The Complete History of Toasters

Toaster History

Toaster Timeline

The first toaster was invented in 1893 by the Scottish inventor, Alan MacMasters.

Toasting bread has been around for more than a couple of millennia. People have toasted bread over the fire way back in Roman times, and probably even before. That’s where the word toast or toasting comes from, as “tostum” is a Latin word for scorching or burning.

Toasting bread has stuck around since and we’ve come a long way, from the open fire to fancy pop-up toasters and toaster ovens. In this article, I’ll focus on modern-day toasting devices, aka electric toasters. Get ready for yet another toasty read and meet the toasters through history.

When Was the Toaster Invented?

In 1893 Scottish inventor Alan MacMasters registered a patent for the first known electric toaster. It was named the “Eclipse Toaster” and it was a revolutionary step for bread toasting as we know it today. The “Eclipse Toaster” was manufactured by the Crompton Company and marketed and sold in Britain.

Unfortunately, it didn’t make commercial success as access to electricity was very limited to common households by the end of the 19th century.

The First Commercially Successful Toaster

The first commercially successful toaster came out at the beginning of the 20th century. It was invented by Frank Shailor from General Electric and named D-12. This toaster had a 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 1910s 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. Charles Strite, who was a mechanic in Minnesota, got fed up with cafeterias served burnt toast, which led him to his interest regarding toasters. He patented the pop-up toaster in 1921 and started the Waters Genter Company in order to manufacture his invention. Strite wished to sell his toaster to restaurants to improve the quality of their service.

While it makes our lives and breakfast routines easier, Strite’s toaster was not an immediate commercial success. It was praised, but the high price made it somewhat of a luxury item. However, that changed when sliced bread was invented.

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 appearance of the first four slice toaster is still strongly debated. Two dates that are mentioned are 1919 and 1921. The person credited for the invention is Charles Strite, though nothing is certainly known about the invention of the first four slice toaster.

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.

Toaster as We Know it Today

It has taken a long time and numerous inventions to get to the toasty goodness we enjoy now. Everything started with the Eclipse Toaster in the 19th century. The technological enhancements have ensured the improvement of toasters as well. 

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 which were easier to use than at the beginning of the 20th century.

The game-changer was the invention of heat-resistant plastics in the 1980’s. This type of plastic is cheap to manufacture and offers a durable lifespan to products manufactured with it. Therefore, it was used for kitchen appliance production, which has included toasters as well.

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. This is the time, when multi slot toasters became popular, which could toast up to 6 slices at the same time.

With the 21st century EVERYTHING became “smart”. Toasters were no exception. In our modern lives, most toasters offer some type of so-called smart technology which makes their application even more user-friendly. Your toasty goods are burnt, smart toasters guarantee this!

Related Questions

What was the toaster originally invented for?

The toaster was originally invented to make bread toasting easier. In those times buying bread was a luxury and two-day old bread also had to be eaten somehow. Instead of roasting bread by holding it over an open fire with a stick, toasters were used to complete this task.

How much was a toaster in the 1920s?

A toaster in the 1920’s went between $5 and $25. That might not sound like much, but that amount is equivalent to $60-$350. Keep in mind that the original toaster could only toast bread slices, while today toasters costing over $300 offer versatile applications.

Are old toasters worth anything?

Toasters from the 20th century, especially ones from the 1910’s and 1920’s, have exceptional antique value. Some collectors are willing to give a couple of thousand dollars for specific toaster types, even more so if they are still functional.

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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