Almanac: The Dishwasher

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: May 14th, 1850, 167 years ago today … the day Joel Houghton, of Ogden, N.Y., received a patent for what he oddly dubbed an "Improvement in Machines for Washing Table Furniture" -- what we call today a dishwasher.

thor-hybrid-dishwasher-clothes-washer-244.jpg

A 1940s ad for Thor's hybrid clothes- and dish-washing machine ("Damp-dries … Safe for your finest china!").

Chronicle/Alamy

His hand-cranked contraption wasn't much of a labor-saver. 

But once dishwashers became electric, well, that all changed.

Dishwasher ads targeted hardworking housewives and mothers -- dishwashing being seen as exclusively WOMAN'S work.

Even film star Bette Davis did an ad for a GE dishwasher back in 1935. 

"You watch me and see how easy it," she demonstrated. "Washes, rinses, and polishes the dishes and silverware. Eighty dishes at a time! It's automatic, and self-cleaning, too!"

Bette Davis for General Electric Early 1930s by historycomestolife on YouTube

Dishwashing technology has advanced a great deal in the 82 years since, but have the average person's dishwasher operating skills kept pace?

To find out, our Nancy Giles sought out Carolyn Forte at the Good Housekeeping Institute back in 2008:

Forte: "You want to load all the soiled surfaces in."
Giles: "Soiled things facing inward?"
Forte: "Exactly. You never put it in like that."
Giles: "I've done that."
Forte: "Right, that's not the right way to do it.

Whether its dishes, glasses, silverware, or pots and pans, properly loading a dishwasher by hand is work in and of itself.

Perhaps next, they'll come up with a machine to do THAT.

       
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