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The Timeless Toaster: A Curious History of the World's Most Common Kitchen Appliances
by Tom Grant on Sep 23, 2014
A toaster doesn’t seem like a very interesting appliance, but it has a long history and even a niche market that collects them. If you dig beyond the surface of this curious gadget, you’ll discover something truly amazing.
The Invention of The Toaster
The toaster was originally invented in 1909 by General Electric. However, it took 10 years for the toaster to be commercialized by a Minnesota mechanic named Charles Strite. There is still some dispute, however, as to the actual invention of the device, since George Schneider was the person who came up with a design that inspired the modern toaster. The patent for his invention was granted in 1921 and he subsequently started a new company to mass-produce his machine.
In 1926, Strite’s toaster was refined so that slices of bread would “pop up” out of the toaster - similar to today’s design. He called it Toastmaster, and it’s a brand that’s famous even today.
Pre-Sliced Bread Is Invented
Believe it or not, bread didn’t come pre-sliced from a baker until the 1930s when the Continental Baking Company began selling Wonder Bread brand bread. Before then, people had to slice the bread themselves to toast it. As soon as sliced bread hit the market, Strite saw his toaster business explode. Now, people could just pull a few slices out of the bag and pop them into the toaster without worrying about the size of the slice and getting it right for the toaster slots.
The Custom Toaster
Customized toasters began appearing in the marketplace during the ‘60s. Before then, toasters were mostly a luxury item, costing upwards of $25 a piece, which was a lot of money back then, even when it came to kitchen appliances. By the 1960s, most families could afford one.
They came in all shapes and sizes, with most of them being compact in size. By the 1970s, the 2-slice toaster was popular and mostly sold in a gold and avocado color.
By the 1980s, bagels and other bread products had become popular and the toaster was ready for a redesign. To accommodate all sorts of bread products, the slot sizes were increased. Heat-resistant plastics were introduced as well.
Today, almost anyone can buy a toaster, even those on the tightest of budgets. It’s practically a necessity. Some of the newest designs are even available online through sites like BedBathandBeyond.com.
Of course, if you shop garage sales and vintage stores, you might be able to score yourself a vintage toaster made in the 50s or 60s.
Going back even further in history, some collectors are able to pick up rare items from the 1930s and ‘40s, and it’s amazing to see some of the designs that were available back then.
Some of these items are still functional too, although some collectors are a little hesitant to use them for obvious reasons - replacement parts are non-existent and damaging a unit would decrease its inherent value as a collectible item.
Still, if you’re the type of person that loves using old appliances, and you don’t mind not being able to sell them ever again, then a collector’s item might be worth the money.
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