Josephine Cochrane

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Josephine Cochrane
Stamps of Romania, 2013-34.jpg
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 Garis Cochran (later Cochrane; March 8, 1839 – August 3, 1913) was an American inventor[1] who was the inventor of the first commercially successful automatic dishwasher, which she designed in the shed behind her home; she then constructed it engaging the assistance of mechanic George Butters, who became one of her first employees.[2] She is claimed to have said "If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I'll do it myself!"[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 highest prize for "best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work" at the Fair. Garis-Cochran Manufacturing Company, which built both hand and power operated 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 after Cochran's death in 1913, who first grew the commercial business, and in 1949, the first KitchenAid dishwasher based on Cochran's design was introduced to the public. By the 1950s, most households had access to hot water which had been limited in the past and cultural attitudes regarding the role of women were shifting so the consumer home market opened for dishwashers in the 1950s. 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.[6]


Cochrane 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.[7]

After moving to her sister's home in Shelbyville, Illinois, she married William 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 she joined Chicago society. After one dinner party, some of the heirloom dishes got chipped while washing up, prompting her to search for a better alternative to handwashing the china.[11] She also wanted to relieve tired housewives from the duty of washing dishes after a meal.[12]

Death and recognition[edit]

Cochrane died of a stroke or exhaustion in Chicago, Illinois, on August 3, 1913, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Shelbyville, Illinois.[13] In 2006 she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

Josephine Cochrane's invention of the dishwashing machine eventually became a success; however, this not only took a lot 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 an absurd amount of debt which she had to find a way to pay off.[17] 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 trialing 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 and help of 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 competent help to develop the mechanics of her pressurized dishwashing machine.

After filing her first patent application on December, 31st, 1885, she began developing a prototype of her product, bringing her vision to light.[18] Cochrane designed the first model of her dishwasher in the shed behind her house in Shelbyville, Illinois.[19] 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.[20] She received a patent on December 28, 1886.[21]

Another challenge she faced was selling her product to individual households, specifically housewives. The first dishwashers were, in fact, 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.[22] In addition, most homes in that era were not equipped to handle the machine's requirements in using hot water.[23] 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 real end goal.

The World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 proved to be a pivotal moment 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). Lots of money and time was saved as large models of Cochrane's dishwasher chugged away in their new homes.

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] Closer to her death, she recounts the hardship she faced through her journey and admits that if she knew all that she knew today, she might not have ventured to innovate the dishwasher due to all the hassles. However, she is glad that she did.[citation needed]

Her main customer continues to be hotels and restaurants, up until 1950s, as plumbing technology meets the need of hot water supply for the dishwashing machine, Cochrane began selling the product to housewives. However, it was not until the attitude towards housework and technology, that dishwashing machine became popular, unfortunately a time that Cochran never saw, as she died in 1913 at the age of 74. Later in 1926, her company was sold to KitchenAid, now part of Whirlpool Corporation.[24]

[1] Goodrich, J. (2020, October 6). This Socialite Hates Washing Dishes So Much That She Invented the Automated Dishwasher. IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved December 6, 2021.


  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. ^ Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 28). Josephine Cochran and the Invention of the Dishwasher. Retrieved from
  4. ^ "Woman Invents Dishwasher: Patent For First Practical Dish Washing Machine Issued December 28, 1886 – Josephine Cochrane". USPTO. United States Patent Office. 2001. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Dishwasher Woman". mirage world of women. Mirage. 18 July 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Josephine Cochrane - Dishwashing Machine". MIT Lemelson Invents. Lemelson-MIT. 2001. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  7. ^ "NNBD: Josephine Cochrane". NNDB. Soylent Communications. 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  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 4 April 2015.
  10. ^ "NNBD tracking the entire world".
  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 10 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Cook's Info". Cook's Info. 1998. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Spotlight | National Inventors Hall of Fame". 2013-11-21. Archived from the original on 2016-08-14. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
  15. ^ Mary Ellen Snodgrass (2004). Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Routledge. pp. 320–. ISBN 978-1-135-45572-9.
  16. ^ Hilpirn, Kate (2010-10-29). "The Secret History of: The Dishwasher". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-05-06.
  17. ^ "Josephine Cochrane (1839–1913) invented the Dishwasher". Forgotten Newsmakers. Forgotten Newsmakers. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  18. ^ 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 6 December 2021.
  19. ^ Blattman, Elissa (2013), Three Every-day Items Invented by Women, National Women's History Museum
  20. ^ Johanna, Brenner. "Portland's Walk of the Heroines". Archived from the original on 8 May 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  21. ^ US Patent No. 355139A: Dish-washing machine
  22. ^ 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 6 December 2021.
  23. ^ Rosenberg, Sari. "December 28, 1886: Josephine Cochrane secured a patent for the Dishwasher and saved us all from 'Dishpan hands'". Lifetime. Lifetime. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  24. ^ "This Socialite Hated Washing Dishes So Much That She Invented the Automated Dishwasher". IEEE Spectrum. 2020-10-06. Retrieved 2021-12-07.

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