Grady Britt of Raleigh, North Carolina, is a long-time Lodge cast iron collector. While he also has pieces by many other manufacturers – notably Griswold – the focus of his study and his collection is on Lodge cast iron.
Grady and Jean Britt
Linda and I visited Grady and Jean in September 2018 to see Grady’s vintage and antique cast iron collection. Grady and Jean Britt in a beautiful art-filled home surrounded by woods and backing up to Umstead state park. It is a very peaceful setting.
Grady and Jean are both retired. Grady worked for years for IBM as a systems engineer, and Jean as a grade-school teacher. They each have two adult children, and between them they have 9 grandchildren.
Grady’s entry and background in the world of cast iron collecting
Grady has been collecting vintage cast iron since 1993. A family member’s cast iron waffle iron had piqued his interest. He began looking for a waffle iron for himself. Before you know it, he was collecting.
Grady went to a bookstore and found a book about old cast iron cookware. He found contact information for some of the people whose pieces were photographed in the book. Dr. Joe Noto of North Carolina was one of them.
At the time, “Dr. Joe” was the President of the Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association (“GCICA”), a national club for cast iron collectors. Grady called Dr. Joe. He learned that GCICA had an annual convention, and that he had just missed one in Charlotte, North Carolina. The next one was to be held in Erie, Pennsylvania, the original home of the Griswold Manufacturing Company.
Grady went to the GCICA convention in Erie in 1997. He enjoyed meeting with and learning from others who had the same interest in the old iron.
Since that first convention, Grady has attended many of the annual conventions. He has been to conventions held by both national groups – GCICA and the Wagner and Griswold Society (“WAGS”).
Grady is active in both groups. He has given a “table talk” about Lodge to the GCICA group, and he organized the 2015 WAGS convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Grady’s involvement in Lodge Cast Iron
The WAGS group toured the Lodge plant in South Pittsburg, Tennessee as part of their 2015 convention. Grady has toured the Lodge foundry three times, even though Lodge does not offer tours of their foundry to the public except during the annual national cornbread festival.1
Grady has also met with two of Lodge founder Joseph Lodge’s great grandchildren: Bob Kellerman, Lodge CEO Emeritus, and Carolyn King Kellermann Millhiser. Ms. Millhiser lives in the home that Joseph Lodge built at the corner of Magnolia and Third in South Pittsburg. Grady had the privilege of visiting with Ms. Millhiser at the home and viewing her collection.
Grady focuses his collection on Lodge pieces because because he “just love[s] their stuff.” He is a Southerner and he likes it that Lodge is a Southern company. He also appreciates that Lodge is reasonably-priced.
I asked Grady what his favorite piece was, but he couldn’t narrow it down to just one. When I asked him what his three favorites were, however, he named them: the Lodge Acorn pan, Griswold loaf pan with lid, and toy Griswold waffle iron with base.
Grady’s Blacklock pieces
Grady had two of these Blacklock teakettle covers. He placed one of them on an unmarked teakettle. It fit perfectly. Grady could not say with certainty that the teakettle it a Blacklock piece, but he is comfortable in his own mind that it likely is, as the cover fit the teakettle so well.3
Grady’s Sweet Shed
We went outdoors to Grady’s shed after we toured and photographed some of the iron on the main level of the house. Grady said that Jean wouldn’t recognize the inside of the shed when she saw it, as Grady had been organizing in preparation for our visit. That was true; Jean was surprised when she came out and saw the neatly-organized shed.
Lodge Novelty Items
Grady enjoys talking iron – after 5 hours of showing us his collection, he seemed disappointed as we readied to leave. I was trying to graciously sidle out the door (to eat lunch at a fun BBQ place that Grady and Jean recommended, and where I had my first-ever hushpuppy) when Grady exclaimed, “OH!” He hurried into another room and retrieved three beautiful old unmarked cast iron dogs, which he believes were likely made by Lodge during the 30’s when Lodge made novelty items to keep the foundry afloat.
Although Linda and I were exhausted, we had the impression that Grady could have continued for hours; showing us pieces and discussing their variations and pointing out unique characteristics. Grady surely loves his iron.
Through our conversations with Grady and John Clough, as well as our special Lodge foundry tour, I learned more about Lodge cast iron in a week than I had known in my almost-10 years of involvement in vintage cast iron cookware. What an amazing whirlwind of a week!
A small selection from the cast iron collection of Grady Britt
- Linda and I were thrilled to tour the plant in September 2018. My article about our tour can be found here.
- Blacklock was the predecessor to Lodge.
- Blacklock pieces are tricky to identify. Blacklock was in production for just a short time, and the foundry was destroyed by fire in 1910. Because of that, there are few records available to assist in positively identifying Blacklock pieces. Unless a piece is marked “Blacklock,” the best one can say is that it “looks like,” “could be,” or “might be” a Blacklock.