Wells was known for jazz, waffles, and celebrities throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s. One story about Well's seems to be widely told and re-told. During late 1950s, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Kim Novak were dating. One morning after breakfast at Wells' Kim's fur coat was found to be "missing" from the coat-room. Frank Sinatra made a stern announcement to the crowd about the missing coat and it appeared back the next day.
This did the job, but it sure wasn't streamlined. Here is a photo from a World War II era training pamphlet. The subject was "How to use electrical appliances." Many rural households were just getting electricity due to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and the pamphlet was intended to get folks up to speed with the rest of the country. This photo shows the Government-approved method of "seasoning" a waffle iron (you put oil on it and let is burn in, creating the organic equivalent of Teflon). Any vegetable oil will do.
For our original testing, we assembled a panel of seven tasters. We made at least two rounds of Bisquick waffles and one round of yeast-raised waffles in each model. Rather than judge the time it took for the machines to heat up and cook, we focused on how good a waffle each maker produced. At first we followed the indicators to determine when the waffles were done, and if a machine had no indicator, we waited for it to stop steaming, as Matt Maichel suggested. We allowed for flexibility in cooking time, so if one needed more time, we would shut the lid and let it cook a little longer.
Today there are many (many!) Belgian waffle makers on the market. We set out to find the best one by making hundreds of waffles and by going the extra waffle-making mile by consulting a postdoc in MIT’s mechanical engineering program to learn the basic thermodynamic principles at work in waffle irons. After a month of waffles for breakfast and for lunch, we had a solid winner—an iron that made picture-perfect Belgian waffles, two at a time, in under 5 minutes.
We are including a look at Table Broilers here because they are part of the "make it at the table" ethos that prevailed when electric appliances were relatively rare and consequently tres chic. Wealthy hostesses missed no chance to show off their shiny new appliances. In turn, companies like Manning-Bowman sold appliances that were more like chrome sculpture. When appliances became more commonplace, they were removed from the table and relegated to the kitchen.