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Josephine Cochrane

AKA Josephine M. Fitch

Born: 8-Mar-1839
Birthplace: Ashtabula County, OH
Died: 3-Aug-1913
Location of death: Chicago, IL
Cause of death: Exhaustion
Remains: Buried, Glenwood Cemetery, Shelbyville, IL

Gender: Female
Religion: Unitarian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor, Business
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Invented the dishwasher

Josephine Cochrane's husband was a successful grocer and court clerk named William Cochran, and she Europeanized her married name by attaching an e at the end. She frequently hosted dinner parties, but became frustrated when her servants would occasionally chip or break her heirloom china while washing dishes, so she took to washing the dishes herself. After her husband's death, she hired George Butters, a local mechanic employed by the Illinois Central Railroad, to work part-time helping her bring her designs to fruition in a shed behind her home. They constructed the first dishwashing machine, patented on 28 December 1886 and installed in Cochrane's kitchen.

She established the Garis-Cochran Dish-Washing Machine Company, naming it for her father and husband, and the company’s machines were built at a contracted factory under the supervision of Butters. Though powered by a hand-crank, the design was similar in principle to present-day electric dishwashers, sending jets of soapy water onto dishes held in wire racks inside a watertight metal box. For rinsing, the user poured water over the rack of clean but soapy dishes. Later models were powered by a steam engine, and added a self-rinse cycle.

Cochrane's machine was sold primarily to high-end hotels and restaurants. Showcased at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, her machine won honors for "best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work." She opened her own factory in 1897, with Butters as factory foreman and chief mechanic, overseeing three employees. After Cochrane's death in 1913, her company was purchased by The Hobart Manufacturing Company, now famous for its industrial dishwashing machines. Hobart introduced home dishwashers in 1949 under the KitchenAid brand, which is now owned by Whirlpool.

Father: John Garis (civil engineer)
Mother: Irene Fitch Garis
Sister: Irene Garis Ransom
Husband: William A. Cochran (grocer, b. 23-Jun-1831, m. 13-Oct-1858, d. 20-Oct-1883)
Daughter: Katharine Cochran (b. circa 1870)
Son: Hallie Cochran (d. infancy)

    National Inventors Hall of Fame
    Whirlpool Founder, Garis-Cochran Dish-Washing Machine Co. (1887)
    Irish Ancestry


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