We’ve all gotten fed up with something a cafeteria did. But few of us did anything about it.
Coming up – the man who invented the pop up toaster.
The year was 1919, World War I was raging, and Charles Strite, who worked in a Stillwater Minnesota defense plant was ticked. Not about the war – he was mad at the company cafeteria. It consistently burned his toast!
It’s not like electric toasters weren’t available. General Electric introduced a successful one in 1909. But ten years had passed, and toast was still in the dark ages – so to speak. Most electric toasters browned bread one-side-at-a-time. And all toasters required human intervention to keep bread from burning.Toasters weren’t just annoying – they were fire hazards!
Fortunately Charlie Strite was mechanical engineer intent on fixing the problem.
He went to work, and emerged from his workshop with a revolutionary new appliance: an electric toaster with a clock-like timer, dual levers and powerful springs. It not only browned bread on both sides — simultaneously —it shut itself off and ejected the slices when finished. It was the world’s first automatic pop-up toaster.
Strite called it “The Toastmaster” and patented it on October 18, 1921.
It wasn’t the lightweight appliance we know today. Built for restaurants, it was a heavy cast aluminum unit weighing nearly 20 pounds — heavier than most bowling balls. But it was successful!
And, you could say, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Except for one thing. Sliced bread wasn’t invented until the mid-1920s.
But when it was introduced, Strite was there, with a 1926 model called the“1-A-1” — the first pop-up toaster for home use.
It was so successful, it made Toastmaster a household name.
With six models to choose from, all elegantly designed, Toastmaster became the world’s most popular toaster brand – a distinction it held for decades. In addition to the revolutionary features of its original model, it introduced other key innovations we expect today: shock absorbers to quiet the bread tray, hinged crumb trays, and cool-touch sides to prevent hand burns. In fact, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, most toasters today use the same basic design Charlie Strite introduced way back in 1921.
Charles Strite exemplifies an axiom featured on our website: Think Around Your Frustration.
Upset with the burnt toast in his company cafeteria, he invented the automatic pop up toaster. Now Why Didn’t I Think of That?