|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Antiques And Arts News||Home|
Brass, Iron, and Copper Cooking Utensils
THE EARLIEST American inventories of about 1634 list many of the household articles then in use. Kitchen utensils of metal included brass and iron pots, frying pans, kettles, skillets, baking pans with covers, iron pothooks and hangers, and brass skimmers. Fireplace equipment also included a trivet, firedogs, and shovel and tongs, all of iron. Bellows and warming pans, usually brass, were also listed in the earliest inventories. Other articles included the brass or iron mortar, brass or iron candlesticks, the chafing dish, and the smoothing iron. Copper kettles and pans are not mentioned until about the middle of the 17th century and then they are usually called "coppers" or "a copper" without describing the article. However, in a Salem, Massachusetts, inventory of 1647 we found "i small copper kettle." The inventories listed about as many brass as iron pots and more candlesticks and mortars of brass than of iron, but the metal used in warming pans was not designated. However, since copper seems to have been scarce, the early ones were probably of brass. There were also more brass than wooden mortars. Snuffers were scarce. In an inventory of 1646 "snuffers with bras chayne"-to keep light fingers from carrying them off-are listed.
Although most of these early utensils were imported from England, and the blacksmiths who came in the first ships to America made many wrought-iron trivets, pothooks, forks, shovels, tongs, and andirons, the man of the house probably made many of his own utensils. However, before r65o there were iron furnaces in Lynn and Braintree, Massachusetts, which made stoves, pots, skillets, and mortars, and in 1658 a furnace in New Haven, Connecticut, was making iron pots. Braziers and coppersmiths do not seem to have worked to any great extent in America until the first quarter of the i 8th century, and copper articles still continued to be scarce until the end of the 18th century.
The hand-wrought trammel or pothook to hold the pot over the open fire was an important item in the early American home. It varies from about 6 to 15 inches in length and is in two pieces so that it could be lengthened or shortened to suit the size of the pot and the flame of the fire. Trammels often had as many as five hooks. Long-handled meat forks with two prongs, long-handled spoons, ladles, and spatulas, and brass strainers with wroughtiron handles were in common usage in the 17th and 18th centuries. The handles of these were usually flattened into an outline of rectangles, elongated diamonds, or ovals, with a hole in the end for hanging. Some handles are decorated with hand-punched designs or perhaps a date or name or initials is traced on the rare ones.
The early iron pots and kettles-even the early skillet-usually had three legs. Baking pots had an iron cover. There was a long-handled frying pan and a short-handled frying pan or spider. A chafing dish is listed in a Massachusetts inventory of 1641 . It may have been brass but more likely was iron or at least on an iron stand. Pots and kettles were of many sizes and shapes. Those made to swing from the crane had flat bottoms, while late kettles may be recognized by the extension made to fit in the stove hole. Kettles had straight sides and pots usually had bulging sides. The early iron pots and kettles were made on molds. The earliest are said to have been made at the Lynn, Massachusetts, furnace. Later double boilers and charcoal braziers were made of iron. The early hand-wrought iron pots and kettles were irregular in form and had simple top edges, while the later factory articles were more true in shape. The first cast-iron teakettle was said to have been made in 1760. Cast-iron pots and kettles show a joining line and they also often have several raised lines about their circumference. The hook for the handle is usually cast in the utensil and is rounded, in contrast to the handles of the wrought-iron pots, which are a projection of the pot itself. Sometimes extra handles or rings are found down the sides of the pot. The handles of later pots were of heavy cast iron. Square and round gridirons were stands with gratings and legs.
Several early-17th-century furnaces in Massachusetts and Connecticut made hollowware, pots, skillets, kettles, and mortars of iron. By the i 8th century there were also furnaces in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, and late in the century in New Hampshire and Vermont. Some of the best-known furnaces that made hollowware as well as other articles were Kings Furnace, 1724, and Six Furnaces, 1731, Massachusetts; Hope Furnace, 1735, and Three Furnaces, 1735, Rhode Island. The Salisbury Furnace advertised in the Connecticut Courant for April 16, 1770: "Five Potash Kettles, Tea, of Pig Iron, 3 large iron kettles, a no. of cast boxes--all manufactured at Salisbury Furnace." This furnace made cannon and camp kettles in 1776. In 1771 the New York Air Furnace advertised "Iron pots, kettles, pye pans, chimney backs cast iron according to customers pattern.-Peter T. Curtenius." In Rivington's New York Gazette, November 18, 1773, the following advertisement appeared:
Vesuvius Furnace-At Laight & Ogden Air Furnace, are made Iron Castings of every kind, equal in quality to any imported from Europe. They now have for sale at the store of Edward and Wm. Laight, Potash Kettles, Coolers, cauldrons of forty gallons; iron pots and kettles from 28 to 1 gallon, lighter than Holland or English: iron stoves of various sizes; plates for chimney backs and jambs; iron sash weights, ox-carts, and wagon boxes; iron tea kettles and pie pans; griddles, etc. Any or every of the above enumerated articles are made at the shortest notice agreeable to any pattern or dimensions to be left at the furnace in Newark.