Charles Strite: The Pop-up Toaster Inventor


Charles Strite and the Toastmaster

Have you ever wondered how and when the pop-up toaster we know and love came from? Who invented it and why? 

The pop-up toaster is one of the most used kitchen appliances in the world. While many designs are available on the market today, all of them owe their existence to one man and his invention.

Charles Strite was the first person to invent the pop-up toaster and his invention is one of the reasons why we can enjoy delicious toasty bread slices, muffins, bagels, etc. in our kitchens today.

Why Did Charles Strite Invent The Pop-up Toaster?

Charles Strite got annoyed with cafeterias serving burnt toasts. Toasters at the time were worked manually, where someone had to take out the bread slice when the toasting was done. This resulted in unevenly toasted, or burnt bread. Strite’s invention made sure the bread was ejected from the toaster before it got burnt.

The cover of Charles’ toaster manual, reads: “You do not have to watch it – The toast can’t burn.”

When Was The Pop-Up Toaster Invented?

Charles Strite developed an easy-to-use toaster for restaurants in 1919. He received a patent for his automatic pop-up toaster in 1921. In 1926, a revised version of Strite’s toaster was released by Waters-Genter of Minneapolis under the Toastmaster brand.

The Toastmaster 1-A-1 was the first automatic pop-up toaster for households, which could simultaneously brown both sides of the bread, had a timer-controlled heating element, and automatically ejected the toast when finished.

Did Charles Strite Invent Anything Else?

No, Charles Strite did not invent anything other than the pop-up toaster. His annoyance with burnt bread made him invent the pop-up toaster, but he did not try to invent any other machines, or kitchen appliances afterward.

Charles Strite Biography

Charles Strite was an American man, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the 27th February 1878.

Not much is known about Strite. However, while the information regarding his personal life is not plentiful, we know why his name made it into the history books. 

Strite worked in a manufacturing plant during World War I. This manufacturing plant was located in Stillwater, Minnesota and it was the place where his frustration took over. At his workplace, Strite was often served burnt toast. At that time, this was not uncommon as toasters were not as well functioning as they are today. Therefore, Charles Strite set to work to create a toaster that would eject the bread slices once the toasting process was over, in order to take human error out of the equation. 

On the 18th of October, 1921 Charles Strite received U.S. patent #1,394,450 for his invention, the pop-up toaster. This new variation of the toaster featured a variable timer which ended the toasting process when the bread was toasted. In this manner, Strite has achieved to eliminate the need of manually removing the toast from the toaster – which has led to the burnt toast in the first place. Strite named his invention the Toastmaster. 

Initially, Strite’s invention was only sold to restaurants. However, in 1926 the Waters-Genter Company utilized his idea in order to manufacture the electric pop-up toaster for commercial use.

This partnership between Strite and the Waters-Genter Company allowed them to manufacture and sell toasters to homeowners. Working together, they have revolutionized the world of kitchen appliances, by creating Toastmaster 1-A-1. It was a time-efficient and safe toaster which ensured no injury came to the user and that the toast was not burnt.

The First Pop up Toaster
Toastmaster – The first Pop up toaster, invented by Charles Strite in 1921.
Toastmaster 1-A-1 manual - operating instructions.
Toastmaster 1-A-1 manual – operating instructions.
Toastmaster 1-A-1 Instruction Manual Page
Page from the Toastmaster 1-A-1 manual.

Apart from the fact that the Toastmaster became a commercial success, not much else is known about the inventor. The only certain fact we know is that the 18th of October was a special day in Charles Strite’s life. He received his patent in 1921, and sadly, he has also passed away on that date in 1956.

Charles Strite was the inventor who is mostly known in the history of toasters, as his Toastmaster helped numerous households run more efficiently in the USA in the 20th century – not to mention the multiple toaster inventions which were later based on his initial pop-up design. 

Charles Got The Toasters Popping 

Annoyance can get you to act. This is especially evident with Charles Strite who has managed to change the way toasters were viewed in the 20th century. 

By taking our human error and relying on electric timers, Strite has managed to give a basis to the vast toaster lineup we have on the market today. Enjoying toast would not be the same for us if Strite would have just suffered the taste of burnt toast during his lunch hours at the manufacturing plant. 

If you’re curious about the history of toasters or the history in general, I suggest you check out the other articles I wrote on the topic:

Larry Flynn

Hi everyone! My name is Larry Flynn and I've been working in the kitchen appliance industry for decades. From manufacturing to retail and everything in between. My latest hobby is running this website, where I share all the knowledge I gathered throughout the years in the industry. I also run a small toaster repair shop in downtown NY, and collect vintage toasters.

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