Monday, July 22, 2013

The Discerning Dishwasher

"Most people with automatic dishwashers are discerning people."

And naturally they use fancy "premium formula" dishwashing powder. Only the best for the soignée couple in the ad. I am not crazy about their apartment - the Hitchock-thriller lighting suggests that dinner is going to end badly for at least one of the guests. And the man in the background appears to be talking to someone only he can see.

Dishwashers were actually invented in the 19th century and though the first patent dates from the 1850s, we all have Josephine Cochrane to thank for the modern dishwasher. She was a well-to-do Illinois matron who liked to entertain, and disliked doing dishes. She did have servants to do them but the servants were not fast enough for Josephine, who was a discerning person if there ever was one - and also sometimes they broke the plates. So one day she said, probably to herself as she stood in the kitchen amid the broken and smudged china:

"If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I'll do it myself!"

Josephine Cochrane
And she did, in 1886. Her great grandfather had been an inventor, so it was in her blood. And also, she was aware (aren't we all) that the dishes simply weren't going to stop getting dirty.

Cochrane's Dishwasher (as it was called) featured a motor-powered wheel that when it was turned, spritzed soap and water over dishes lying in a rack. The link below, under the blueprint, will take you to a biography of Cochrane and a better explanation of her dishwasher. Anyway, soon enough Cochraine's Crescent Washing Machine Company (later known as KitchenAid - who knew?) was getting tons of orders.

Dishwashers were expensive for a long time, so Josephine was mostly selling to hotels and restaurants. Even in the 1950s, not everyone had them - which may explain the pitch to discerning folks (with lots of discerning dollars) in the ad, which dates from that era. You might recall in the classic I Love Lucy episode "Pioneer Women," everything starts because Lucy and Ethel  really, really want dishwashers. Lucy figures she's washed 219,000 dishes since she married Ricky and that Ethel has washed millions. Josephine Cochrane - or rather, her servants - probably felt just the same.

photo credit: alsis35 (now at ipernity) via photopin cc

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