Josephine Cochrane: Learn All About the Forgotten Woman Who Invented the Dishwasher

Josephine Cochrane and the First Commercially Successful Dishwasher

There are many modern conveniences that we often take for granted today. Some of them are so prevalent that it's hard to imagine a time when they didn't exist. The dishwasher, for instance, is an appliance that revolutionized the home by freeing up a time-consuming chore. While it was not popularized until the 1970s, the invention has been around for over 100 years.

The first version of the dishwasher was invented in 1850 by an American named Joel Houghton. However, its clunky design, which was made of wood and operated very slowly via a hand crank, made it quickly forgotten. Later, in 1865, a man named L.A. Alexander put forth his patent which featured a hand-cranked rack system. Although this machine was slightly more usable, it also found no profitability.

It was not until 1886 that the first commercially successful dishwasher was invented. This version was designed by an American woman named Josephine Cochrane (formally Cochran) after the death of her husband, which left her with no source of income and a significant amount of debt. Her machine included wire compartments that were designed to fit plates, cups, and saucers, and these racks were fitted inside a wheel that was placed inside a copper boiler. Rather than rely on a hand crank, Cochrane's version utilized a motor to turn the wheel. Meanwhile, hot soapy water was sprayed up from the boiler, which subsequently ran down the dishes.

Cochrane made the design herself and then received help from mechanic George Butters to produce the prototype. After she received her patent, she founded Garis-Cochrane Manufacturing Company to start creating her machines. However, her road to success was not a smooth one. Due to the labor and materials involved with making these early dishwashers, they were ultimately too pricey for average households.

Cochrane finally found a platform for her invention when she showcased her dishwasher at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. There, she found interested buyers in the form of restaurants and hotels. These establishments could afford the cost of her products and were looking for ways to alleviate the labor.

Throughout her later years, Cochrane continued to grow her business. She died in 1913, and several years later, in 1926, her company was acquired by KitchenAid, which is now part of the Whirlpool Corporation.

h/t: [Messy Nessy Chic]

Related Articles:

Vertical Dishwasher Is a Space-Saving Improvement on a Nearly Century-Old Design

10 Decluttering Tips That Will Help You Tidy Your Home Without Feeling Overwhelmed

New Espresso Machine Designed to Look Like a Concrete Work of Art

Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content