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Toasters of the 1920s

Updated on March 16, 2016
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Granted, this Hub is a bit of a departure from my normal fare. However, I have a soft spot in my heart for vintage toasters, having had my own collection a few years back. Retro toasters echo design and architectural trends of their day and are in their own right works of art. The once gleaming metal and steel cases of these state-of-the-art kitchen appliances are reminiscent of Art Deco and Art Nouveau masterpieces. Their beauty more than makes up for their primitive nature. I hope you enjoy this look back at a truly important contribution to the world of appliances and the breakfast table!

Brief History

The advent of electricity in the home spawned a plethora of gadgets to make life in the kitchen much easier, including the toaster. Women previously relied on manual tools such as toasting forks and racks designed for use over an open fire or gas flame. The heyday of the electric toaster began in the 1920s when, according to an article on American Heritage.com, sales of electric toasters increased from 400,000 to 1.2 million by the end of the decade. This is also the same decade pre-sliced bread took the country by storm, in no small thanks to the electric toaster and Wonder-Cut Bread, or as we know it today, good old Wonder Bread.

Original electric toasters consisted of a heating element and a stationary wire frame to hold the toast in place. Most were mounted on a porcelain base and posed a burn hazard to those charged with making breakfast. Toaster manufacturers in the 1920s added a protective case and a variety of clever mechanisms to automatically turn the bread for easy toasting on both sides. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular toaster designs from the Roaring Twenties.

The Turnover
The Turnover | Source

The Turnover

The turnover or turner toaster featured a spring-loaded door on either side that hinged down. Each door held a slice of bread. When one side of the bread was toasted, the operator opened each door to let the partially toasted bread drop down, giving the non-toasted side access to the heating element when the door was shut again. This toaster design was typically placed right on the breakfast due to its manual operation. The diligent person in charge of toast was responsible for making sure the toast was turned before it burned! The turner was popular from the mid 1920s until the early 30s.

The Flopper
The Flopper | Source

The Flopper

Well, you can just imagine the mad frenzy of companies trying to win the hearts of America’s homemakers with their new electric toasting machines. Each one attempting to create a slightly new design that did something the others could not (without infringing on the others’ patents, of course!) From this crazed period of innovation came designs and mechanisms like the Flopper. The Flopper featured metal doors with a lovely cutout design that also hinged on the bottom. The doors formed an “A” when closed. In this design, when the toast was done, the operator opened the side doors and the toast “flopped” out.

The Swingre
The Swingre | Source

The Swinger

The Swinger spiced up the toasting world and gave the Turnover and Flopper toasters a run for their money. Swingers featured a swinging basket with a two-sided metal wire enclosure that held the bread slices. The bread was “flipped” to the other side with a turn of a knob and the toast was “branded” with a distinctive pattern, making it more attractive for the breakfast table. The first four-slice toaster was a swinger. It was so expensive that the manufacturers offered convenient payment plans so the clamoring masses could afford to have one in their homes.

The Sweetheart
The Sweetheart | Source

The Sweetheart

This has to be my absolute favorite from the late 1920s. The Sweetheart worked by pressing two buttons located on the base of the toaster. The buttons controlled each side of the toaster. Depressing the buttons would swing the baskets on each side of the toaster out at a 90-degree angle, so the user could either place in the bread or remove the toast. Releasing the button allowed the basket to swing back into place against the unit. Each additional push of the buttons rotated the bread slices in the opposite direction to toast both sides.

The Pop-Up
The Pop-Up | Source

The Pop-Up

Toastmaster debuted the pop-up toaster to American consumers in 1926. The manufacturer used a clock mechanism as a timer for the toast. The key difference in this toaster was the fact that the user did not have to manually turn the toast. It was marketed to make perfect toast every time. Prior to 1926, pop-up or automatic toasters were originally marketed and sold to restaurants. They were a luxury for most families; so most manufacturers continued selling manual toasters for home into the 1950s. The Toastmaster company designed this toaster with heating elements situated on both sides of each slice. Another feature allowed the user to change the level of darkness by sliding a lever on the side of the toaster which adjusted the timer. The modern, streamlined case was truly a sight to behold.

How Do You Toast Your Bread?

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© 2011 lindacee

A Toast to the Electric Toaster: Leave a comment if you enjoyed this Hub!

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    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Delightful! I was sharing with my Green Bay friends the Packers toaster and what a hit my great gift for Packers' fan was with the toaster. These are very cool - and the history too! Excellent Hub! Voted up and useful! Very well done!

