January 12, 1852



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

6 thoughts on “January 12, 1852

  1. Heh, I had no idea. I was washing plates for our (Ames) family, plate by plate (we did have liquid soap tho), rinsing and handing to my younger sister, the “drier,” when I was 9 in Las Vegas (when they still didn’t have TV), and 11 in Utah (but then it was a “cabin”) and 13 in California, no less, but then it was an old house built during the very first movie-star days. Then I went to live in Europe and I don’t think I came across a “dishwasher” until I was in my thirties, and declined them then, as wasteful and expensive, lol. I have one now. 🙂

  2. I remember hand-washing dishes, too – it wasn’t all bad, but the dishwasher is a boon, no doubt. I recall a friend of my mother, years ago, shrugging when someone suggested her dishwasher wasn’t cleaning properly, saying, “Who cares if it’s clean as long as it’s automatic!”

  3. When I was twelve, we spent a winter with no running water and only woodstoves for heat. There was a lot of heating of water and washing such as described here, but not by me. My job was to carry the water from the lake 100 yds below us, or melting snow when the snow got too deep to tread upon. The way we lived that winter is undoubtedly one reason I am fascinated by earlier times, when folks lived the way we did as a matter of course.

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