Bread was invented over 6000 years ago by the ancient Egyptians. Toasting the bread was originally a way to preserve the bread, the Romans particularly liked toasted bread and gave its present name Toast (Tostum in Latin). The Romans spread the new invention throughout its empire from Africa to Britain.
The original way to toast bread was by clamping bread together and holding it over a flame.
This is a Hearth Toaster bread was placed between the arches and placed over a flame, when one side was browned, it was rotated.
The first electric toaster was invented in 1905 by George Schneider for the American Electric Heater Company. This was never produced but the patent application was submitted for an enclosed toaster with the new alloy Nichrome used as the heating element.
In July 1909, Frank Shailor of General Electric invented the D-12. The model shown here is the third version of the D-12, it had a ceramic base and was plugged into a light socket for power, as wall sockets were rare and expensive.
The toast was cooked one side at a time and when your toast was ready, u had to unplug it to turn it off.
The first popup toaster patent was applied for on May 29, 1919. It was created by a mechanic named Charles Strite who decided to solve the burnt toast problem he had at his company cafeteria. It used springs and a changeable timer. A timer was placed on it so you were not required to watch over your toast. The first popup toaster for the home was the Toastmaster, which was made available in 1926. Toastmaster produced many different 3-slot toasters over the years, like this large cast iron commercial one next to a 1950's Toastmaster.
The Sunbeam, Model T-20 was released in 1949 and was the first fully automatic toaster. The toast would lower by itself and rise slowly without popping out or banging. It progressed through many models from the T-20 to the VT40. Sales stopped of the VT40 in 1996, with a lifespan over 25 years.
The toaster progressed significantly from toasting bread over a flame to placing bread into a full automatic electric toaster. The design itself cannot be improved much from our present machines but newer technologies could produce even more energy efficient toasters or even burn proof toasters.
The Cyber Toaster Museum
Gizmo Highway: History of the Toaster
Dr. Toasts Amazing World of Toast