years after the Lady Bess series was produced, A&B Foundry (Atlanta Stove Works had been renamed in 1986) re-used the designs of these pans. A series of pans with porcelain handles, rather than wood, was issued under the name of Con Brio. The cast iron pans themselves were exactly the same as Lady Bess; the only difference was the handle.
Photo Gallery: Special Pans by Birmingham Stove and Range
The years 1966 through 1968 saw the introduction of the new DISA automated production system at Birmingham Stove & Range. This new system allowed the company to greatly increase its production and output. It also gave them the opportunity to experiment with different designs and shapes, to generate further revenue for the company and see what might catch on with the public. Most of these pans were produced with a single size and shape. These included the Chef Skillet, Square Skillet, Breakfast Skillet, Small Fry, and the Jumbo Skillet.
More information on these unique and unusual pans produced for the Century series can be seen at this page: Special Pans by Birmingham Stove and Range
Birmingham Stove & Range lids differ from most other cast iron lids. While other lids have ridges to allow condensation to collect and drip onto the food as it cooks, BS&R lids have "dimples" or indentations on the underside of the lid.
The handle on top of the lid was intentionally designed with one end larger than the other. As with the Red Mountain series skillets, iron lids of this era had a size number printed on the top, underneath the handle. This particular lid is an 8 F, signifying a size 8 lid cast in mold letter F.
On the underside of the lid, the basting dimples were spaced haphazardly, in a random placement that had no actual pattern. These random dimples are what immediately makes this lid unique as a BS&R Red Mountain series lid.
The placement of the basting dimples under the lid became more of a distinct pattern, and the dimples were no longer randomly spaced. For identification purposes, the size and measurement of the lid was placed under the cover, instead of on the top. In addition to the differing sizes of each end of the handle, Century series lids had an additional bulge at the wider end.
Lids for Birmingham Stove & Range camp ovens differed greatly from their more familiar and common skillet and dutch oven lids. They were designed completely different, and their sizes were also different. The camp oven lids fit on BS&R's camp ovens and spiders, but not on their kitchen cookware. Because of this, these camp oven lids have been largely unknown throughout the years. Even though they were all manufactured in the 20th century, many antique vendors and collectors mistakenly state they were manufactured in the 1800s, for older 19th century spiders and camp ovens.
There was only one model or style of the BS&R camp oven lid. This was manufactured by BS&R throughout its entire history, from the earlier Red Mountain series all the way through later Century Cookware. The number of camp oven pieces produced by BS&R was far less than their skillet and dutch oven lids, and so BS&R camp oven lids in general are rare and hard to find.
The lid is flanged with a raised ridge on the outer rim. As with all camp oven lids, this allows coals to be placed onto the lid without falling off. Unlike BS&R kitchen lids, there are no dimples at all on the underside. The bottom is completely smooth.
These camp oven lids were produced in six sizes, all with an exact measurement: 9 IN, 10 IN, 11 IN, 12 IN, 13 IN, and 14 IN. On all of these lids, the heat ring on the underside has a diameter exactly one inch less than the top. This is seen in this photo, where a 12 IN lid has an underside heat ring 11 inches in diameter. The size on this lid is stamped with a simple 12 IN, with no other logo or identification mark at all. Unlike their skillet and dutch oven lids, the "12 IN" indicates the diameter of the top, not the underside. This size does not match the standard sizes of BS&R skillets and dutch ovens, and this lid does not fit onto a BS&R dutch oven or skillet.
In 1967, the introduction of DISA automated production brought one major change to the design of the camp oven lid. As with their saucepans, all Birmingham Stove & Range camp lids made during and after the year 1967 have tab handles rather than typical handles. These tab handles make the pot harder to lift, and persons using these lids would often use a hook or even pliers to lift the lid. The tab handle was a cost-cutting measure used with lines of product produced in lower numbers. A lid with a handle required an additional step in the manufacturing process to produce the handle, while the tab lid could be molded at the same time as the lid itself. Far more dutch oven lids were produced at BS&R than camp oven lids; therefore, the additional effort and expense was made so that all of the dutch oven lids were made with handles. Fewer camp oven lids were made and sold, so these lids were made with tab handles to reduce production costs.
More information on BS&R camp ovens, spiders, and camp oven lids can be found on this page: Outdoor Cookware by Birmingham Stove and Range
Photo Gallery: Corn Bread Pans by Birmingham Stove and Range
Birmingham Stove & Range produced many cast iron corn stick baking pans. What's more, this company can be credited as the first company to produce the popular cornbread pan, a cast iron pan with eight wedges for individual pieces of cornbread. (This pan can also be used to bake cookies, brownies, and many other delightful foods.) Lodge produced its own imitation of the cornbread skillet shortly after the original was introduced by BS&R; though they added a hole in the center of the pan. When BS&R's designs were acquired by Lodge in the late 1980s, the design and ownership of the cornbread skillet was passed on to Lodge. This pan is sold today as the Lodge wedge pan.
|The history of BS&R corn bread pans can be seen on this page here at Cast Iron Chaos: Corn Bread Pans by Birmingham Stove and Range|
Photo Gallery: Saucepans by Birmingham Stove and Range
Birmingham Stove & Range produced many varieties of cookware, though their most famous pans are the skillets and dutch ovens seen above. In addition to their "Century" and "Red Mountain" series pans, they also produced a number of deep cast iron saucepans with long handles. These saucepans did not have the identifying marks seen above, and as such they are harder to identify than the more common and popular BS&R pans.
|On March 10, 2015, Ricky Gilley posted a series of photos of these BS&R saucepans onto Facebook's BS&R Cast Iron Cooking group. These photos can be seen on this page here at Cast Iron Chaos: Saucepans by Birmingham Stove and Range|
This huge piece of cookware was first produced in the 1950s, when the Century series of cast iron cookware was introduced by Birmingham Stove & Range. Measuring 11 inches long by 19 inches wide (21 inches to the tips of the handles), it weighs a hefty thirteen pounds. BS&R received a patent for the "two burner griddle with grease drain perimeter." The bottom right hand corner has a grease trap, so that grease runs off the surface of the griddle and is carried to the well for easy storage or disposal.
