Most of the inventions in history were either by accident or triggered by necessity. There is even a saying that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. The story behind origin of the modern day dishwasher justifies that saying. The appliance, which became a blessing for many households, was invented by a wealthy American woman who was at her wit’s end due to her servants’ carelessness.
The woman was Josephine Cochrane, who lived in Illinois. She had a group of clumsy servants who habitually broke her expensive porcelain dishes while washing them, much to their employer’s ire. Many of the dishes were rather costly, and had been even imported from foreign countries. Some took a considerable amount to repair while others were in helpless condition.
One day in 1886, Josephine happened to hear the familiar sound of something shattering on the floor. When she rushed to the kitchen, she was confronted with the sight of her broken chinaware and her maid standing, sheepish and guilty. It was then Josephine decided that she couldn’t allow this to go on. She decided to do something about washing the dishes.
She collected her dishes and went into the woodshed near her home. She was accompanied by a mechanic named George Butters. The first thing she did while there was to pick up a strong wire. She made separate compartments with it to hold the cup, saucer and plate each and fastened them around a wheel inside a drum. The next step was to make an arrangement to spray hot, soapy water onto the dishes, washing them. Fortunately, the device worked as she had expected.
This device was showed to Josephine’s friends and they were very impressed with the appliance. Some of them had the device made for them. In 1893, she showcased her dishwasher in the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and won the top award there. The news attracted a wide attention and a number of hotels and restaurants in the locality gave her contracts to make dishwashers for them.
Josephine was the first to make a dishwashing appliance. In 1850, an American named Joel Houghton and in 1865, L A Alexander had acquired patents for similar devices. However, they were rather crude and inconsistent. In 1897, Josephine took a patent for her invention and set up a business to manufacture the dishwasher in large scale. Butters was the first employee to be hired for the company named Garis-Cochrane Manufacturing Company. The venture turned out to be very successful. Later the company also started making smaller models targeted at home use. However, it took some time to draw attention, since most of the American ladies were not interested in trying a time-saving device.
Later many other companies came up with various models of the device. Halfway through the 20th century, the sale of dishwashers climbed up substantially, especially in America and Europe. Today it is one of the most common home appliances in various parts of the world.