One item in the kitchen area of the Buffalo Island Museum often has people saying "What is that?" It is a Universal Model E947 electric toaster made by the Landers, Prary, and Clark Mfg. Co. in 1922. It was donated by Donna Wood.
People have been toasting bread since the time of the Romans. Toasting bread helped to preserve it from mold, and also made the bread sweeter and crunchier. At that time, bread was toasted over an open fire with the aid of various tools. When wood and coal stoves were later used, bread was put in a tin and wire device that held the bread to be toasted on the stove.
When electricity was introduced in American homes, the demand for appliances to help the household was fierce. Although inventors thought of making a machine to toast bread, they knew it had to contain wires with the ability to heat above 300 degrees without causing a fire. In 1905, Albert Marsh discovered that Nichrome could do just that. For the next several years many people and companies started working to develop the electric toaster.
The first commercially successful electric toaster was patented by Frank Shailor in July 1909. He worked for General Electric and they produced the Model D-12. Other companies soon followed with their own brand of toasters. You could buy a loaf of bread at the bakery, but you had to slice it yourself. Who thought of such a simple thing as already sliced bread? Otto F. Rohwedder developed a process for a pre-sliced loaf and sealed bag process in 1928. Continental Baking Co. started selling pre-sliced bread under their Wonder Bread brand in 1930.
Charles Strite had invented a spring-loaded automatic pop up toaster in the late 1920s and after companies started making the pre-sliced bread, his toaster became popular.
That toaster is a prototype of the toasters we use today. By the 1960s toasters were cheap and could be found in about every American home. By the 1980s toasters were being made with larger slots, and toasters today are made with heat resistant plastic with microchip controls.
Seeing this early toaster used by our grandmothers on Buffalo Island makes us appreciate how every day appliances have improved over the years. Just think, years from now, someone in a museum will look at something we now use everyday, and say "what is that?"
Buffalo Island Museum at Monette wants to preserve the history of this area.
Visit the museum and take a tour of years gone by.