History of the Toast Rack
Despite the fact that the consumption of toast dates back to the Roman era ("Tostum” being Latin for "scorched”), the development of the toast rack did not happen until the 18th Century. Up until this point any innovation revolved around the making of the toast rather than the presentation; this development took us from the humble hot stone, on to the wire frame used to toast bread above fire, then to the toasting fork (which was greatly popular during the Victorian era) and finally to the toaster, introduced in 1893 by the British Crompton company.
It is claimed that the first toast rack was crafted in the 1770’s with them first appearing on the breakfast table around the 1780’s as part of the general refinement of dining customs amongst the middle classes. The first reference in print to the toast rack was in a report of a burglary in 1779- A silver toast rack worth two pound (which would have been a relatively large amount at the time) was amongst a number of domestic silver items which were reported to have been stolen from the home of John William Anderson by two Burglars who were later tried at the Old Bailey.
It is thought that the first toast racks started emerging because of the relatively new technique of fusing metal plate wires in the rolling mills in the 1760’s. This involved a thin strip of sterling silver being bent around a circular piece of copper, about five centimetres in diameter. After the wires were fused the bar was then drawn through a series of wholes, which decreased the bar in size until wire of the specified diameter was reached. This new manufacturing technique heavily influenced designs at the time, as it meant that thin metal could be mass manufactured in order to create quite delicate pieces, often pieces that were quite metal-light. The toast rack is such a piece of course, as it relies on large gaps to achieve the soggy-free ideal toast.
This concept of the perfect dry toast was echoed a lot in 18th and 19th century cook books such as Mrs Beeton’s Dictionary of Every-Day Cookery (1865) in which she writes "to make dry toast properly, a great deal of attention is required; much more, indeed, than people generally suppose.” and then goes on to assert that the answer, of course, is the implementation of the toast rack.
Since that time the toast rack has never really been out of fashion, with new cheaper materials giving not just those belonging to the upper and middle classes the ability to purchase an item to enhance the breakfast experience. Some have found other purposes for the toast rack, for example: a letter holder, a place to keep electronic gadgets, plate holders, etc.