(WHTM) Charles Strite hated burnt toast.
Strite worked at a factory in Stillwater, Minnesota during World War I, and frequently had breakfast in the factory cafeteria.
The cafeteria had electric toasters, but at that time the toasters only toasted the toast on one side. The toast had to be flipped manually, and the toaster had to be shut off manually, and sometimes the very busy cooks just …forgot, and Strite got scorched toast on his plate.
He decided this called for some tinkering.
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By 1919 he perfected a commercial-grade toaster that could heat both sides of a slice of bread at once, with a timer that shut off the electricity when the toast was ready. He also devised a spring that would pop up the toast when the electricity turned off.
All of these were unique advances, so unique that Strite applied for a patent and looked for financial backing. Investors Glen Waters and Harold Genter provided the money, and the Waters-Genter Company was born. On October 18, 1921, Strite received U.S. patent #1,394,450 for his invention.
Electricity still being a somewhat rare commodity at the time; Strite and his backers concentrated on toasters for restaurants. Their first 100 were sold to the Childs Restaurant chain. (Yes, chain restaurants were a thing even back then.)
All 100 quickly came back to the company.
A setback like this might have sunk the company. But in fact, the restaurant owners were really enthusiastic about the product, which merely needed some repairs and adjustments. Sales of the improved product took off.
In 1926 the company entered the consumer market with the “Toastmaster” model 1-A-1, a one-slice toaste advertised as “The world’s only toaster you needn’t watch.” A two-slice version followed shortly, and by 1933 the company was running shifts 24 hours a day to meet demand, and the electric toaster became a standard and essential part of the American Kitchen.
Toastmaster brand toasters are still being made to this day.