This hefty sauté pan is a beautiful example of 1920s-1930s copper.
|Type||Tin-lined sauté pan in hammered finish with cast iron handle attached with three copper rivets|
|French description||Sauteuse étamée et martelée avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre et couvercle à degré|
|Dimensions||34cm diameter by 9.2cm tall (13.4 by 3.6 inches)|
|Thickness||3.8mm at rim|
|Weight||8198g (18 lbs) pan only; 10576g (23.3 lbs) with lid|
|Markings||Blaser & Cie 59-61 Rue Montmartre Paris; E; 34|
|Maker and age estimate||Unknown, possibly Gaillard; 1928-1935|
French restaurant copper in the antique era was robustly made to withstand culinary abuse and many of the most spectacular pieces of that era survive today in rough condition. I have seen (and own) pieces that bear those scars: flat spots on the edge of the base opposite the handle where it scraped against the stovetop; base repairs from tears in the floor of the pan; torqued geometry or cracked handles from being dropped or stressed; sidewalls pitted from scouring, whatever hammering there was long-since obliterated from repeated polishings; rust on the handle from neglect and storage in a damp environment. A good restoration can fix or minimize many of these problems but every injury leaves its trace.
And so it is not simply this piece’s size and weight that make it special to me, but also its fabulous condition. It is as fresh today as it was almost a century ago when it was made.
This pan is not completely unscathed. It definitely served in a kitchen: a close look at the sidewalls shows tiny dings and scratches, the texture that copper picks up from incidental contact and cleanings over the course of normal use. But whoever had the job of cleaning and polishing this pan did so without scouring away the hammered finish.
The cast iron handle is in beautiful shape. It has been filed to smooth it, leaving tiny scratches along the surface, a sign of post-casting finishing. There are a few pockmarks in the iron that could be small casting voids or minor corrosion spots, but overall the metal is smooth and largely unblemished. To me, the condition of this handle in the present day is a product of a high-quality casting followed by conscientious care to keep the handle area clean and dry.
The external rivet heads are rounded buttons, and the internal rivets are flattened mushroom heads. These are both consistent with 20th-century manufacturing techniques. The baseplate is the bulbous pillowy style that I associate with Gaillard, but this piece does not carry a maker’s mark.
There is a small area of darkened buildup on the copper around the neck of the handle baseplate — further evidence that this piece was actively used. The area around and behind the handle’s neck is the most difficult area to clean and the most prone to build up residue from moisture and cooking oils; cleaning it out completely would entail a long soak of the entire pan in caustics to attack the carbonized oils, and in my opinion, that is only justifiable in cases of extreme buildup. I am quite content to live with some shadowing on the copper around this area.
The floor of the pan is flat and true, forming an excellent platform for sautéing. Another sign of quality in the construction of this pan are the three planes of bevels laid down around the edge of the base. This extra hammering hardens the copper in this vulnerable area to render it more resistant to dents and dings. This is also an added step in the manufacturing, and a sign of quality; based on my own observation, I see this falling out of practice after WWII.
This pan comes to me with what I suspect is an original — or at the very least contemporaneous — fitted lid. The “E” owner’s stamp matches that on the pan itself (more on those stamps below). The rivets have the same rounded button finish, and the tone and texture of the cast handle matches that on the pan.
Finally, let’s look at the stamps. This piece has three: a store stamp for Blaser & Cie; the number 34, the pan’s diameter in centimeters; and the owner’s mark “E.”
The stamp for Blaser is the most useful for dating this pan. Based on my research, Alfred Blaser operated his restaurant supply business at 59-61 Rue Montmartre in Paris from about 1928 to about 1935. According to TJFRANCE, after that point the company continued as Établissements Blaser into the 1970s. I believe pieces with this Blser store stamp fall into the narrow 1928 to 1935 time window. That fits with the craftmanship I see on this pan: the uniformity of 20th-century machine-pressed metal with touches of hand-finishing that linger from the 19th.
The 34 is a tantalizing clue as well. It looks virtually identical to the “34” on a known Dehillerin-stamped (but not necessarily Dehillerin-made!) piece. It doesn’t look like the Gaillard or Jacquotot stamps to me.
The challenge I face with Dehillerin stamps in the 20th century is that up until WWII it’s not entirely clear to me who made pieces for the store. Dehillerin maintained its own copper workshop into the 1940s but also sourced pieces from Gaillard, Jacquotot, and the Villedieu makers. (After WWII, Dehillerin closed its workshop and it can safely be assumed that all Dehillerin-stamped copper after that point was made by others.) So while the stamp on this 34cm sauté matches the stamp on another Dehillerin-stamped pan, I can’t be certain who actually made either piece.
But I believe that ultimately it is a pan’s innate qualities that are more important than the stamp and maker. Don’t get me wrong — I love the research and stories — but what remains at the end is the metal itself. This pan was a beautiful piece when it was made, and thanks to the care given it by those who came before me, it is still beautiful now.