The Complete History of Toasters

Toaster History

Toaster Timeline

The first toaster patent was introduced in 1906 by George Schneider.

Toasters have come a long way from the days of toasting bread over an open fire. The invention of the electric toaster in the early 20th century revolutionized the way we start our mornings, making it easy and convenient to toast bread.

The history of the toaster is a story of innovation and evolution, from the first electric toaster to the modern pop-up toasters that we use today. In this article, we will take a journey through the complete history of toasters, exploring the key milestones and innovations that have shaped the toasters we know today.

When Was the Toaster Invented?

The first patent application for an electric toaster was filed in 1906 by George Schneider of the American Electrical Heater Company of Detroit in collaboration with Albert Marsh. You might know Marsh as the guy who invented Nichrome – a heat-resistant material found in toasters.

Marsh wanted to use his newly-invented alloy and go about selling a finished product – a toaster. He eventually gave up on the idea and decided to produce only Nichrome itself.

IMPORTANT: The first toaster was not invented by the Scottish inventor Alan MacMasters as it was widely believed by the public. That is misinformation originating from a false Wikipedia page created by the real-life Alan MacMasters back in 2012. You can read more about the story here.

The First Commercially Successful Toaster

The first commercially successful toaster came out in 1909. It was invented by Frank Shailor from General Electric and named D-12. This toaster had widespread use among restaurants at the time. Thus it was considered to be commercially successful. It still didn’t reach most homes as electricity was scarce.

General Electric Model D-12 toaster, from 1909 Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The D-12 was able to only toast one side of bread at once, so the bread had to be flipped manually in order to toast both sides. Not as handy as we’re used to but it did the trick back then.

The First Pop Up Toaster

The modern pop-up toaster was invented in 1919 by Charles Strite. He was a mechanic from Minnesota who got fed up with cafeterias serving burnt toast, which led him to his interest in toasters. He patented the pop-up toaster in 1921 and started selling them to restaurants at first. That’s because his main goal was to sell his toaster to restaurants to improve the quality of their service.

However, in 1926 an updated version of the toaster was released that was made available to the public. It’s known as Toastmaster 1-A-1.

Operating instructions from the Toastmaster 1-A-1 manual.
Operating instructions from the Toastmaster 1-A-1 manual.

I made a separate article on this topic since it’s quite an interesting story. Feel free to check out my article about Charles Strite and how and why he invented the first pop-up toaster.

The First Four Slice Toaster

The first four-slice toaster was invented in 1958. There’s no reliable information on who invented it.

The first four-slice toaster offered for sale was so expensive, most consumers were unable to purchase it. Back then, a toaster cost between $5 to $25, depending on the type of toaster. 

However, most households were unable to give that much for an appliance that simply toasts your bread slices. Due to this, four-slice toasters often appeared on the wedding registry of soon-to-be wedded couples.

Historical Sales Volume of Toasters (1922-1971)

YEARUNITS$ VOLUME (retail)PRICE (average)PRICE – adjusted for
inflation to 2023 dollars*
Source: The Housewares Story © 1973 by the National Housewares Manufacturers Association

Toaster as We Know it Today

The first electric toaster took a giant leap forward. However, even this was not fit for use in everyday households. Step-by-step toaster manufacturing finessed its production methods to provide products that were easier to use than at the beginning of the 20th century.

The game-changer was the invention of heat-resistant plastics in the 1980s. This type of plastic is cheap to manufacture and offers a durable lifespan to products manufactured with it. That’s why today you can get a toaster for as low as $15 and it will last up to 7 years if maintained correctly.

During this time, toasters were made in different shapes and sizes. They got their rounded design in this era, while they also received wider slots to accommodate versatile breakfast foods.

Today toasters come with various extra features like a defrost setting and a bagel setting. They also come in various sizes, from one to four slices, to accommodate different household needs.

The Journey Continues

The history of toasters is a story of innovation and evolution. From early manual toasters to the hi-tech appliances we know today, toasters have come a long way.

Today, toasters have become an essential kitchen appliance for many households, with many advanced features, such as bagel, defrost, and more. Toasters will likely continue to evolve with new and innovative features in the future.

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.

3 thoughts on “The Complete History of Toasters

  1. Dear Sir-I have a small toaster collection including a 1930’s Toastmaster, a circa 1950’s Sunbeam fully automatic 2 slicer, a Sun-Chief manual flip toaster and a circa 1940 Toast-O-Lator that needed some serious TLC to bring back to life. If you have not checked out the Toast-O-Lator, please do, as it was a very $ machine in its day and probably entirely hand made, due to the mechanism-John in Texas

    1. That’s an amazing collection John! I’d love to see those – feel free to send over a few photos via the contact page. Cheers!

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