Jan 12 Monday Susan washed the dishes this morning
and I went to work on my plants making some frames
for them and was to work on them and about the
house all the forenoon. This afternoon have been
mending pants for Oakes Angier. Have put a new
pocket into one pair Jane washed and has been to see
Mrs Savage Carried Augusta’s cake over to her and
Called a few minutes on Mrs Sarah Ames Very cold
After breakfast each morning, a stack of dishes awaited washing in the Ames kitchen, numbering approximately seven plates, seven cups, seven saucers, 14-21 pieces of cutlery, various serving platters and bowls and serving spoons, plus the pots and pans used in preparation.
Hot water would be boiled and poured into a bucket or perhaps a basin set inside a dry sink. Using a cake of homemade soap, either chipped into the water or swirled by hand, Susie Ames or Jane McHanna or Evelina herself from time to time, washed each item with a washrag, rinsed the piece in a separate pan of clean water and placed it on a rack to dry or be wiped dry with a dish towel. The chore could take 30 to 45 minutes, and had to be repeated at dinner and tea. It wasn’t as convenient as hand-washing dishes today – no liquid soap, no faucet spray – and it certainly wasn’t like loading the dishwasher.
Inventors, in fact, were trying to develop a machine that would wash dishes; the first such patent was filed in 1850. It wasn’t until 1886, however, that a wealthy woman named Josephine Garis Cochrane would make the first successful dishwashing machine. She didn’t wash dishes herself, but her servants did and often chipped the ceramic plates in the process. Impatient with the damage, as well as the length of time it took to wash all the dishes after the many dinner parties she gave, she decided to make a machine to do the work.
Mrs. Cochrane contrived a wire rack shaped for various specific dishes to fit inside a wheel inside a copper boiler. “A motor turned the wheel while hot soapy water squirted up from the bottom of the boiler and rained down on the dishes.”* The dishwasher was born. It went on to be displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where it won a prize. The Garis-Cochrane Company was formed and manufactured dishwashers until bought by KitchenAid, which in turn is owned by Whirlpool.
All this was a far cry from nine-year old Susie Ames washing up the breakfast dishes, plate by plate.
* Wikipedia, “Josephine Cochrane”, January 10, 2015