The Story of Our Founder Joseph Lodge
In 1896, Joseph Lodge founded the company that is now Lodge Cast Iron in the small town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Originally from Pennsylvania, Joseph left home at age 15 and spent his formative years on the road, traveling across the country on foot and working in machine shops.
Joseph's journey began in 1867 when he boarded a steamship from Pittsburgh, PA to Louisville, KY. From there, he made his way through Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, mostly traveling on foot.
He kept a detailed daily journal from his year afoot, describing his travels and attempts at finding work. He even documents the day he first tasted cornbread, writing from Missouri on March 31, 1867, "I have the first cornbread here I ever ate." Here are a few excerpts from his journal that year:
February 28, 1867. Council Bluffs, Iowa: "Start this morning in a light rain with mud half up to my knees. Travel about 18 miles and then rain compels me to stop for my feet have been wet all day as I was compelled to wade the Coons river which was over my boot tops with ice water mostly."
June 23, 1867. Jackson, Tennessee: "Go down to a pond of water today and wash my shirt. Have to wait until it is dry then go home and get dinner. In the evening calculate how many miles I have traveled on foot. Find it over 1200 miles besides little short trips I have not counted."
July 5th, 1867. Dyersburg, TN: "Morning clear and beautiful. Take a walk before breakfast on a hill above town. Find it quite a business place with brick yards, tannery, flour mill, and saw mill, also a steam boat and a few flat boats laying in a small stream that passes here and runs into the Mississippi."
In October of 1867 Joseph Lodge boarded a ship to Cuba, where he lived for two years before traveling to Peru. There, he built and operated railroads, working and communicating in Spanish, even signing his letters home "Jose Lodge." In 1876 at age 28 he moved to Tennessee in search of industrial work.
While in Chattanooga, Joseph Lodge went for a walk one afternoon and ended up in the town of South Pittsburg, about 25 miles to the west. The small industrial town along the banks of the Tennessee River appealed to him and he decided to build a house there, which is still inhabited by a member of the Lodge family today.
Joseph worked managing blast furnaces and coal mines in the area, then started a foundry to manufacture soil pipe. In 1896, he established the foundry that is now Lodge Manufacturing. Originally, he named the foundry Blacklock after his friend and minister Joseph Blacklock. When Blacklock Foundry burnt down in 1910, he rebuilt it a few blocks away and renamed it Lodge Manufacturing Company. Lodge has operated continuously in the same location ever since, and today is the oldest cast iron cookware manufacturer in the USA. It is still owned by the Lodge family.
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