Herald and Journal Herald & Journal, April 13, 1998

Great inventions for the housewife

By MYRON HEUER

Perhaps the greatest invention for use in the kitchen is the dishwasher. It was invented back in 1886 by Josephine Cochrane of Illinois.

Her reason for inventing the dishwasher wasn't to make this menial chore easier. Cochrane was fed up with servants breaking her expensive china when they washed it.

In a woodshed beside her home she measured her dinnerware, then fashioned individual wire compartments for plates, saucers and cups. She went on to finish her crude invention, which was very popular with her friends who also had careless servants. They placed orders for the appliance.

As years went by, hotels and restaurants became Cochrane's best customers. But the average housewife was not impressed. Park of the reluctance was technological. Many homes lacked the scalding hot water a dishwasher required. Furthermore, in many parts of the country the water was hard, containing dissolved minerals that prevented soap from sudsing enough to spray clean the dishes.

It wasn't until the 1950s when postwar prosperity made leisure time, glamour, and an emergence of self, independent from husband and children, major concerns of the American housewife.

Josephine Cochrane's company was the one that produced the "Kitchenaid" brand dishwasher. Another note of interest is that Josephine had never washed a dish in her life. Remember, her reason for inventing the dishwasher was because careless servants were breaking her china.

Over the years there have been many inventions that would improve the housewives' lot. The vacuum cleaner, for one. Remember before, when you hung the carpet on the clothesline and then beat the dust out of it?

The refrigerator is another. It was pretty tough keeping items cold, like butter and beer and, of course, other perishables.

Before the food freezer, meats were preserved by canning, drying or smoking. How did we ever get along without refrigeration?

Toasters, coffee makers, microwave ovens are included in the list of great inventions that help the person in the pursuit of housework. However, there is something that would be welcome. Just think . . .what household chore do you hate more than anything? Making the bed. This is a chore that needs some help by an entrepreneur with imagination.

The only improvement I can think of when it comes to bedmaking is the innerspring mattress and other various types of mattresses. There also is fitted sheets, but they don't make bedmaking any easier. When I was in the Army, we had to make our own bed. No mommies or wives around to do it for you. In the Army the bed covers had to be right enough to bounce a quarter off it.

So how about it? Somebody invent an automatic bed maker. If anybody can do it, he'll be as rich as Bill Gates and Donald Trump. Since I came up with the suggestion, I think I should have a share of the profits.

I'm not holding my breath.

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I've always wondered . . what was the best thing before sliced bread?


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