De­sign Mo­ment

The his­tory of the pop-up toaster goes back nearly a cen­tury, to an un­happy break­faster.

Australian House & Garden - - Contents -

Me­chanic Charles Strite (right) fumed when­ever he was served burnt toast at the cafe­te­ria of the Min­nesota plant where he worked. In 1919, af­ter too many morn­ings of eggs and ba­con on char­coal, he con­ceived a de­vice that would re­move the el­e­ment of hu­man er­ror from the pur­suit of a per­fect slice. Us­ing springs and a timer, he cre­ated the world’s first pop-up toaster. It also browned on both sides, so there was no need to flip the slice half­way through.

Strite patented his in­ven­tion in 1921 and five years later, his tweaked de­sign sprang onto the US mar­ket as the Toast­mas­ter. “You do not have to watch it. The toast can’t burn,” its pack­ag­ing boasted.

As well as revo­lu­tion­is­ing break­fast, it her­alded the age of the bench­top ap­pli­ance. Pop-ups got a leg up in 1928, when Otto Ro­hwed­der from Mis­souri in­vented an au­to­matic bread-slic­ing ma­chine; sliced bread and toast­ers would be­come a mar­riage made for morn­ings. Pre-sliced loaves first ap­peared in Aus­tralian shops in the late 1940s and pop-up toast­ers fol­lowed in the 1950s, the push led by Sun­beam from the US and Mor­phy Richards from the UK.

Sun­beam’s iconic T9 model, sport­ing sweep­ing curves on a chrome body, launched in the US in 1937. But, with war in­ter­ven­ing, Bri­tain was slower to adopt the pop-up. Mor­phy Richards re­leased the UK’s first au­to­matic toaster, which fea­tured ad­justable brown­ing, in 1949. It re­mained a semi-lux­ury item but many were ex­ported to Aus­tralia through the com­pany’s lo­cal sub­sidiary.

Mean­while, Sun­beam Aus­tralia re­leased the T9 here in 1955, cap­i­tal­is­ing on the decade’s vo­ra­cious de­mand for con­sumer goods; by the 1960s, many Aus­tralian house­holds owned a pop-up. This trend was fur­ther fu­elled by Sun­beam’s Toast­er­matic of 1960, which fea­tured au­to­matic low­er­ing and rais­ing of the bread.

Re­cent in­no­va­tions have seen larger slots for crum­pets, chunky sour­dough and bagels, as seen in Sun­beam’s Toast n Crum­pets of 1989. Mean­while, heat-re­sis­tant plas­tic cas­ings and mi­crochip con­trols have made toast­ers lighter and cheaper to pro­duce.


The up­right toaster mar­ket in Aus­tralia has grown to $66 mil­lion an­nu­ally, or 1.2 mil­lion units, of which 45 per cent are four-slice mod­els, ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­searcher GfK. And toast­ers aren’t merely util­i­tar­ian. “Ket­tles and toast­ers are the most quickly re­placed kitchen ap­pli­ances,” says Elena Pin­tado, Sun­beam’s head of mar­ket­ing ac­ti­va­tion for Aus­tralia and New Zealand. “Peo­ple use them as an in­stant ren­o­va­tion. They are the vase of the kitchen.” Hence Sun­beam’s Marc New­son and Florence Broad­hurst lines. Across all brands, retro styling, chunky in­dus­trial pro­files and 1950s colour pal­ettes plug into cur­rent trends, as does Mor­phy Richards’ Scandi line with its tim­ber de­tail­ing. Like the Toast­er­matic of 1960, Bre­ville’s Smart Toast of­fers mo­torised rais­ing and low­er­ing, and a set­ting that ad­justs toast­ing time to the type of bread, while a Lift & Look fea­ture lets you peek to see if it’s done to your taste. De­spite such in­no­va­tions, the pop-up es­sen­tially re­mains lit­tle changed from Strite’s Toast­mas­ter of the ’20s. It’s still the best thing to hap­pen to break­fast – even be­fore the ad­vent of sliced bread.

1937 Sun­beam’s T9 model was ad­ver­tised as “the last word in mod­ern styling”.

1921 The Water­sGen­ter com­pany mar­keted Strite’s pioneer­ing Toast­mas­ter.

1960 Sun­beam sold the Toast­er­matic in Aus­tralia for more than 20 years.

2015 Marc New­son ap­plied a de­signer aes­thetic and bold hues to Sun­beam ap­pli­ances.

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