Josephine Cochran and the Mechanical Dishwasher

These days, we place our dirty dishes in our dishwashers without thought, and a couple of hours later, we have clean dishes. Those of us who are old enough remember life before dishwashers remember the drudgery of doing up a stack of plates, cups, pots and pans. And dishpan hands came with the territory. It was just a part of life.

Josephine Cochran and her invention from

But in the 1880s, Josephine Cochran wasn’t willing to slave over a sink of hot water. She and her husband lived in Shelbyville, Illinois, and were wealthy enough to have servants to wash their dishes. But after one dinner party, the servants chipped one of her dishes which is said to have been from the 1600s. She believed in doing things yourself if you wanted them done right. From that point on, she did all the dishes in the household. Including after their many dinner parties.

Sick and tired of all that work, she sat down one day, and though she didn’t have any mechanical training, she came up with a sketch for a mechanical dishwasher . Metal racks held the dishes in place. They were put in a wheel inside a copper boiler. A motor turned the wheel and pumped water which was sprayed on the dishes. And it worked.

By now a widow, Josephine had a difficult time selling her product. Average housewives weren’t interested. So, on her own, she managed to sell her invention to a couple of hotels in Chicago. The invention really took off during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Several of the restaurants used her dishwasher, and it was on display in the machinery hall. She formed her own company to manufacture and distribute her dishwasher. It later became Kitchen Aid. Thank you, Mrs. Cochran!

What modern housekeeping machine would you find it difficult to live without?

One comment on “Josephine Cochran and the Mechanical Dishwasher

  1. Johnnie Alexander

    June 25, 2016 at 1:31 pm Reply

    My parents got their first dishwasher AFTER I went away to college. I’ve never quite gotten over it! LOL

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