Landers Frary & Clark was one of the first American companies to manufacture electrical home appliances: in 1908 they introduced an electric coffee percolator and 1912 saw the release of an electric iron. These new products added to the company’s line of household products that they had marketed since the 1890s under the trade name “Universal,” suggesting the broad appeal of the wares. In the early 1920s the company claimed that six out of every ten households in America had at least one “Universal” product. This “Universal” toaster model E9410 was patented in 1929. Fondly called the “Sweetheart,” the toaster has a feminine appeal with its earring-like handles, diamond-shaped body, and floral and arabesque decoration. The delicate design of this metal casing helped to shield the industrial nature of the electrical heating element behind it. Therefore the toaster became an attractive addition to the kitchen as well as to the dining table at the time of a meal. As early as 1917 Landers Frary & Clark appealed directly to female consumers and advertised that “The complete independence of the hostess in preparing meals directly at the table is one of the chief charms of this modern method of electrical table service.” As American households were less dependent on servants for housework, food preparation, and hostess duties, an expanding market of electrical appliances eased work for the homemaker. This toaster not only exhibits an eye-catching design but also incorporates clever mechanics. The toaster cooks two slices at a time in cages that swivel out with the touch of the raised buttons at the base, one button for each side of the contraption. Releasing the button swings the cage back against the toaster. Each subsequent pushing of a button then makes the basket rotate in the opposite direction, so that both sides of the bread can be toasted. Thus the operation of this “Universal” toaster transforms the basic act of toasting bread into an impressive tabletop performance with which the hostess could have impressed her guests.
Emily Orr is Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary American Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
 “Universal Electric Home Needs,” Current Opinion, April 1917, 293.