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Ask Mary: What are these letters on my pan?

Ask Mary: What are these letters on my pan?

*Updated 4/7 with additional information from Steve Stephens. Thank you, Steve!

Marcia P. of Fenton Missouri wrote to me via the contact form and asked:

Looking for help after searching multiple sites. Most skillets have their number and letter one on top of the other. Mine is an 8 and has its 704P all on one line, if you will. Does the P stand for popover? Sorry if these are dumb questions. I also have a No. 5 marked with a 724K, with the K under the 724. What does the K mean? I’m most interested in an approximate age. They belonged to either my mom or grandmother. Thanks for your help

Marcia sent along these photos.

vintage antique old cast iron fry frying pan skillet erie griswold 704 pattern number letter
vintage antique old cast iron fry frying pan skillet erie griswold 704 pattern number letter
vintage antique old cast iron fry frying pan skillet erie griswold 704 pattern number letter

Complete information needs to be given to identify and date vintage cast iron cookware.

I wrote and asked Marcia to send me photos of the entire bottom of the pan. All markings are important when identifying or dating an old cast iron piece.

While I could identify Marcia’s pans from the initial photos, I wanted to be able to give Marcia a pretty firm date range on her no. 5 skillet. Without seeing the handle, I would have to give her a broader time frame.

Marcia sent along these photos. I lightened both of Marcia’s photos so that I could show better detail.

griswold 724 cast iron pan fry frying skillet 5 small logo late handle old antique vintage erie identify when made
Griswold “late handle” small logo cast iron skillet no. 5, pattern no. 724 K.
Circa ~1946 – 1952.
griswold 704 cast iron pan fry frying skillet 8 large block logo old antique vintage erie identify when made
Griswold large block logo EPU smooth-bottom cast iron skillet no. 8, pattern no. 704 P.
Circa 1924-1940.

Marcia, I think it is so awesome and amazing that you have your family’s old cast iron skillets! Cast iron is such a workhorse in the kitchen. With proper care these pans will last your lifetime and then some.

Your question relates to the placement of the letter following the pattern number on your two pans.

Patterns and Casting Iron

The 3-digit number on the bottom of your pans (704 and 724) is called the “pattern” number. This refers to the pattern that was used to make a particular pan.

There are two videos that you might enjoy watching that show a bit more of the casting process. They should help you to see how the pattern comes into play in the casting process. One is an old British film from the 1940s that shows the hand-casting process. Lodge has a video that shows modern-day casting with the DISA-matic machines on its website.

In the hand-pour sand casting process, sand is tamped and packed around a “pattern” of the skillet, to create a mold into which molten iron will be poured. Once the sand is tamped just right, the pattern is carefully removed from the mold, leaving a vacant space into which iron is poured, creating the final product.

Letters after Pattern Numbers

The three-digit numbers you have on the bottom of your skillet reflects Griswold’s pattern number for those two skillets. Per Steve Stephens, the pattern numbers that Griswold used did not change at all or changed infrequently for a particular pan.  Pattern number 704, for instance, was always used for any No. 8 “regular” skillets. “Regular” as opposed to hammered, wood handle, deep skillets, etc; those pans used different pattern numbers.

The letter which follows the 701 pattern number (or the lack thereof) on your pan is simply a mechanism by which Griswold identified which of the particular patterns were used in that pour; perhaps as a quality control measure. The placement of the letter on your Grandmother’s no. 8 skillet does not render it unusual or rare; it is just where the letter was placed on that particular run.

Collector Steve Stephens at one time kept track of the letters following the pattern number on Griswold no. 8 skillets. He was kind enough to share a copy. You may find it interesting – it shows pans that Steve had seen in collections and on eBay. Steve did note that the ERIE letters (at the top of the image) are probably not nearly as complete as the block trademark smooth bottom skillets.

griswold 704 8 skillet chart pattern number letter after victor erie slant logo trademark small block large steve stephens

Hope you find this information helpful, Marcia. Now, go and enjoy those wonderful pans!



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