Josephine Cochrane

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Stamp of Romania, 2013

Josephine Garis Cochrane (March 8, 1839, Ashtabula County, Ohio - August 14, 1913) was the inventor of the first commercially successful hand-powered dishwasher which was constructed together with mechanic George Butters.[1]


Early life[edit]

Josephine was the daughter of John Garis, a civil engineer, and Irene Fitch Garis. She had one sister, Irene Garis Ransom.[2] Her grandfather, John Fitch, was an inventor who was awarded a steamboat patent. She was raised in Valparaiso, Indiana, where she went to private school until the school burnt down...

Marriage and children[edit]

Josephine married William Cochran on October 13, 1858. William was a politician and merchant. They moved to Shelby County, Illinois.[3] Her husband died when she was 44 years old, which motivated her to go through with developing the dishwasher. She kept William's last name but added the "e" after his death.

  • Hallie Cochran (birthdate – death) Hallie was the son of William and Josephine Cochran. He died at the age of two.
  • Katharine Cochran (birthdate – death) Katharine Cochran was the daughter of William and Josephine Cochran.[4]

While Cochrane had servants to do dishes, the amount of chipping manual washing caused led her to seek a mechanical solution.[5] She also wanted to relieve tired housewives from the duty of washing dishes after a meal.[6] She is said to have exclaimed, "If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I'll do it myself!"

Her friends were very impressed with her invention and had her make dish washing machines for them, calling them "Cochrane Dishwashers". This is what she began to call it, later leading to the name of her company, Garis-Cochran Manufacturing Company.


Josephine died of a stroke or exhaustion in Chicago, Illinois, on August 14, 1913, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Shelbyville, Illinois.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

Josephine designed the first model of her dishwasher in the shed behind her house located in Shelbyville, Illinois. George Butters was a mechanic who assisted her in the construction of the first 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.[10] She 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 after, Cochrane was getting orders for her dish washing machine from restaurants and hotels in Illinois. She patented her design and went into production. The factory business, Garis-Cochran, began in 1897.

It wasn't until the 1950s when dishwashers became a typical household item. It became more well-known, and most households had the capabilities to hold one of these dishwashers by this time. These early dishwashers required a great amount of hot water, so houses had to be modified for this new technology with the proper plumbing.[11]


  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 tracking the entire world". Josephine Cochrane. Soylent Communications. 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  3. ^ John, Lienhard (1999). "Engines of our Enginuity". Inventing the Dishwasher. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "NNBD tracking the entire world". 
  5. ^ Ed Sobey (1 April 2010). The Way Kitchens Work: The Science Behind the Microwave, Teflon Pan, Garbage Disposal, and More. Chicago Review Press. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-1-61374-307-2. 
  6. ^ "Inventing the Dishwasher". Parts Select. Eldis Group Partnership. 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  7. ^ "Cook's Info". Cook's Info. 1998. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Mary Ellen Snodgrass (29 December 2004). Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Routledge. pp. 320–. ISBN 978-1-135-45572-9. 
  9. ^ Hilpirn, Kate (2010-10-29). "The Secret History of: The Dishwasher". The Independent. The Independent. Retrieved 5/6/2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  10. ^ Johanna, Brenner. "Portland's Walk of the Heroines". Portland's Walk of the Heroines. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "Lemelson-MIT". Josephine Cochrane. Lemelson-MIT Program. Retrieved 5 April 2015.