In 1869, Cornelius Swartwout first patented what breakfast appliance?

And the answer: Waffle Iron.    
Photo credit: Caroline Léna Becker

In Troy, New York, Swartwout patented the first stovetop waffle maker. Waffles, in one form or another, have been enjoyed for centuries and go back as far as the ancient Greeks. In 1911, General Electric released the first electric waffle iron, which was the prototype for the countertop versions we are familiar with today.

Believe it or not, waffles have been giving humans a reason to get out of bed in the morning for most of human history. It’s nearly impossible to determine the exact origin of waffles, as the food evolved across multiple different cultures under many different names, but the strongest predecessor for what we consider a modern waffle can be found with the ancient Greeks. There, cooks would mix flour, water, milk and eggs together before fitting the mixture between two hot metal plates. Called obelios, the simple yet delicious dish spread throughout Europe, and soon enough gained tasty embellishments such as honey, orange blossom, and butter.

Though some have speculated that waffle irons first appeared in the 13th–14th centuries, it was not until the 15th century that a true physical distinction between the oublie (or wafer-like pastry) and the waffle began to evolve. Around this time, a new shape of hot irons began to rise in popularity—replacing the circular, intricate designs with distinctive, rectangular grids. The delicacy cemented itself as a favorite of European royals. Even Francois I, King of France from 1494 to 1547, declared that he “les aimait beaucoup” (loved them a lot), and had a set of waffle irons cast in pure silver.

Several hundred years later, waffles remain as popular as ever, thanks to the help of inventor Cornelius Swartwout. While waffle makers had surely gotten used to the painful burns which would often accompany a batch of waffles, Swartwout realized that there was a better way to make and consume these treats. Swartwout developed the first waffle iron that would sit easily on a wood stove—including a useful handle for opening, closing, and turning the device without getting burned. Described as an “Improvement in Waffle-Irons,” his invention received U.S. Patent No. 94,043 on August 24, 1869.

Did you know?

Thanks to the patent of Swartwout’s waffle iron on August 24, 1869, today marks National Waffle Day! Whether you prefer Belgian waffles, French waffles, or just plain Eggos, be sure to make time for a warm, crunchy waffle this Waffle Day.


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