Josephine Cochrane

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Stamp of Romania, 2013

Josephine Garis Cochran (later Cochrane) (March 8, 1839 in Ashtabula County, Ohio – August 3, 1913 (age 72) in Chicago, Illinois) was the inventor of the first commercially successful automatic dishwasher, which she constructed together with mechanic George Butters.[1]

Cochran was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 for her invention of the dishwasher.


Early life[edit]

She was born Josephine Garis in Ashtabula County, Ohio, on 8 March 1839 and raised in Valparaiso, Indiana. Cochrane was the daughter of John Garis, a civil engineer, and Irene Fitch Garis.[2] Her maternal grandfather, John Fitch, was an inventor who was awarded a steamboat patent.[citation needed]

Marriage and children[edit]

After moving to her sister‘s home in Shelbyville, Illinois, she married William Cochran on October 13, 1858. William had returned the year before from a disappointing try at the California Gold Rush, but had gone on to become a prosperous dry goods merchant and Democratic Party politician.[3][4]Josephine and William had 2 children: Hallie and Katharine.[5]

In 1870 she became a socialite, and the family moved into a mansion. There the Cochrans began throwing dinner parties using heirloom porcelain dating from the 1600s. After one event, the servants carelessly chipped some of the dishes, prompting her to search for a better alternative handwashing the China.[6] She also wanted to relieve tired housewives from the duty of washing dishes after a meal.[7] Another thing that motivated Josephine was that husband died in 1883 when she was 45 years old.[citation needed]

Death and recognition[edit]

Cochrane died of a stroke or exhaustion in Chicago, Illinois, on August 14, 1913, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Shelbyville, Illinois.[8] In 2006 she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.[9]

Cochrane's dishwasher[edit]

Other attempts had been made to produce a commercially viable dishwasher. In 1850 Joel Houghton designed a hand-cranked dish soaker.[10] In the 1860s, L. A. Alexander improved on the device with a geared mechanism that allowed the user to spin racked dishes through a tub of water. Neither of these devices was particularly effective.[11]

Cochrane designed the first model of her dishwasher in the shed behind her house in Shelbyville, Illinois.[12] George Butters was a mechanic who assisted her in the construction of the dishwasher; he was also an employee at the first dishwasher factory. To build the machine, she first measured the dishes and built wire compartments, each specially designed to fit either plates, cups, or saucers. The compartments were placed inside a wheel that lay flat inside a copper boiler. A motor turned the wheel while hot soapy water squirted up from the bottom of the boiler and rained down on the dishes. Her dishwasher was the first to use water pressure instead of scrubbers to clean the dishes inside the machine.[13] After receiving a patent on December 28, 1886[14] Cochrane showed her invention at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and won the highest prize for "best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work". The word spread, and soon Cochrane was getting orders for her dishwashing machine from restaurants and hotels in Illinois. The factory business, Garis-Cochran, began production in 1897. Cochrane showed her new machine at a Chicago Fair in 1893 and only restaurants and hotels were interested in it at the time. She was able to find a company to manufacture her machines at that time.

It was not until the 1950s that dishwashers became a common household item after new suburban homes were built with the plumbing required to handle the extra hot water.[15]


  1. ^ David John Cole; Eve Browning; Fred E. H. Schroeder (2003). Encyclopedia of Modern Everyday Inventions. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 100–. ISBN 978-0-313-31345-5.
  2. ^ "NNBD: Josephine Cochrane". NNDB. Soylent Communications. 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  3. ^ Forgotten Newsmakers: Josephine Cochrane (1839–1913) Invented the Dishwasher
  4. ^ John, Lienhard (1999). "Engines of our Enginuity". Inventing the Dishwasher. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  5. ^ "NNBD tracking the entire world".
  6. ^ Ed Sobey (2010). The Way Kitchens Work: The Science Behind the Microwave, Teflon Pan, Garbage Disposal, and More. Chicago Review Press. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-1613743072.
  7. ^ "Inventing the Dishwasher". Parts Select. Eldis Group Partnership. 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Cook's Info". Cook's Info. 1998. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  9. ^ "Spotlight | National Inventors Hall of Fame". 2013-11-21. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
  10. ^ Mary Ellen Snodgrass (2004). Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Routledge. pp. 320–. ISBN 978-1-135-45572-9.
  11. ^ Hilpirn, Kate (2010-10-29). "The Secret History of: The Dishwasher". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-05-06.
  12. ^ Blattman, Elissa (2013), Three Every-day Items Invented by Women, National Women's History Museum
  13. ^ Johanna, Brenner. "Portland's Walk of the Heroines". Archived from the original on 8 May 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  14. ^ US Patent No. 355139A: Dish-washing machine
  15. ^ "Lemelson-MIT". Josephine Cochrane. Lemelson-MIT Program. Retrieved 5 April 2015.

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