Reader Roger B. has a pan with an unusual iron handle.
He emailed me to ask if I could help him discover its history. It belonged to his wife’s grandfather, who ran restaurants in Boston around 1915 and then worked in the White House in Washington, DC in the 1920s and 1930s. The sauté is 19.5cm diameter by 6cm tall (7.7 by 2.4 inches) and weighs 1514g (3.4 lbs), making it a little more than 2mm thick in my estimation. It’s a lovely piece, petite and beautifully made, and in great physical condition for its age.
What’s unusual about it is the “J&M” prominently cast into the iron handle. I’ve never seen a handle with lettering like this. This is the only marking on the pan — there are no other stampings on it.
The handle’s hanging loop resembles the French teardrop, but the handle baseplate is the wide rectangle in the American style. There are two widely-spaced rivets, neatly finished on the outside and with broad flattened interior heads.
This pan does not feel French to me. Based on its aesthetics and the limited history that Roger has, it seems reasonable to assume that it is American from the early 20th century, and the distinctive handle makes me wonder if this could be the product of an ironworks and not a coppersmith. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the metalworking industry in the U.S. and I haven’t been able to find online archives that I could search to get a sense of firms that were active during this time.
Can you help identify this? Have you seen other pieces like it? Roger and I would certainly be grateful for more clues to its provenance.