Josephine Cochran, Inventor of the first Mechanical Dishwashers
Shelby County (Illinois)


A Learning On-Line Resource Page
 
 
Did you know? . ..
The First Automatic Dishwasher was invented
right in our own Shelby County, Illinois

Photo courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Mrs. Josephine Cochran, Shelbyville, Illinois native

1
The Monument located in 
Shelbyville, Illinois 
celebrating an important 19th Century invention in our own neighborhood

At Right is the Legal Patent Diagram showing the design and components of the dishwasher

2

 

Josephine Garis 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 dishes." 

    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.

GO HERE TO SEE SOME ACTUAL PICTURES OF THE BUILT DISHWASHER

Return to Inventions and Inventors Activity Page

Return to Learning On-Line Resource Page