Open empty dishwasher

In the Beginning: The Dishwasher

The History of the Dishwasher

I know some people who don’t have a dishwasher and sometimes I wonder how do they function? Being in appliance repair I see a deep need for everyone to own a proper working dishwasher. I know my kids can’t imagine life without a dishwasher and neither will their kids. But do you remember life without a dishwasher?

Let’s go back in time to the year 1982. We were all dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album, we saw Dustin Hoffman’s performance in “Tootsie”, all while wearing acid wash jeans and teasing our hair. It was around now our parents were buying the dishwasher – a state of the art machine that before now only our rich uncles owned. No more spending hours after dinner cleaning dishes, we may never miss the first 5 minutes of Cheers again! But where did this magnificent machine really come from?

In the year 1887 a very wealthy Miss. Josephine Cochrane was tired of her china getting chipped by her servants. She herself had most likely never washed a dish before but in her desire to keep her fine china in one piece she invented the dishwasher. Josephine started by measuring the dishes then building separate wire compartments to fit the different sizes of plates, cups, bowls, and utensils. The compartments were placed inside a wheel a motor turned the wheel bringing soapy water up from the bottom. Her machine was quite large and a smaller one was later invented by William Howard Livens in 1924.

By the 1960’s dishwashers were domesticated, that is to say the wealthy could afford to have them in their homes. Dishwashers in 1966 cost around $220 which would come close to $1550 today. But like every other in demand item the price soon went down to where the regular joe could afford It and by the 1980’s many houses had a new dishwasher and now in 2014 I want to say 98% of houses have a dishwasher.

Life before the dishwasher seems a long time ago when we think of its invention in 1887, especially when we factor in that there were no non- stick pans or steel wool. People had to use a bit more elbow grease and spend a bit more time at the sink. Thankfully nowadays we have non- stick pans and steel wool but every once in a while it’s nice to put on those acid wash jeans and dance around to the thriller album again.

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