You wake up in the morning and put some bread in the toaster. You want to get the perfect toast and set the dial to your optimal setting. You leave the toast for a minute to finish getting ready and when you get back your toast is done. Luckily you did not have to wait and flip your own toast over to get the perfect toast. When toasters were first invented both sides of the toast would not be toasted at the same time. Instead you would toast one side and then manually flip to the opposite side of the toast. Or you would have to wait and manually shut the toaster off when your toast was done. In our collection we have a Westinghouse turnover toaster and the history behind the turnover toaster is quite interesting.
The first electric toaster was invented in 1909 by Crompton and Co., a company in Great Britain. Many businesses at this time made toasters, and one such business was Westinghouse. This is the company that produced the turnover toaster we have in our collections. In 1916 Westinghouse presented the first turnover toaster which would flip the bread, toasting each side evenly.
Hazel Copeman is credited with inventing the turnover toaster door, in fact her name appears on the patent but it was probably her husband, Lloyd Groff Copeman, who invented it. A story suggests that the couple was out shopping and Mrs. Copeman saw an electric toaster and asked her husband why he did not invent a toaster where one could turn the bread without touching it. Mr. Copeman apparently got to work on this and invented the turnover door toaster sometime around 1916. The turnover door worked so that by opening the door of the toaster the side of bread not being toasted would turn so it could be toasted.
The Copeman’s had formed The Copeman Electric Stove Company around 1913. They not only produced stoves but toasters as well. While the products were good, sales unfortunately were not and in 1918 Copeman was approached by the president of Westinghouse Company who later purchased the company. Copeman would work for Westinghouse inventing lots of new gadgets including the turnover door toaster.
Our Westinghouse turnover toaster has a fabric cord and is 7 ½” x 8 ½” x 4″. It was donated by Lucille Anderson. Even though a toaster is an everyday item– something we think has no value–it does. These everyday items give us a glimpse into the past and help us understand how people lived and the utensils they used. Without such information we would not know certain things about past societies or have new improved methods for doing tasks we take for granted; like not having to manually turn your toast anymore.
What do you use your toaster for? Tell us about your toaster, the color, brand, and what you use it for.
Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.