Photo Gallery: Sportsman Grill by Birmingham Stove and Range
The Birmingham Stove & Range Sportsman's grill is a rare item, especially the first generation with four legs instead of three. The oval frying pan, originally made and marketed as a fish fryer accessory for the grill, is highly sought after by cast iron enthusiasts. These items were produced for Atlanta Stove Works by Birmingham Stove & Range, beginning in 1941 and throughout the entire history of the company. The Sportsman grill was one of the most popular items produced by BS&R, and today the same item is made and sold by Lodge Cast Iron under the same name: the Sportsman grill or "hibachi."
|The history of the Sportsman grill, Model 3052 Oval Fish Fryer and Model 3060 Deep Fryer can be seen on this page: Sportsman Grill by Birmingham Stove and Range|
In addition to their kitchen cookware, Birmingham Stove & Range manufactured a series of outdoor cast iron pots and pans, including legged camp ovens and spider skillets. These items were produced in far less quantity than BS&R kitchen pots and pans, though they can still be found on occasion.
Photo Gallery: Outdoor Cookware by Birmingham Stove and Range
Truthfully, not much. Because there isn't a manufacturer logo or stamp on these pans, they are largely unknown to modern day users and collectors. This is an important reason why cast iron pans from Birmingham Stove & Range are mostly forgotten except by historians. These "unmarked" pans are unknown to the general public, and these pans can found at yard sales, flea markets, junk dealers, and places all over the country, often for pennies. I've bought more than one rust-coated BS&R pan for two dollars or even less, because the person selling it had no idea what it was (other than "a rusty old frying pan"). BS&R cast iron pans are widely available and not especially difficult to find, often at throwaway prices.
(On the other hand, the Sportsman's grill is a collector's item and can sell for hundreds of dollars in good condition! The Sportsman's grill has the Birmingham Stove & Range name on it, as opposed to their "unmarked" skillets.)
However, if you are looking for one of these pans to use in your kitchen – then that's the good news! It means that you are likely to find a BS&R cast iron pan somewhere, without a lot of effort. You'll only have to pay a very low cost for the pan…if you don't actually get it for free by finding it in a junk pile somewhere. (This actually happens frequently to people all across the United States.) The pan may be dirty, rusty, and encrusted with grit or even decades of old seasoning – it's not likely to be in brand new condition. But, that should not stop you from acquiring a BS&R pan if you find it in this manner. These pans are almost indestructible! It will not require a lot of effort to restore this cast iron pan into a condition as good as new. And when the pan is restored, you'll have a kitchen treasure that cooks like a champion!
Some very unusual cast iron pans from Birmingham Stove and Range have been discovered by members of the Cast Iron Cooking group.
From Rich Bails, posted to the Cast Iron Cooking group on November 23, 2013 – a tiny Red Mountain:
Some information from Cast Iron Collector: "You'll occasionally see on the bottom of some pieces what appears to be the head of a screw. This is not a repair of a defect, but rather a quality control measure some foundries used after the advent of automation. If a pattern became suspect of causing defective pieces, it would be marked so the pans made from it could be easily identified. A simple method of marking involved driving a screw into the pattern. A curiosity at most, and collectible value is not affected."
Posted to BSR Users Group: Birmingham Stove and Range on December 8, 2014 by Byron Holt: "Check out the 7 under the 8 on the size of this skillet! It looks like they changed the 7 to an 8, then added the "-B(7)" (it has a deeper font) after the fact to reflect the new sizing."
Posted to BSR Users Group: Birmingham Stove and Range on May 23, 2014 by Milton O'Dell. Saunders Jones replied: "The Jones family (Saunders II and family) moved to Birmingham to run the Foundry and the Birmingham operation in August of 1959. I don't remember a special skillet (I was six!?) but special skillets were easily made all the time for all sorts of occasions. These were hand molded patterns, so it was just a matter of adding in the right letters on the pattern. My father doesn't remember any specific skillet for the event, but like I said, people were making all kinds for all kinds of occasions. He sends his regards. He still has a great memory. What a treasure!!"
This one is a genuine mystery. A number of these pans have appeared with this unusual design on the bottom, along with the unmistakable size marking of a Century Cookware skillet. However, there have also been some of these pans found that have the marking of an unmarked Wagner: 10 1/4 INCH SKILLET. Former officials of Birmingham Stove & Range, including Hugh Rushing and Saunders Jones, Jr., insist this design was never used at the foundry. Nonetheless, pans with this design continue to appear in the hands of collectors and sellers. There have been guesses these were actually made by Wagner, but no one has been able to provide any evidence regarding the origin of these pans. A few collectors have given these pans the nickname "Mercedes" because of the similarity to the auto maker's logo.