You probably enjoy perfectly toasted bread slices every morning. But have you ever looked at the toaster on your kitchen countertop and wondered about its history and how far it has come?
This masterpiece has become one of the most integral tools to be included in most homes today, and the truth is it evolved from a single, simple unit to the appliance that can execute multiple toasting requirements today.
Without further delay, below is my brief history of the toaster.
Toasting bread slices is an ancient method. Remember that the electric toaster has been in existence for less than a century. However, individuals have been consuming bread for more than 6,000 years. Since the Roman empire.
And back then, individuals did not just toast bread slices because it made it sweeter. It was also a preservation method that ensured the bread could still be consumed after being stored for a while. And the earliest civilizations usually toasted their bread over open fires with the help of a wide array of tools.
During the same period, they then realized that toasting dough changed its nature and made it crunchier, and that marked the beginning of the evolution of the toaster.
After the arrival of coal stoves and wood back in the 1870s, a new, more developed toasting process was required. And this was what resulted the invention of a pyramid-shaped tin and wire device. Bread slices would be placed inside the newly found tool and then it would get heated on the stove that toasted the slices.
This method remained the main method of toasting slices until the early 1900’s when electricity was wired in homes throughout America. This created a huge demand for household appliances, and one of them was a toaster.
Introduction of Electric Toasters
That said, even after the introduction of electricity in most homes throughout the USA, devising the best electric toaster was still not an attainable dream. Mostly because the surface of the tool needed to be able to get heated to a temperature above 300 degrees Fahrenheit without catching fire or getting damaged in the process.
With that in mind, lots of companies set out on a mission to identify the perfect material for such a need, and around March of 1905, an Engineer by the name Albert L. Marsh discovered an alloy of chromium and nickel that had the properties, companies were searching for.
They called this alloy Nichrome.
A few years after Marsh discovered the metal, George Schneider, an employee of the American Electric Heater Company, filed a patent for his first version of the electric toaster.
And from there onwards, lots of companies throughout America set out on quests of inventing their own version of toasters.
Over the next couple of years, lots of electric toaster prototypes were released by garage inventors and companies. However, it was not until early 1909, when the 1st successful electric toaster was designed. Frank Shailor from General Electric submitted his version of a patent application for the D-12 in July 1909. This was the toaster that was considered the first commercially successful electric toaster all across America.
Fast forward to four years later in 1913, Lloyd Groff Copeman and Hazel, his wife, were window shopping when they come across an electric toaster that was displayed in a store.
And remember that with the toasters back then, you had to put in the bread slices, and the side facing the heated electric coils would be toasted. When the first side was readily toasted, you would then have to flip it using your hand to toast the other side.
So, when they came across the toaster being displayed in the store, Hazel turned to her husband and asked him whether he could create a toaster that would automatically turn the toasties. That was when Lloyd G. Copeman set out on a mission of his own, and in less than a year, he invented and patented a toaster that would automatically turn bread slices. They called it the Automatic Toaster.
Any company that used Copeman’s method had to ensure they pay royalties to him (Copeman) and those who didn’t want to, had to find a new way to turn their toasties. Some companies even decided to swing their toasties around in little baskets.
Another kitchen appliances brand created a toaster that carried bread slices past the heating element using a conveyor belt and toasting it as it was passing along.
Needless to say, there was a lot of room for improvement, and that is why every company kept on devising new ways how to create toasters that were better and more advanced, which led to the invention of the pop-up toaster.
In the next ten years following Copeman’s invention, toasters sparked lots of interest in the public eye. And during the First World War, Charles Strite, a learned mechanic working at a plant in Minnesota decided to solve the problem of burnt toasts that were usually served at the company’s cafeteria.
In order to solve this need, Strite decided to combine a variable timer and springs, thus creating the first pop-up toaster. He filled a patent for this invention on May 29, 1919, and his initial idea was to only sell the product to cafeterias in the restaurant industry.
Seven years later in 1926, the Waters-Genter Company used the redesigned model of Strite’s toaster in order to create the first consumer pop-up toaster. The toaster was then acquired by the Edison Electric Empire, and the amazing invention was called the Toastmaster.
This toaster also boasted a triple loop logo, which was inspired by the masterpiece’s heating elements. And by the end of 1926, the Toastmaster was available to the entire public and it became a huge success.
But an even bigger breakthrough in the history of the toaster came in the year 1928. Before this year, the local bakeries usually sold their bread as a block loaf. However, an inventor by the name Otto Fredrick Rohwedder changed the entire game when he created pre-sliced loaf of breads by inventing the first automatic bread-slice machine. It didn’t take long before the Continental Baking Firm released its own sliced Wonder Bread in 1930.
What’s more? By 1933 (which was approximately 5 years after the introduction of the bread slicer), American Bakery Companies were selling more sliced bread slices than unsliced slices. This gave a new boost to the sales of Charles Strite’s automatic, spring-loaded, pop up toaster.
By the 1960s the toaster was a common tool in the USA and even middle-class families could afford one. Better yet, by 1980, the toasting slots of toasters were made wide enough so they could accommodate bagels, waffles, and the thickest bread slices.
Isn’t it interesting how far the toaster has come? If you would like to include this awesome invention to your kitchen arsenal, then here is a post of the best 4-slot toaster in this year.