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Origin of the dishwasher

The dishwasher originated in an Illinois kitchen

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and it seems Josephine Cochrane would agree. She succeeded where others had failed with her invention of the dishwasher in the late 19th century. Frustrated that her china plates became chipped when washed by hand, the socialite in Shelbyville, Ill., designed a machine to do the washing.

The first model was hand-cranked, but many of the original design features remain to this day – including compartments to fit plates, cups and saucers. The compartments were put inside a wheel lay flat inside a copper boiler. A motor turned the wheel and hot water would spray up from the boiler.

Josephine was quite independent for the era. Married at 19 to wealthy businessman William Cochran, she chose to add an "e" to his last name to set herself apart. Josephine's invention was patented in 1886, and she started the Garis-Cochran Dishwashing Company, which eventually became part of KitchenAid. 'Garis' was her maiden name.

Cochrane convinced restaurants at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago to use her invention. The attention brought enough success that she opened a factory to supply hospitals, restaurants and colleges that began using dishwashers for the sanitizing effects of the hot water rinse.

Housewives were slow to adopt the appliance, however. Dishwashers were expensive, and hot water heaters at the time didn't supply enough water. It wasn't until the 1950s – more than 40 years after Josephine's death in 1913 – that dishwashers became popular with the general public. Today, more than nine out of 10 homes has a dishwasher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Are you curious how homes kept cool before air conditioning or how bathrooms have evolved in the past 100 years?

SOURCES: National Inventors Hall of Fame and ForgottenNewsmakers.com.

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