A sandwich is one of the oldest foods known to man. In its basic form, it is nothing but two slices of bread with some sort of filling or stuffing in the middle. Over the years the art of sandwich making has improved so much that you get umpteen different kinds of sandwiches now, but traditionally sandwiches were eaten when it was not feasible to eat normal food, like when you were working or when you were traveling.
A sandwich maker, or sandwich toaster as it is otherwise called is a very simple contraption. It is just two square concave pieces of cast iron that could be clamped together and then held over coals or an open fire using long tong like handles. The fire not only toasted the bread, but also melted the cheese that was part of the stuffing making the whole thing taste much better. This kind of sandwich makers were carried around with people in Australia and South Africa until the mid 20th century because it was one of the most convenient ways to eat hot food out in the open when you were camping.
Sometime in the early 20th century electrical sandwich toasters were invented which used electricity to do the same thing that the fire used to do earlier. It was nothing but the same concave apparatus from the traditional toasters that were heated on the outside using electrical heaters. The whole thing was covered in heat proof material so that the heat did not come outside.
In 1974 Breville in Australia released their “Snack ‘n’ Sandwich toaster” which had a unique “Cut-n-Seal” mechanism that cut the sandwich diagonally across the middle and sealed the sides too. This design was so popular that it sold 400,000 units within the first year of launch which is why even now, Breville is used eponymously for sandwich toasters in different parts of the world. The same design has since been copied by almost all manufacturers so that it is the most widely and commonly found design among sandwich toasters today.
Sandwich makers are inexpensive machines that are one of the most used items in a modern kitchen. In fact the only thing that outsells the sandwich toasters are the combination waffle and sandwich makers because it gives you the option of making both waffles and sandwiches.