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Josephine Cochrane facts for kids

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Josephine Garis Cochran (later Cochrane) (March 8, 1839 in Ashtabula County, Ohio – August 14, 1913 (age 72) in Chicago, Illinois) was the inventor of the first commercially successful automatic dishwasher, which she constructed together with mechanic George Butters.

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


Early life

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. She had one sister, Irene Garis Ransom. Her maternal 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

After moving in with her sister in Shelbyville, Illinois, she married William Cochran on October 13, 1858, who returned the year before from a disappointing try at the California Gold Rush, and went on to become a prosperous dry goods merchant and Democratic Party politician.

  • 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.

In 1870 she became a socialite, they moved into a mansion, and began throwing dinner parties using heirloom china allegedly dating from the 1600s. After one event, the servants carelessly chipped some of the dishes, causing her to search for a safer alternative. She also wanted to relieve tired housewives from the duty of washing dishes after a meal.

Another thing that motivated Josephine to make the dishwasher was when her alcoholic husband died in 1883 and she was just 45 years old, leaving her with tremendous debt and very little cash.

Death and recognition

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

Cochrane's dishwasher

Other attempts had been made to produce a commercially viable dishwasher. In 1850 Joel Houghton designed a hand-cranked dish soaker. 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.

Cochrane designed the first model of her dishwasher in the shed behind her house in Shelbyville, Illinois in order to protect her china while it was being cleaned. 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. Her friends and neighbors had urged her to manufacture them and apply for a patent.After receiving a patent on December 28, 1886 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 Cochrane was getting orders for her dishwashing machine from restaurants and hotels in Illinois.

The factory business, Garis-Cochran, began production in 1897. Josephine 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 (now known as Kitchen Aid).

It wasn't 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.

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