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Appliances History Learning Center

The Mean, Clean Washing Machine


Despite where you are in the world, there are certain daily tasks that we all have in common. One of these so-called labor intensive tasks happen to be washing dishes, which is usually looked at as being a hassle. Of course when you compare the way things were done back in the day to how they are done in the 21st century, our jobs our much easier than it was for Josephine Cochrane and others of her time.

Josephine came from quite a wealthy family which meant that washing dishes was not an obligation on her to-do list. However, when their expensive crockery constantly got broken or chipped by the servants, she had no choice but to take it upon herself to invent something that would get the job done faster and easier. Hence, the first reliable hand powered dishwasher was born in 1886 and unveiled at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Not too long after she opened up a production factory, which we know today as KitchenAid.


Cochrane gets the credit for her invention but let us not forget the trials and tribulations. The first mechanical dishwasher was made patented in 1850 by Joel Houghton for a hand-powered wood device. This device was made of wood and was cranked by hand as water sprayed the dishes. This device was both slow and unreliable. Another patent was granted to L.A. Alexander in 1865. This was similar to Houghton’s invention but featured a hand-cranked rack system. Neither device was practical or widely accepted. Their ideas became a strong foundation to expand the idea of the invention.

Europe's first domestic dishwasher with an electric motor was invented and manufactured by Miele in 1929. This made way for the brands we know best today to begin adding their own unique features and designs to the invention. Miele was established in 1900. Bosch was established in 1906. Maytag was established in 1907. Whirlpool was founded in 1911. Fisher and Paykel was founded in 1934. GE was produced in 1953. Frigidaire was produced in 1961.


Initially dishwashers were sold as freestanding or portable devices, but due to development of the wall-to-wall countertop and standard cabinets, dishwashers began to hit the market with standard sizes and shapes that could be integrated underneath the kitchen countertop along with your other kitchen appliances. Although today’s dishwashers do not resemble the first, the mechanics behind it still remains somewhat the same. Those who design dishwashers are interested in improving two key features; efficient cleaning and quiet operations.

So, before you shop think about what you are looking for in an ideal companion oops, i mean dishwasher. Look for convenience, and consider what type of cleaning features suite you, price range, what matches the dcor of your kitchen, and what dimensions that can best fit. Josephine Cochrane would be thrilled with all the options we have to choose from!