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Model T-20
T-20, late 1940s through the early 1950s.

Evolution of the Sunbeam T-20

By Eric Norcross,
all rights reserved.



The Sunbeam Model T-20 appeared on the market in the late 1940s and, although it underwent some minor design changes and retoolings, it remained in Sunbeam's product line until 1997.

Engineered by Ludvik Koci with the design supervised by Ivar Jepson and styled by Robert D. Budlong, the T-20 was the first fully automatic toaster. An ad from 1954 states, "Automatic Beyond Belief! All you do is drop in the bread ... Bread lowers itself automatically, no levers to push ... Toast raises itself silently, without popping or banging."
Model T-35
T-35, MID 1950s through the early 1960s.
In a 1949 Consumer's Union test of toasters, they note the novel design, "The weight of the bread closes an electrical contact; this turns on the current and the bread slice is automatically lowered...". And the T-20 was one of the first toasters to use a bi-metallic, heat-sensitive device to guage the temperature of the bread slice rather than the temperature of the toaster. This is supposed to prevent the bread from being able to burn.
Model VT-40-1
VT-40-1, 1960s.
Also included in the Consumer's Union write-up of 1949 was an opinion piece on the aesthetics of toaster design:

"Most [toasters] have efficiently engineered external parts ... with appropriate and expressive shapes which are entirely able to stand on their own merits; but most have taken the next deplorable step in adding tasteless decoration on otherwise clean forms. These bits of ornament are usually incised lines in the toaster's side, and range from psuedo-monograms through floral curlicues to quill-penmanship exercises and modernistic patterns of the worst sort", and of the T-20 the editorialist likes that its forms are "firm rather than soft, but it is guilty of bad decoration on the sides."
So, although we lament the loss of ornamentation today, 50 years ago it was viewed as excessive by some.

The T-20 shed its "incised lines" and became the T-35; the light/dark control was placed on the front of the unit in the 60s, where it remained until the toaster went out of production in 1996.

$22.50 in 1949, $85.00 in 1996, this was always a high quality toaster, perhaps it just couldn't compete anymore with the $9.99 K-Mart specials.
Model 3816
Model 3815, 1990s.
First Dates of Manufacture:
Service Number Catalog Number Date of First Production
T20 T-20 April 1949
T20A T-20A August 1950
T20B T-20B August 1952
T20C T-20C January 1957
T35 T-35 April 1958
VT40 VT-40 June 1962
VT40 VT-40 June 1962



This article was first published in hotwire, the newsletter of The Toaster Museum Foundation.
 


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