The electric toaster’s history began in Scotland in 1893, where a highly flammable prototype was developed; those that came closely after followed suit. Early toaster attempts failed because the heating element was made out of iron wire which had a tendency to melt and had a high potential to set fires. Toaster advancement was mainly thwarted by early electricity’s lack of availability if an area was wired for power it was likely only supplied at night.
The history of toast itself goes much further back with the word itself rooted in the Latin words: torrere, tostum – to scorch or burn. Before the electric toaster, toast was made next to the hearth on a hot stone or speared onto a toasting fork and held over the fire’s flame. It is thought that the Romans spread the custom of toasting bread north in their conquests, and later the English colonists imported the tradition to the Americas.
In 1905 metallurgist Albert L. Marsh, working with chemist, electrical engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur William Hoskins, co-invented the first metal alloy from which a highly resistant wire could be made and used as a safe and durable heating element. The material was officially patented in 1905 and named chromel; later the name became nichrome, which is still used today. This advancement brought toasting bread from the hearth to the table – companies such as General Electric and The American Electrical Heater Company joined the electrical toaster movement. Of course, all this toasting could not occur without a proper slice of bread. In July of 1928 the first machine-sliced, wrapped loaf was sold and by 1930 The Continental Baking Company introduced pre-sliced Wonderbread.
To avoid patent infringement and catch the discerning consumer’s eye, many manufacturers produced a variety of styles of the electric toaster. The toaster’s name often revealed its function; some were Floppers, Pinchers, Perchers, Turners, and Swingers. The pop-up electric toaster, king even today, was an early invention, the first of its kind, Model 1-A-1 Toastmaster, was produced in 1925. Its high cost made the pop-up a late-comer in the average household kitchen, it was not until the boom years after World War II that the pop-up toaster took first place as the most popular toaster style found in the average home.