Thursday, January 22, 2009

Charles Strite

Today we celebrate Charles Strite for his invention that has been a staple in American households for nearly 100 years - the pop-up toaster.

Patented in 1921, Strite's toaster was the first "fire-safe" version of the machine. Though a "toaster" had been introduced in the late 1800s, Strite was the first to successfully improve on the concept.

Strite started the Waters-Genter Company to manufacture and market his new product. His initial clients were mainly restaurants. After some improvement, households too would adopt his invention. In 1926, Strite added an additional feature to his toaster, an automatic pop-up. His product became known as the "toastmaster." The success of his invention eventually caught the attention of Edison Electric Co., who later acquired Waters-Genter.

As innovation often leads to further innovation, so too did the toaster lead to changes in the way other goods were manufactured. For example, a short time after Strite introduced the toastmaster, bread companies began pre-slicing their bread and marketing it as "toastmaster-friendly" - which attributed to an even larger increase in sales of both the toastmaster and bread. Ahh, the beauty of the market!

Hat tip to Justin Ross over at The Perfect Substitute blog for the inspiration for this post. Justin comments on a very interesting piece by Glenn Beck - who outlines the benefits of capitalism (includes reduction in price of toasters over time) in his article Thank You, Capitalism!.

Sources:

MIT-inventor of the week archive
Ideafinder

Wikipedia

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