Vintage toasters reflect a slice of life

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The greatest thing since sliced bread may be the electric toaster, which has been around for 100 years.

Many older Americans may still have their originals.

Joyce Rodgers of Springfield, Ill., has a working model that’s more than a half-century old. “Mom bought it from the power company. She paid 50 cents a month until it was paid off. We had it when I was a child, and I’m 69 now,” she said. The appliance only browns one side at a time; when the bell rings, it’s time to turn the bread over.

Gertrude Koehler still uses the Sunbeam pop-up model she received as a wedding gift in 1955. “The toaster is chrome and still has a pretty shine to it. I use it every day.”

Quality toasters can be passed down for generations. Carolyn Bailiff of Fenton, Mo., inherited one from her mother, who “used it every day for 50 years. She was very proud of the fact that she was able to use it for that long.” Her parents received the Camfield toaster as a wedding gift in 1955.

The first U.S. patent for an electric toaster was submitted in 1909 by General Electric for its D-12 model, which was little more than exposed heating elements surrounded by a wire cage to hold the bread.

Toastmaster produced the first automatic pop-up toaster in 1926. But it was the availability of commercially sliced bread in 1933 that popularized toast.

“Toasters are design marvels that have served a useful function in our homes for the past 100 years,” said Eric Norcross, creator and curator of the Charlottesville, Va., Toaster Museum Foundation (www.toaster.org).

Today, 12 million toasters are sold each year, and 90 percent of Americans have toast on any given morning, according to Consumer Reports magazine. — cns