How much longer could he stand it?
Charles P. Strite worked at a factory in Minneapolis, Minnesota and often visited the cafeteria for breaks and meals. Yet every time he ordered a simple piece of toast, it came to him burnt. There is no record as to whether he desired it dry, with butter, smeared with jelly or slathered in honey, but apparently no oleo or margarine could soften the scorched bread and no jam could sweeten its taste. Enough was enough; he had all he could stand. And who among us could blame him? After all, man had already conquered air with motorized flight thanks to the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk; why, oh why, could man not produce evenly toasted bread?
This question soon became his obsession that ultimately put Strite on a collision course with history as his quest for aemulantur tosti perfectus (the perfect slice of toast) would shape the remainder of his life and the lives of all mankind for years to come. Strite may not have know he was a man of destiny, but he was, and despite crumbs of failure along the way, the golden-brown goodness of success would soon follow.
But destiny, fame and fortune through the cooking of sliced bread would not come easy, as few things do. There would be scoffers. The traditional way of toasting bread since time and memoriam was a simple heat source and then constantly flipping the bread by hand until done. That was the way grandpa did it and I am sure few saw the need for improvement, but Strite did.
He had the vision to see that the tools to accomplish his goals were well within his grasp. Albert Marsh had already discovered the Nichrome filament needed as the heat source, electricity had been around since before the turn of the century, and timing devises were accessible. Also, electricity was not just available, but it was being placed in more and more homes and restaurants across the US. All Strite had to do was to bring the components together to simultaneously cook both sides of bread and then, almost like magic, be ejected or popped up from the heating device once done.
After years of experimentation, eureka! Strite finally realized success in 1919. He applied for a patent and the modern toaster was born. In 1921, he received U.S. patent No. 1,394,450 for his device, which became known as the “Toastmaster” and he was in business. His first patent was for a restaurant model that would ensure he would never face a burnt piece of toast looking up at him on a plate in the cafeteria again. But he wasn’t done. He created his own manufacturing company and followed with another patent, this time for a home version. His simple device would free people from the shackles of the labor intensive constant flipping of bread, the nemesis of chefs around the globe. Now cooks and novices alike at home, in greasy spoons to five star establishments, could free up time to be more efficient in the kitchen. The world was changed forever.
Was there success? Are you kidding? Coupled with an equally astounding invention of Otto Frederick Rohwedder – sliced bread in 1928 – and you have over a million toasters sold every year. A man who saw the flaws in something as simple as toasting bread revolutionized cooking forever.
The modern elevator has a similar story. All the components were there and well within grasp. But the grandpas in the old-fashioned elevator business pooh-poohed any new advancement and stymied real change in the market. Instead, they opted to stay in the box and ignore the possibilities of ground-breaking enhancements. Yet we at Phoenix Modular Elevator thought outside of the box to produce an elevator from a newer and better perspective. We have created a perfect replacement for the old-fashioned way of building an elevator, hoistway to car.
Making modular elevators is revolutionary because our elevators are safer to put in place and get running, more cost effective and faster to build and install. We are not selling a million a year…yet, but thinking big and in a different way to tackle a problem will always result in success. And success is coming. The world’s largest modular elevator factory is about to double in size to keep up with the increasing demand.
Somewhere I think, in my heart of hearts, that Charles Strite is looking down from his lofty position of world-class inventor with a tear in his eye and perfectly toasted bread on his lips, nodding his head in approval that his legacy of invention has not died. Despite those who don’t share our vision and would rather us continue with old ways, we, like Strite, are leaning forward into the future one modular elevator at a time.