Larry & Marg O’Neil – Collectors’ Island

September 14, 2019 6:01 pm

Larry and Marg O’Neil have been obsessed with cast-iron cookware since the early 1990s. Now they’ve amassed some fourteen thousand pieces in their collection – forty-two tons (38,000 kilos) of sand-cast ferrous metal that they’ve wrangled back to their property in Tacoma, just south of Seattle.

“What is it that makes people collect things? Larry and Marge will tell you the fun of it is finding something nobody else has found. Driving a bargain. And, they say, “We’ve met so many good people.” They are active members of the Griswold & Cast Iron Collectors Club. They go to every convention. They host members at their home. Every story Larry and Marge tell—and there are many—is as much about the person they bartered with as the pieces they added to their collection. There was the undertaker in North Carolina. The cop in Erie. Bob Mosier out in Pennsylvania. It is no coincidence that the family museum is room upon room of practical objects, real things, things people use to iron their clothes and heat baby formula and feed their family and friends.” – Kevin Dupzyk

Each year the Genevan watchmaker Vacheron Constantin releases an art book titled Collectors’ Island, this year I photographed the entire book and this is one of ten stories included.

Many thanks to Bradley Seymour for the invaluable creative direction, and to Lara Lo Calzo for her exceptional work as Editorial Manager. Captions were written by Kevin Dupzyk.

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Larry and Marg O’Neil’s vast collection of cast-iron cookware harkens back to an earlier America, when most people did everything in the kitchen over an open flame. Woven among the objects on the shelves – housed on twenty acres of land near where both grew up – are remnants of their long life together.

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Munk pans, at top, for cooking a traditional Danish pancake, and, at bottom, fruit and lard presses, show the range of tasks once completed with cast-iron ware.

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A complete set of Griswold cast iron in Flamingo Red enamel. Most of the coloured cast iron in the O’Neil collection was made by Griswold in the 1950s – an unsurprising aesthetic for that era.

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The basement of the O’Neil home offers a completist’s accounting of never-used cookware from legacy brands including Griswold and Favorite Piqua.

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