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From Electrical Merchandising, February, 1933:

Grand Daddy of Heating Appliances

William Hoskins
William Hoskins
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William Hoskins Got His Idea in 1907

It was a toaster. This first model is soon to be seen in the Rosenwald Industrial Museum in Chicago. How it came about, resulted from the search for synthetic rubies by William Hoskins of Chicago.

A sequence of events paved the way. Years ago young Hoskins conceived the idea of a blow-torch assay furnace, after seeing an uncle burn off paint with an oil flame. He tried his furnace on his ruby making formula (raw alumina) but discovered it was not hot enough. So he turned to thermit, a quick-burning metal compound which had appeared in Germany. Mr. Hoskins prepared and set off 200 pounds of it in a Chicago blacksmith shop, still on the trail of his synthetic rubies. The net result was to bring the fire department on the run, and force a negro family upstairs to fly from all exits. Notoriety acquired from this put him in touch with a man named [Albert] Marsh, then perfecting a thermopile, an electric device by which current is generated when heat is applied at a junction of different kinds of metal forged together. Mr. Hoskins discovered how to melt it, also how to get a pure carbon-free alloy which was ductile. Incidentally he found that the alloy which would turn heat into electricity would also turn electricity into heat.

First Toaster

First practical application of the alloy (Nichrome) was in building an electric furnace for laboratories. One noon hour in 1907, while watching the heating element glow in a fire-clay unit, Mr. Hoskins conceived the idea of toasting a slice of bread on it. Thus an electrical appliance was born whose basic principle made feasible heating pads, flatirons, stoves and all heat producing appliances. Of course, many of these had existed since the eighties by use of iron wire and German silver, but neither was practicable. For years, until the patents expired, royalties were paid to the Hoskins Manufacturing Company.

Guessed Right

"Every time I pass the Commonwealth Edison windows, and see a display of a great pile of electrical appliances," declares M. Hoskins, who at 70 lives in LaGrange, Illinois, "I tip my hat to them and say to myself, 'Well, old fellow, you guessed right that time.'"

This article appeared in Volume 3, Number 3 of hotwire, the newsletter of the Toaster Museum Foundation.

 

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