Toaster history

Sometimes in the mornings I like to eat breakfast. In the table of my breakfast  I have to see my peanut butter, jam, goat cheese, coffee and ofcourse the toast.

 Toast is one of the most delicious breads that I like. It’s an old kind of breads that takes the attention of the inventors to invent a special machine for roasting it which called the toaster. It’s a big story of how did the toaster began.

Before the development of the electric toaster, sliced bread was toasted by placing it in a metal frame and holding it over a fire or by holding it near to a fire using a long-handled fork. Simple utensils for toasting bread over open flames go back at least 200 years, and earlier people simply speared bread with a stick or knife and held it over a fire.

In 1905, Irishman Connor Neeson (1877–1944) of Detroit, Michigan, and his employer, American chemist, electrical engineer, inventor and entrepreneur William Hoskins (1862–1934) of Chicago, Illinois, invented (and in 1906 patented) chromel (later and still today marketed as nichrome), an alloy from which could be made the first high-resistance wire of the sort used in all early electric heating appliances (and many modern ones).

The first electric bread toaster was created by Maddy Kennedy in 1872. In 1893, Crompton, Stephen J. Cook & Company of the UK marketed an electric, iron-wired toasting appliance called the Eclipse. Early attempts at producing electrical appliances using iron wiring were unsuccessful, because the wiring was easily melted and a serious fire hazard. Meanwhile electricity was not readily available, and when it was, mostly only at night. The first US patent application for an electric toaster was filed by George Schneider of the American Electrical Heater Company of Detroit. AEH’s proximity to Hoskins Manufacturing and the fact that the patent was filed only two months after the Marsh patents suggests collaboration and that the device was to use chromel wiring.One of the first applications the Hoskins company had considered for chromel was toasters, but eventually abandoned such efforts to focus on making just the wire itself.

At least two other brands of toasters had been introduced commercially around the time General Electric submitted their first patent application in 1909 for one, the GE model D-12, designed by technician Frank Shailor, “the first commercially successful electric toaster”.

In 1913 Lloyd Groff Copeman and his wife Hazel Berger Copeman applied for various toaster patents and in that same year the Copeman Electric Stove Company introduced the toaster with automatic bread turner.The company also produced the “toaster that turns toast.” Before this, electric toasters cooked bread on one side and then it was flipped by hand to toast the other side. Copeman’s toaster turned the bread around without having to touch it. Copeman also invented the first electric stove and the rubber (flexible) ice cube tray.

The next development was the semi-automatic toaster, which turned off the heating element automatically after the bread toasted, using either a clockwork mechanism or a bimetallic strip. However, the toast was still manually lowered and raised from the toaster via a lever mechanism.

The automatic pop-up toaster, which ejects the toast after toasting it, was first patented by Charles Strite in 1919. In 1925, using a redesigned version of Strite’s toaster, the Waters Genter Company introduced the Model 1-A-1 Toastmaster, the first automatic pop-up, household toaster that could brown bread on both sides simultaneously, set the heating element on a timer, and eject the toast when finished. By 1950, some high-end U.S. toasters featured automatic toast lowering and raising, with no levers to operate – simply dropping the slices into the machine commenced the toasting procedure. A notable example was the Sunbeam T-20, T-35 and T-50 models (identical except for details such as control positioning) made from the late 1940s through the 1960s, which used the mechanically multiplied thermal expansion of the resistance wire in the center element assembly to lower the bread; the inserted slice of bread tripped a lever to switch on the power which immediately caused the heating element to begin expanding thus lowering the bread. When the toast was done, as determined by a small bimetallic sensor actuated by the heat passing through the toast, the heaters were shut off and the pull-down mechanism returned to its room-temperature position, slowly raising the finished toast. This sensing of the heat passing through the toast, meant that regardless of the colour of the bread (white or wholemeal) and the initial temperature of the bread (even frozen), the bread would always be toasted to the same degree. If a piece of toast was re-inserted into the toaster, it would only be reheated.

As in most such toasters, one sensing unit controls the toasting of two (or four) slices, so the slot with the sensor is marked “ONE SLICE” because operating the toaster without bread in that slot will result in almost immediate shut-off as the heat from the heating element impinges directly on the sensor. On these Sunbeam models, the trip wire was only in one slot, so if bread was inserted in the wrong slot, the toaster simply would not turn on.

Many of these Sunbeams models are still in service, some over 60 years old, and being used every day. They are easily repaired, and apart from physical damage and heating-element failures, most repairs consist of only cleaning and minor adjustments.

Significant ultramodern chrome designs were the Sunbeam T-9 “Half-Round” or “World’s Fair” toaster, designed by George Scharfenberg and Bartek Pociecha, and the General Electric 139T81, produced in quantity from 1946. Automatic electric toasters were very much a luxury item, with the better models costing up to $25 in 1939 (approximately $360 in 2006 dollars). Most toasters produced from the late 1930s through 1960 are generally considered to be of the highest standard in workmanship and material quality; many were built well enough to last for decades.

Toaster with light-fitting plug, ca. 1909

Due to their aesthetic popularity, some of the classic toaster designs from the 1940s and 1950s are now being reintroduced into the market, though these reproductions for the most part are not constructed to the high standard of the original designs.

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