Toastmaster® is a major brand of small kitchen appliance. They are known for producing toasters, toaster ovens, and griddles. In 1926 the first automatic pop-up toaster was marketed by the Waters Center Company and called the Toastmaster. From this name the company was born.
There is a long, convoluted history to the Toastmaster Company. It all began in 1900 when Max McGraw founded the McGraw Electric Company in Sioux City Iowa. In 1903 he reorganized his electric company into the Interstate Supply Company. Max then went on to found the Interstate Electric Manufacturing company in 1907. In 1910 he merged the two companys together to form the Interstate Electric and Manufacturing Company.
The Joseph R. Lehmer Company merged with McGraw's company in 1912 and formed a new McGraw Electric Company. This company, in turn, founded a utility company, Central Electric and Gas Company in South Dakota which became the parent company for Central Telephone.
Charles Strite applied for the first patent on an automatic pop-up toaster in 1919. He intended this appliance to be sold in the restaurant industry. In 1921 the Waters Center Company formed for the purpose of manufacturing and marketing Stite's toasters. The Toastmaster, model 1-A-1, was manufactured and marketed as the first automatic pop-up toaster for the home in 1926. This year also saw McGraw Electric acquiring the Bersted Manufacturing Company (out of Chicago) and the entire operation was sold to Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company.
In 1926 Max McGraw personally purchased the Waters Center Company (Toastmaster). In 1929 he sold it to the McGraw Electric Company, which had also acquired Clark Water Heater Company and the Bussman Company.
The first pneumatic shock absorbers, for smoother bread carriage operation, were added to the Toastmaster toasters in 1936. In 1939 hinged crumb trays were introduced. This was the same year that McGraw Electric acquired the Focolipse heater from Pitt Corporation.
In 1944, due to the war, production of small kitchen appliances was halted. Almost all factories became war plants to spend several years manufacturing items necessary for the war. McGraw Electric's plant in Illinois was no exception, and for three years produced the aircraft gun that became known as the Chicago Piano. When appliance production began again in 1947, the Toastmaster model 1B14 toaster was introduced. This model remained in their product line until 1961 and recieved the award for the world's most popular toaster for over 10 years in a row.
By 1949 McGraw Electric Company consisted of several companies, including the Bersted Manufacturing Company, United Electrical Manufacturing Company, the Swartzbaugh Manufacturing Company (manufacturer of Everhot appliances), Manning-Bowman & Company, Edison of Canada Limited, and the Line Material Company (power line equipment manufacturer). In 1950 Toastmaster introduced model 1B16 the Powermatic. This toaster was self lowering and was designed to compensate for power surges during use.
By 1954 McGraw Electric began establishing operations in the western hemisphere as McGraw Electric Pan American Corporation. Manufacturing facilities were moved to Missourri and the appliance division of General Mills had been acquired in addition to Tropic-Aire Incorporated (manufacturer of air conditioners for buses).
1956 saw the beginning of what has become known as the countertop crunch. Homemakers were finding their appliances took up too much space. Toastmaster introduced their most compact toaster to date. The model 1B21 could toast any size bread, but weighed only 4 lbs., a full 2 lbs. less than earlier models.
Max McGraw was known for stating "Never buy a company unless it's making money or seems about to go broke". With this philosophy he purchased W. E. Moore & Company (manufacturer of industrial dryers), Speed Queen Corporation (home laundering equipment manufacturer), Thomas A. Edison Industries (which included Ingraham Time Products). On the heals of these purchases McGraw changed his company name to McGraw-Edison Company and endeavored on a major period of expansion and acquisitions, which lasted many years. Among the companies that were merged with McGraw-Edison were Griswold Manufacturing Company, Sancor Instrument Corporation, All-Over Manufacturing Company (manufacturer of home clippers), Heattube Company, National Electric Coil Company, American Laundry Machinary Company, Canadian Laundry Machinary Company Limited, Huebsch Canada Limited, the Daven Division of General Mills Incorporated, and Village Blacksmith Company. During this time McGraw Electric also acquired a portion of the product lines from Federal Pacific Electric Company and W. F. Meyer & Son. There were many mergers, the establishment of new American and Canadian divisions, the liquidation of other divisions, and joint ventures begun.
The electric waffle iron, model W252 debuted in 1966. Considered, in the industry, to be the best selling electric waffle iron, it remained in the Toastmaster product line until 1997.
McGraw-Edison spent the next 3 years acquiring additional companies. These included Halo Lighting Incorporated, Ingraham Company (manufacturer of clocks), Toledo Kitchen Machines (a division of Reliance Electric and Engineering Company), Brown Company (fibre pipe manufacturer), Simplicity Products Limited (the Canandian division), the power tool division of General Electric, and Fairgrieve & Son Limited. The company also acquired several of the appliance lines of Landers, Frary, & Clark, a Canadian appliance company.
The early 1970's brought about a fashion revolution for home appliances. Chrome remained the most popular choice, but colored or woodgrain finishes were added to the Toastmaster product lines, among the more popular choices were Avocado and Harvest Gold.
By 1972 McGraw-Edison had also purchased Comar Electric Company (manufacturer of relays and switches), Brevel Products Corporation (manufacturer of small electric motors), and the power tool product line from G. W. Murphy Company out of Texas.
Assembly lines at Toastmaster introduced model B700 in 1978. This was their first two-slice toaster and was intended to become the most popular toaster yet.
In 1980 a leveraged buy out of the Portable Applaince and Tool Group division of McGraw-Edison saw seven executives forming Toastmaster Incorporated. This was later purchased by Magic Chef, Inc. which later was acquired by the Maytag Company.
Remembering the countertop crunch of the 1950's Toastmaster introduces the first under the cabinet toaster in 1985. Marketing is aimed at helping to keep kitchen counters uncluttered and proves to be popular. This leads the way for additional appliances (including the coffee pot and can opener) to be adapted for under the cabinet installation.
In 1987 management stages a second leveraged buy out and acquired the Toastmaster Company from the Maytag Company. Two years later the 16,000,000 B700 series toaster rolls off the assembly line. In 1990 Toastmaster introduces the Cool Steel toaster. This steel sided toaster that is designed to remain cool to the touch during use.
March 3, 1992 Toastmaster becomes a publicly held corporation by joining the New York Stock Exchange. It's symbol is TM
As the 1990's progressed Americans fascination with healthier food brought a change to the small appliance industry. Following this trend, Toastmaster introduced the Bagel perfect toaster. New products lines were introduced in the late 1990's, including a newly designed toaster. This toaster was designed by the German design firm F. A. Porsche (designer of the original Porsche 911) and debuted in Chicago at the Housewares Show. The end of 1999 saw Toastmaster, Inc. being acquired by Salton Inc., a division of Middleby Corporation.
Today Toastmaster is a major manufacturer of commercial style equipment. In addition to toasters and waffle irons, Toastmaster Company is known to manufacture the following items:
- commercial conveyer ovens
- convection ovens
- sandwich and pannini griddles
- oven ranges
Information above was gathered in part at the following websites: