Dishwasher History: A Timeline of an Appliance Favorite


With the advent of electricity and fewer servants helping in the kitchen, household appliances gradually came into use. Today, many people still hand wash all of their kitchen utensils, but many of us take for granted the luxury of having a machine that washes and dries our dishes for us. So when did the dishwasher appear? Let’s take a look at the progress of one of our invaluable kitchen helpers.

Believe it or not, the first product to resemble what would become the modern dishwasher was patented by a certain Joel Houghton in 1850. It’s true, before the Civil War people thought about how to lighten the burden of household chores. Although it was just a wooden machine with a hand-turned wheel that squirted water at the dishes, it was a start in the right direction.

“If no one else is going to invent a dishwasher, I will.”

So proclaimed Josephine Cochran in 1886. Engineering was in her blood, since her father John Fitch was the inventor of the steamboat. Cochran unveiled his invention at the 1893 World’s Fair, but only hotels and restaurants showed interest in buying his idea. Cochran’s design had racks to hold plates, saucers, and cups.

By today’s standards, his invention is of course primitive. But Cochran’s manual mechanical dishwasher did an adequate job. The company she founded to manufacture her dishwashers became KitchenAid.

Once indoor plumbing became more common and could be used in conjunction with dishwashers in the 1920s, appliance manufacturers Miele pushed the dishwasher further into the future.

“In 1929, we launched Europe’s first electric top-loading dishwasher ready for series production,” explains Neil Pooley, Product Manager of the Miele Group.

But the stock market crash sparked the Great Depression, which made it nearly impossible to sell a luxury item. In 1937, the closest dishwasher to what we know today was invented by William Howard Livens. This machine had a front door for loading, a rotary pulverizer and metal grids. In 1940 electric elements used to dry dishes were incorporated into the design.

It will be several decades before the dishwasher becomes a practical item for most homes, due to its high price. After Miele introduced the first automated dishwasher in 1960, the cost of a dishwasher was still out of reach for most people. For example, an RCA dishwasher in 1966 cost as much as $218. Adjusted for inflation, that would be over $1,500 in today’s money.

But like most inventions that created enough demand, the price of dishwashers gradually fell, and by the time the 1980s began it had become one of the most popular kitchen appliances in America.

Source by Kevin Getch

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