Farm Collector

I have a friend, a Southerner,

By Terry

isn’t just wrong, but could, perhaps, be something you would have to answer for in the Sweet Hereafter. I’m sure that, in her case, it’s a simple case of comfort that keeps her using the same old skillet that her grandmother used; you like what you were raised with.

But there’s definitely something to the idea that cast iron has its charms.

Originally, cast iron was a necessity in the newly-settled west of the USA, unless you just happened to be a blacksmith or carry one with you at all times. Settlers could shoe their horses, repair their wagon wheels and even create nails for construction with tools they could carry with them. The only skills required were the ability to start a very hot fire and pour molten metal into a form without cooking your extremities.

Because it was rather utilitarian, cast iron on many farms was blocky and somewhat unattractive. After all, who cared if their wagon wheel hub exuded charm, as long as it got you where you needed to be?

In the last half of the 19th Century, however, that began to change. Companies such as Buckeye and Deere and Mansur began to experiment with the form and style of things like corn planter lids and sulky seats. And in the early part of the last century, the hundreds of upstart tractor companies stretched those styles even further, making tractor seats that were not only more comfortable, but also served as a company advertisement, with the company’s name often ‘cut out’ of the seat face. They made corn planter lids which were not only more durable than the old wooden ones, but also more attractive. It’s no exaggeration to say that they made items which could be seen as works of art. Just ask the hundreds of collectors who haunt old barns, estate sales and internet auction sites searching for those items. We did, and, in the next few pages, will show you some of the art of corn planter lids and tractor seats.

Despite our modern ability to get nearly anything nearly anywhere, therefore making cast iron somewhat less useful, companies still use cast iron in many ways today. It still seems the best way to make pipes, ploughshares and pumps. It’s still used in any number of farm tools, from disks to wrenches.

And, for goodness’ sake, let’s not forget those skillets. Cornbread anyone?

  • Published on May 1, 2001
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