Not quite 100 years ago, brothers W. H. and Charles Martin bought a bankrupt foundry in Florence, Alabama, along the Tennessee River in the northwest corner of the state. Renamed the Martin Stove & Range Company, the foundry soon expanded its line of coal- and wood-burning stoves to include cast-iron hollow ware—everything from skillets and griddles to Dutch ovens and saucepans. For the next 36 years, Martin Stove & Range Company made cast-iron cookware with its distinctive “hamburger” logo. The brand is highly collectible today.
The Martin brothers were not new to the cast-iron business. In the early 1900s, they were salesmen for the King Hardware Company of Atlanta, Georgia. Through their travels, they learned of a foundry for sale in Sheffield, Alabama, just across the river from Florence. The brothers convinced their employer, King Hardware, to buy the small foundry in 1905, and they became its managers. Rechristened the King Stove & Range Company, the foundry began making heaters, stoves, and ranges for King Hardware.
Twelve years later, the Martin brothers purchased the company from King Hardware. Shortly after that, they bought the Florence foundry and began making cast-iron cookware under both the King and Martin names.
For Jonathon Davis, a cast-iron collector who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, Martin cast iron has a unique appeal. He grew up in Iuka, Mississippi, about 35 miles west of Florence, just over the Mississippi state line, and he likes the idea of collecting something that was made close to home.