Cast Iron Cookware Cultural Anthropology Industrial History Rhode Island History

A Little Bit o’ Barstow, All Night Long

Cast iron isn't the majority of my existence as it was about a year ago, but I'm still at it, only I'm more concerned with contribution over collection.

The cast iron world is an interesting place. It’s a place where history meets utility, and so it’s been an excellent avenue for me to explore from a public anthropology stand point. And being that we are well into the 21st century, it’s entirely feasible that casual collectors are going to be rubbing elbows with the big wigs of the hobby.

That’s what wound up happening to me early on when I first found that strange bowl. From there I’ve encountered some of the top collectors in the world thanks to Facebook. And despite being rather green in the hobby, it was quickly realized that I was almost exclusively interested in research. Pricing and, to a certain extent, even collecting wasn’t necessarily what I was out for. That (despite some initial skepticism) helped me be taken a bit more seriously than I think I otherwise would have. People were much more willing to help out and even to (gasp!) listen.

I learned a lot and honed my research skills. I collected patent information and supported arguments with information from obscure books on 19th/early 20th century industrial labor found on Google.

But now! Now I can legitimately say I’ve contributed a bit to the field.

One of the fun things about cast iron is the amount of new information being uprooted. There are a lot of myths and assumptions being debunked in almost real time by researchers finding old catalogs in private collections and historical archives.

AND! As we learned in Crazy for Cast Iron Part 3: There’s No Place Like Home, Barstow Stove Co. was right around the corner from me. AND! since I’ve done a whole mess of research at various historical societies throughout the state, I’m pretty handy at searching digital collections. I wound up finding that they have Barstow’s 1867 catalog.

I have since found a lot more, from their 1852 catalog, to their 1893 catalog which I have in my own collection, all the way to their 1913 price list and multiple advertisements into the late 1920s. They’re not exactly highly sought after except by cast iron freaks, and even then it’s a subset dedicated to the history of the foundries and not just the pieces of metal themselves. So really it’s up to the cast iron freaks to seek em out. 

Barstow is a very well known brand, but no marked skillets have ever been found. Bowls, griddles, loaf pans, obviously stoves. Not a single skillet. They were made, and mentioned in their catalogs, but no pictures in any of the scores of documents I’ve found.

And they weren’t mentioned in many of their catalogs, either.


As luck would have it, their 1867 catalog mentions skillets (well…spiders, but same thing).

As mentioned, no images, unfortunately. But Barstow seemed very good at marking their pieces. I’ve seen quite a few and the were all as clearly marked as the others.

All I’ve seen are this crisp. Why wouldn’t the spiders be as well?

It would follow that their spiders would also be marked. It remains to be seen, but as of now, we’ve at least got definitive proof that Barstow at least sold spiders, even if they didn’t make them. I don’t know why they wouldn’t,  but I also don’t know why, with such a commonly found brand, they wouldn’t have turned up yet.

If you’d like to see the catalog in its entirety, you can download it here. It’s not mine, I just dug it up. Share away and be excited!

We are off to Germany in about 10 months. Here’s to hoping we find one by then.



I have a degree in anthropology from Rhode Island College. My focus was in biological anthropology but I also have a broad interest in cultural anthropology, archaeology and linguistic anthropology. Pedal Powered Anthropology is an anthropological educational initiative that seeks to bring profound travel experiences to a local level while encouraging others to get out and explore the world around them. This blog details all aspects of my work as Anthrospin, including my take on topics within four fields anthropology as well as bits about a lot of different aspects of culture, primarily race, gender, privilege, the environment and my own personal relationship with anxiety.

4 comments on “A Little Bit o’ Barstow, All Night Long

  1. Gary Cannon

    I have a Barstow # 2 Scotch Bowl. Any idea how to tell how old it is? And are these prone to forgeries/replicas?


    • They’re not prone forgeries at all so you’re safe on that front. The earliest these are pictured or mentioned in catalogs that we’ve found is 1867. So I consider them 1860s-1930 as that was Barstow’s final year. They are very thin bowls and prone to cracking so hopefully yours is solid. They made sizes 1-4 but I’ve never seen the 1


  2. Gary Cannon

    Fantastic! Thank you for the quick reply! And thanks for the info! No cracks and it is in great shape!


  3. Pingback: Anthrospinning into the Future. – Pedal Powered Anthropology

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