Born March 8: Josephine Cochrane
By Michael Baadke
Josephine Cochrane, an American inventor and socialite, was born March 8, 1839, in Ashtabula County, Ohio. Cochrane’s fame comes from her invention of the mechanical dishwasher, which she patented in 1886.
Cochrane was born Josephine M. Garis and raised in Shelbyville, Ill., the daughter of a civil engineer. She married William Cochran on Oct. 13, 1858 — the letter ‘e’ was added to the end of the last name later in Josephine’s career, but does not appear on the couple’s shared gravestone in Shelbyville.
It’s said that Cochrane’s inspiration for inventing the dishwasher came from her disappointment at finding that her fine china was suffering damage from repeated hand-washing by her servants.
She established a workshop in a shed on her property, and designed a machine with a rack to hold the dishware and jets to dispense soapy water.
She sold early models to businesses, but was less successful in sales to homes. Her invention was displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition and World’s Fair in Chicago, where it was awarded a medal in honor of its construction and durability.
Cochrane formed a manufacturing company that eventually became KitchenAid, now part of the Whirlpool Corporation. She died at age 74 on Aug. 3, 1913.
Josephine Cochrane has never been honored on a United States stamp, but she is commemorated on a 3.30-leu stamp issued by Romania in 2013, part of a set of three honoring famous women (Scott 5442).
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