Harold Henry: Cast Iron Collector and Lodge Legend
With somewhere over 5,000 pieces of cast iron cookware in his collection, Harold Henry is a keeper of our history
In a sunny corner of Hamilton, Missouri, a retired livestock auctioneer named Harold Henry is cooking up an incredible second act. “I don’t buy and sell cast iron. I buy cast iron. And I keep it,” Harold laughs. "Collecting cast iron is a little bit addictive.”
Harold is a well-known and well-loved cast iron cookware collector, and his assortment of pieces has been growing steadily for over twenty years. But just how many pieces of cast iron are we talking about? “I’ve been saying for a few years it’s around 4,000 but my kids tell me it’s over ,” Harold says.
Harold’s collection grew out of the simple joy of cooking with cast iron. “I started buying Lodge and using it before I started collecting it,” he says. “The most-used item in my house is a number 10 Lodge skillet. It’s used about every day.”
Harold houses his expansive collection on his family property in Hamilton, where he still works as a farmer. In nooks and crannies across the farm, in store rooms and spare bedrooms, you’ll find his immense collection—and every piece comes with a story. His prized cast iron spans generations, foundries and uses, from skillets to baking tins and even antique irons.
“Some [pieces], there’s no way to identify. It’s kind of a mystery that will probably never be solved. Mystery makes it a lot more fun,” he says.
And while many of his favorite pieces are Lodge, he also collects from the now-closed foundries that once helped create the American cast iron tradition. “I’ve read that there were 265 or 270 different companies that made cast iron cookware in America. And there’s one that survived. And that’s Lodge. A lot of the companies just gave up! But not Lodge. That’s what I call ‘survival instinct.’”
For Harold, collecting cast iron has been as much about finding prized pieces of American history as it has been about community.
“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in this cast iron business, and they’re all over the country, and we help each other,” Harold says. “Of course sometimes we get to be competitors, but that’s part of the business,” he adds with a smile.
Harold is a favorite visitor and local celebrity at our South Pittsburg foundry. And that love? It’s entirely mutual. “I’ve made a lot of trips here over the years, and I’ve talked to the employees, and I can tell, a lot of them feel like they’re part of the family. And that’s not an accident.” Harold says. “Me, as a collector, I feel like I’m part of the family. It’s like coming home, coming home to visit.”
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