Today, if you google “Toas Tite” (or toastite, or toas-tite), you’ll get a random smattering of blog posts reminiscing about the grilled cheese flying saucer of yesteryear. It becomes pretty clear all at once that the Toas-Tite is no longer being produced. But where did it come from? Who made them?
Researching something made in the 1940s or 1950s has its challenges. But with a little digging, we found out that the Toas-Tite was produced by a company called Bar-B-Buns based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Now, there are some Toas-Tites you’ll find that say on the front “Patent Pending.” Luckily, there are others that were made after the patent was granted. And luckily…Boy and I have one of those (actually, we have a few others that were made pre-patent as well). On the front of our black handled Toas-Tite, it says “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. Pat. No. 2463439.”
Patent 2463439 for a “Sandwich Grill” was filed on October 12, 1945 and granted on March 1, 1949. The inventor was John E. Strietelmeier of Cincinnati, Ohio (deceased, according to the patent) – his administrator, Lucille Strietelmeier was executing his estate.
It starts out like this:
“The present invention relates to improvements in sandwich toasting grills and is particularly directed to a hinged, sectional unit for making a toasted sandwich under heat and pressure from two pieces of a baked dough product and a filling material therebetween. An object of the invention is to provide in a unit for toasting and interiorly heating a filled sandwich made from two baked dough pieces a means for locating said filling in the center of the sandwich and for joining and sealing the marginal edges of the pieces by heat and presusre to preclude the escape of the filling from the finished product.”
Now the curious part. This patent has been referenced by 13 other patents, ranging from a knock-off Toas-Tite pan patented in the 1990s to a dumpling or ravioli maker. One of these patents, No. 2582692, is for another sandwich grill invented by Lawrence J. Funke, of Cincinnati, Ohio, assignor to Bar-B-Buns, Inc., also of Cincinnati, Ohio. This second patent was filed October 23rd, 1950 and granted January 15th, 1952. Interestingly enough, Funke’s sandwich grill was designed to improve upon sandwich grills of the past (presumably Strietelmeier’s). His patent says:
“The present invention is directed to improvements in grills of the type described and particularly to certain structural improvements which increase greatly the efficiency of their operation….A rather annoying characteristic of prior grills of this general type is that the hinge structures employed were such that when the mold plates closed upon two slices of bread, portions of the crust edge were caught between the two parts of the hinge and unless removed by a knife or other instrument, burned during the toasting of the sandwich.”
Funke had a point there. The desgin of the Toas-Tite does lock in a small piece of bread near the hinge area.
Another interesting thing was that on this same patent, Funke had illustrations and descriptions of a Toas-Tite like device which subdivided the sandwich into four pieces. And according to Toaster.org, it was indeed produced. Funke said, “In a modified form of the improved grill, the mold plates are divided into sectors. An important feature of this modification is that the toasted sandwich may be broken apart very easily into small sections which are themselves sealed marginally in the manner of sandwiches made in the preferred embodiment of the invention.”
So while the Toas-Tite (in its original form, rather than Funke’s sectioned version) was indeed invented by John E. Strietelmeier, it was produced by Bar-B-Buns with his original patent. So what was the relationship between Strietelmeier and Bar-B-Buns?
A little more digging surfaced two more patents filed by one John E. Strietelmeier and Robert G. Brown. But these two were filed in 1919 for inventions related to phonograph repeaters; one was filed in Elyria, Ohio and the other was in Cincinnati, Ohio.
A tad more digging, and we found yet another two patents, filed in 1937 and 1938 and granted in 1939. These two, patent numbers 2168005 and 2168006, are for bun pans. And at the top of the patents, it says, “John E. Strietelmeier, Cincinnati, Ohio, assignor to Bar-B-Buns, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, a corporation of Ohio.”
And now all of this is to say…John E. Strietelmeier perhaps began his career as an inventor with phonograph repeaters. Later in his life (unless that first one was a different John E. Strietelmeier), he moved on to Bar-B-Buns where he invented two bun pans. Then, sometime in the 1940s, he invented the Toas-Tite sandwich grill. Unfortunately, it seems he passed away sometime between when his bun pans were patented in 1939 and when the Toas-Tite was patented in 1949. But…his legacy is the Toas-Tite. And for that, we are very, very grateful.
So on that note, happy 60th (patent) anniversary, Toas-Tite!