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Josephine Cochrane

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Josephine Cochrane
Stamp of Romania, 2013
Josephine Garis

(1839-03-08)March 8, 1839
DiedAugust 3, 1913(1913-08-03) (aged 74)
Known forInventor of a popular model of dishwasher
William Cochran
(m. 1858)

Josephine Cochran (later Cochrane; née Garis; March 8, 1839 – August 3, 1913) was an American inventor[1] who invented the first successful hand-powered dishwasher, which she designed and then constructed with the assistance of mechanic George Butters, who became one of her first employees.[2][3]

Once her patent issued on 28 December 1886, she founded Garis-Cochrane Manufacturing Company to manufacture her machines.[4] Cochrane showed her new machine at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 where nine Garis-Cochran washers were installed in the restaurants and pavilions of the fair and was met with interest from restaurants and hotels, where hot water access was not an issue. She won the prize for "best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work" at the Fair. Garis-Cochran Manufacturing Company, which built dishwashers, grew through a focus on hotels and other commercial customers and was renamed as Cochran's Crescent Washing Machine Company in 1897.[5]

Cochran's Crescent Washing Machine Company became part of KitchenAid through acquisition by Hobart Manufacturing Company several years after Cochran's death in 1913.[6] Cochran was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 for patent 355,139 issued on December 28, 1886, for her invention of the dishwasher.[7]


She was born Josephine Garis in Ashtabula County, Ohio, on March 8, 1839, and raised in Valparaiso, Indiana. She was the daughter of John Garis, a civil engineer, and Irene Fitch Garis, as well as the granddaughter of an innovator.[citation needed]

After moving to her sister's home in Shelbyville, Illinois, she married William Cochran (later Cochrane) 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.[8][9] Josephine and William had 2 children: Hallie and Katharine.[10]

In 1870, the family moved into a mansion, and Cochrane joined Chicago society. After one dinner party, some of the heirloom dishes got chipped while being washed, prompting her to search for a better alternative to handwashing.[11] She also wanted to relieve tired housewives from the duty of washing dishes after a meal.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

Josephine Cochrane's invention of the dishwashing machine eventually became a success. However, this not only took a great deal of time and effort, but she also faced numerous obstacles in her journey to becoming a successful female innovator. Following the death of her husband in 1883, Cochrane was left with only $1,535.59 and a significant amount of debt, which she had to pay off.[15] This not only put her in a position of distress and mourning but also motivated her to create this innovation that she was passionate about and urgently needed to sustain herself financially. The death of her husband also put Cochrane in a trying position as a woman. She had to bring her invention to life, get a patent on it, find customers and sell her product to them all alone, with little to no representation or help from the male figures in her life. At the time, this would be difficult for any woman, no matter what their background or position was. In the following years, she worked hard on bringing her innovation to market, with little money, technical knowledge, and help to develop the mechanics of her pressurized dishwashing machine.

After filing her first patent application on December 31, 1885, she began developing a prototype of her product, bringing her vision to light.[16] Cochrane designed the first model of her dishwasher in the shed behind her house in Shelbyville, Illinois.[17] 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. Their dishwasher was the first to use water pressure instead of scrubbers to clean the dishes inside the machine.[18] She received a patent on December 28, 1886.[19]

Another challenge she faced was selling her product to individual households, specifically housewives. The first dishwashers were too expensive for an average household, costing between $75 and $100, which most women would not spend on an item for their kitchen even if it meant easing the effort they had to put in washing dishes.[20] In addition, most homes in that era were not equipped to handle the machine's requirements in using hot water.[21] However, years later, homes began adding boilers that were big enough to meet those requirements, eventually allowing Cochrane to sell to housewives, which initially was her end goal.[citation needed]

The World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 proved to be a pivotal in Cochrane's business as other companies relying heavily on investors were wiped out the same year in the Panic of 1893. The exposition proved a great place to pitch her innovation, and it worked well as many restaurants and hotels placed orders (with colleges and hospitals delayed in following due to sanitation requirements). In 1898, she opened her own factory with George Butters as manager so she could extend her sales north and south, reaching from Mexico to Alaska.[citation needed]

Her main customers continued to be hotels and restaurants. It was not until the 1950s that dishwashers became popular for home usage. Cochrane died in 1913 at 74. In 1926, her company was sold to KitchenAid, now part of Whirlpool Corporation.[6]

Death and recognition[edit]

Cochrane died of a stroke or exhaustion in Chicago, Illinois, on August 3, 1913, aged 74, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Shelbyville, Illinois.[22] In 2006, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.[23]


  1. ^ Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. Reader's Digest. 2009. p. 6. ISBN 978-0276445699.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "You Can Thank This Woman for Inventing the Dishwasher". ThoughtCo. Retrieved November 16, 2023.
  4. ^ "Woman Invents Dishwasher: Patent For First Practical Dish Washing Machine Issued December 28, 1886 – Josephine Cochrane". USPTO. United States Patent Office. 2001. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  5. ^ "Dishwasher Woman". mirage world of women. Mirage. July 18, 2018. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "This Socialite Hated Washing Dishes So Much That She Invented the Automated Dishwasher". IEEE Spectrum. October 6, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2021.
  7. ^ "Josephine Cochrane - Dishwashing Machine". MIT Lemelson Invents. Lemelson-MIT. 2001. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  8. ^ In spite of her young age and the societal norm at the time, Cochrane was guided by her independent nature and personal confidence. She assumed her husband's name but preferred spelling it with an "e" on the end, a point of contention with his family. Forgotten Newsmakers: Josephine Cochrane (1839–1913) Invented the Dishwasher
  9. ^ John, Lienhard (1999). "Engines of our Enginuity". Inventing the Dishwasher. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  10. ^ "Josephine Cochrane". www.nndb.com. Retrieved November 16, 2023.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Inventing the Dishwasher". Parts Select. Eldis Group Partnership. 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  13. ^ Mary Ellen Snodgrass (2004). Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Routledge. pp. 320–. ISBN 978-1-135-45572-9.
  14. ^ Hilpirn, Kate (October 29, 2010). "The Secret History of: The Dishwasher". www.independent.co.uk. The Independent. Retrieved May 6, 2014.
  15. ^ "Josephine Cochrane (1839–1913) invented the Dishwasher". Forgotten Newsmakers. Forgotten Newsmakers. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  16. ^ Ram, Jocelyn; Atkisson, Eric; Premack, Jay; Larrimore, Laura; Schatz, Steve; Camarota, Alex. "'I'll do it myself'". USPTO. United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  17. ^ Blattman, Elissa (2013), Three Every-day Items Invented by Women, National Women's History Museum
  18. ^ Johanna, Brenner. "Portland's Walk of the Heroines". woh.pdx.edu. Archived from the original on May 8, 2015. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  19. ^ US Patent No. 355139A: Dish-washing machine
  20. ^ Ram, Jocelyn; Atkisson, Eric; Premack, Jay; Larrimore, Laura; Schatz, Steve; Camarota, Alex. "'I'll do it myself'". USPTO. United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  21. ^ Rosenberg, Sari. "December 28, 1886: Josephine Cochrane secured a patent for the dishwasher and saved us all from 'dishpan hands'". Lifetime. Lifetime. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  22. ^ "Cook's Info". Cooksinfo.com. 1998. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  23. ^ "Spotlight | National Inventors Hall of Fame". Invent.org. November 21, 2013. Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2016.