Cochran, Inventor of the "Automatic Dishwasher"
Information from a Mattoon Journal
Gazette article by Sue Smyser.
On an ordinary day in the 1880s, a
Shelbyville woman took a dirty bowl and plate and made history.
Josephine Garis Cochran was the first person to build a practical
dish-washing machine, succeeding where some had tried and failed.
And it was the chore of washing dishes by hand and trying to save her
good china from breaking that caused her to proceed with an idea to
invent a unique machine. She also wanted to relieve tired housewives of
the drudgery of dish washing.
Working in a wood shed in back of the Cochran house, with the help
of George Butters, a young mechanic, she built a dish-washing machine.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office said she measured the
dishes first, then made wire compartments, each designed to fit plates,
cups or saucers. "The compartments were placed inside a wheel that lay
flat within a copper boiler. A motor turned the wheel while hot, soapy
water squirted from the bottom of the boiler and rained down on the
The invention, though practical, also required manual labor .One
article said the soapy water was forced on the dishes by hand pumping.
Cochran discovered the dishes would dry in the air after clear boiling
water was poured over them from a tea kettle. Operating instructions
for the later models said, "Put concentrated lye, with gold dust or sal
soda, as needed in the water:"
Excited about the invention, friends and neighbors urged her to
manufacture the machine for home and commercial use. She applied for a
patent and received it on Dec. 28,1886. People wrote testimonials, such
as "Dear Mrs. Cochran, Please accept my congratulations on the success
of that wonderful piece of mechanism, the 'Dish Washer.' Having Seen it
work, I can testify that it will do all work required, as advertised,
and am assured that it will be as indispensable to our homes as the
sewing machine. No one who is in need of such an article and understands
the worth and value of such a machine would think of doing without it.
Respectfully, Mrs. L.S. Baldwin, Windsor, ill., Feb. 5, 1889."
Cochran showed the dishwasher at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair , but
only restaurants and hotels showed interest in it. She founded a company
to manufacture her dishwashers that in time became Kitchen Aid, but it
wasn't until many years after her death that the machine captured the
attention of the average housewife. The machine didn't gain popularity
for home use until the 1950s.
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