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      GmaGoldie, thank you for the nice comment! Glad you enjoyed the Hub! Go Packers!

    • travelespresso profile image

      travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      How cool! This is a really lovely hub and I so enjoyed the way you combined the retro toasters with the new options available on Amazon.

      It's really difficult to get toast here in Vietnam and I SO miss that lovely smell as the toast cooks - as well the taste.

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      Wow, I hadn't thought about it, but Asian countries wouldn't be big into toast. It's one of those things that makes you feel comforted even when you're far from home. Too bad it is such a rare delicacy in Vietnam.

      I am so glad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane, travelespresso! Before we moved to South America I had a lovely Cuisinart retro-look 2 slicer. I gave it to my stepdaughter because of the voltage differences. Reminded me of the one I had growing up.

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 6 years ago

      Such an interesting hub. Some of the toasters are beauitful. My favorite is the Sweetheart.

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for stopping by Truckstop Sally! Yes, the Sweetheart would look quite elegant on a buffet table with other vintage collectibles.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I would love love love to have one of these old toasters. There was a time a product was made not just to be functional but to be beautiful. I remember a similar toaster from my childhood like the flopper and I would just make toast to be making it. Such fun!

      Great hub and rated up - yay!

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      BkCreative, thanks for the rating and nice comment! These old toasters are so much fun, I might just have to start collecting again!

    • Pagelift profile image

      Pagelift 6 years ago

      Oh my god, I want one!

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      @ Pagelift

      Who knew toasters could be so cool!

    • ChristineVianello profile image

      ChristineVianello 6 years ago from Philadelphia

      oh wow, I absolutly love the sweetheart toaster!

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      Christine, I love it too -- it's my favorite! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Maria Harris profile image

      Maria Harris 6 years ago from Houston

      I remember my grandma had a toaster similar to the Flopper.

      That was a useful and interesting hub to read. Thanks for sharing.

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      Maria, it was an interesting hub to research as well. Thanks for the feedback!

    • chuckandus6 profile image

      Nichol marie 5 years ago from The Country-Side

      I love the old style appliances they are so different from the ones we have now, the one's now work better but I love the looks of the vintage would love to do the kitchen like that. great hub thumbs up

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for the feedback chuckandus6! Old toasters are very stylish. If you find examples in good condition, they make really cool decorative accents for the kitchen. Cheers!

    • MyFavoriteBedding profile image

      MyFavoriteBedding 5 years ago from United States

      I have never seen a picture of such old toaster ovens. They are very cool, and the Sweetheart toaster is my favorite! Great and interesting hub!

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      MyFavoriteBedding, sorry for the delay in my response! I am glad you enjoyed this Hub. Old appliances are amazing devices and share similar features to the ones we use today. The Sweetheart is definitely a sweetheart!

    • mistylight profile image

      mistylight 5 years ago

      Well, now this is an idea!! My love for decorating is inspired by culture young and old. I never considered an antique toaster. I love this! Thank you, I hope to find one of these little gems.

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      mistylight, they are so cute, aren't they? Vintage toasters are not only a tribute to our history and ingenuity, they are a great design element for a kitchen or dining room! Thanks for your comment!

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 3 years ago from United States

      These are really a delight to see. Like you, my favorite is also the Sweetheart. :)

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 3 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for the read, idigwebsites...think the winner is def the Sweetheart!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      this is really a rare sight. I had never seen such oldie toaster. Voted up

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 2 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you peachpurple! I love these old toaster designs--they are functional and attractive. They make for wonderful collectibles to display in the home. I appreciate the read and vote!

    • The Schreibfeder profile image

      The Schreibfeder 2 years ago

      I don't know why I love this hub so much. It's probably the best thing that I have read all month. Voted up.

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 2 years ago from Arizona

      I'm glad you enjoyed it, The Schreibfeder. Thanks for the read and vote.

    • profile image

      dejaunya pope 2 years ago

      i love them

    • profile image

      peytonteixeira 18 months ago

      Did you take these pictures, I am using them for research and I need to know who the original photographer is.

    • profile image

      Valdareia 9 months ago

      I have an old toaster I use in our camper, because it is much smaller an takes up less space. It is just like the one I grew up with, an I'm 77 . So much fun to use an pretty to. Love to find the Sweetheart.

    • profile image

      Donna Harding 9 months ago

      Great interesting information.

    • profile image

      beth 5 months ago

      Do you know anywhere I can buy the 'flopper' toaster?

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