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History of Dishwashers


While the patent accorded to Joel Houghton for an 1850 innovation is technically the start point of dishwasher invention, the real antecedent to today’s near essential kitchen appliance came some four decades later. When Josephine Cochrane unveiled her invention at the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair, it was truly the world’s first automatic dishwasher, in the form of wooden wheel lying on top of a copper boiler.

A Gateway to KitchenAid

Cochrane’s contraption, which could be operated by hand or by automatic pulley, was an immediate sensation. It was quickly adopted by restaurant and hotel owners, and led to backing by some of Cochrane’s wealthy friends. Eventually, her efforts led to the creation of one of today’s seminal kitchen appliance companies, KitchenAid.

The next tier of dishwasher innovation took place in the late 1920’s. In Europe, Miele launched the continent’s first top-loading, mass produced electric model. This came on the heels of General Electric’s introduction of its original direct-drive unit. Corroborating the basic functional simplicity of dishwasher mechanics, the design principles of that original model are still in use at the company today.

Incremental GE Innovations

In 1936, General Electric added a front-loading, single rack dishwasher to its product line. Then came, in 1954, the MobileMaid, the first portable automatic dishwasher. Manufactured at a plant in Kentucky, it became to available to consumers the same year as another GE staple launch: the washer-dryer combination machine.

In 1967, GE made improvements to the mechanics of its machine, streamlining the motor and water circulation pump for reduced energy consumption. As such, this model was a precursor to today’s standard Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations and certifications. Computer programming added further layers to machine performance. In 1984, GE dishwashers began remembering user performance. A decade later, in 1995, sensors were added to determine how dirty a particular load of dishes might be.

A much quieter model was added to the GE line-up in 1999, followed in 2005 by another that could be filled with 45 ounces of detergent, to then be dispensed in varying load quantities depending on hardness of the water and other factors.



The Independent – “The Secret History of the Dishwasher”, October 29, 2010, Retrieved December 12, 2010 from

General Electric – History of Appliance Innovation, Retrieved December 12, 2010 from

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