Thread Number: 72151  /  Tag: Vintage Dishwashers
Early Spray Arm Dishwashers
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Post# 954164   8/23/2017 at 10:12 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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I have seen theories here that Hobart/KitchenAid prevented other manufacturers from producing a rotating spray-arm type dishwashers for the home in the 1940s/1950s which appears to be not the case. Patents in the United States only last for 17 years after which anyone can use that technology without having to pay royalties. I did some research to find out more about that. By the time the war was over, there were some patents on spray arm dishwashers that would have expired.

It seems all other dishwasher manufacturers decided that impeller based designs vs. spray-arm designs were the way to wash dishes. 1957 brought the Hotpoint and Waste King spray-arm dishwashers and 1959 the Whirlpool, and soon others would convert as well. What kept the impeller based machines going for so long I have no idea.

In the 1880's an imaginative and purposeful lady, Mrs. Josephine Garis Cochrane, built a machine to do her own dishes. The story seems to go that she was sick and tired of her servants breaking her fine china, so she decided to come up with a better way to wash her dishes. Her design lent itself to larger chores and was soon in demand for dishwashing in restaurants. In fact, at the time of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, her products were so well received that she sold all of the machines used in the concessions at the World's Fair - a total of nine dishwashers. If you google Josephine Cochrane you will see that most websites claim that she invented the dishwasher, but its obvious from patents searches that dishwashers had been around for at least 30 years before that. Josephine began to market her dishwasher to restaurants under the trade name of Garis-Cochran Dish-Washing Machine Company which eventually was changed to the Crescent Washing Machine Company. In 1911 Crescent had developed its first "small" dishwasher made for home use (shown below). It appears from the patents that Josephine's dishwashers never used impellers to wash the dishes but used modern style jet-spray arms!

The Crescent Company lasted until 1926 when they were bought out by Hobart who of course started producing the KitchenAid. So it could be said that Josephine's dishwasher was the forerunner of the modern KitchenAid brand as well as every other dishwasher made today.

Here is Josephine's and the very first home spray-arm dishwasher. It appears that she received her patent after she passed away. Her design uses a revolving spray arm from above, which has the obvious limitation of only washing dishes and not being able to wash glassware as far as I can tell...

Post# 954167 , Reply# 1   8/23/2017 at 10:15 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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In 1922 the Fuller Brush Company dishwasher seems to have the very first under-rack revolving spray arm. It appears however that it is powered by water pressure and not a centrifugal pump. This patent would have expired in 1945.

Post# 954168 , Reply# 2   8/23/2017 at 10:17 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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In 1924 Hobart applied for their spray arm patent on the familiar cast-iron bump wash arm...

Post# 954170 , Reply# 3   8/23/2017 at 10:19 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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1924 also brought the Stringham dishwasher which appears to have a stationary spray arm under the dish racks, but the racks are turned slowly over the spray arm!

This one is cool!

Post# 954171 , Reply# 4   8/23/2017 at 10:21 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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1926 brings the Renshaw spray-arm dishwasher...

Post# 954172 , Reply# 5   8/23/2017 at 10:23 by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Thank you for this Robert!  


I have always wondered how and why the impeller style of dishwasher gained such popularity and remained popular for so long...  The best summary I have been able to cobble together was that the Walker Brothers dishwasher struggled but when GE bought them out, GE really pushed 'their' design. I also guess that GE had the marketing and manufacturing to support their efforts to develop and mass-market the home dishwasher.

What I can't figure out is where Conover fit in.  Like the Walker, the Conover was an impeller style dishwasher and, if I understand the legends correctly, Westinghouse bought Conover in order to add a dishwasher to their appliance offering.  


I'll not get into any debates about D&M's choice about impellers or the other 'spray' systems from Youngstown Kitchens and Frigidaire.... LOL 

Post# 954173 , Reply# 6   8/23/2017 at 10:23 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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The 1927 Weidman Dishwasher seems to have a spray arm in the middle that sprays both above and below!

Post# 954174 , Reply# 7   8/23/2017 at 10:26 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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1929 brings the Tatham Spray-arm Dishwasher.

Post# 954175 , Reply# 8   8/23/2017 at 10:27 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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It wasn't until 1954 that KitchenAid was issued their home dishwasher patent. This wouldn't have expired until 1971, and by that time everyone had long-gone to spray-arms.

Post# 954176 , Reply# 9   8/23/2017 at 10:28 by brucelucenta (tulsa, oklahoma)        

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Leave to the master, Robert to find the answers! I would venture to guess that it might have just been easier for other dishwasher makers to keep the impeller they already were using. That is, until dishwashers became quite popular with the American housewife. It is quite interesting because I had always just assumed Kitcheaid had the patent keeping them from it. I am happy to be enlightened! Thank you Robert!

Post# 954198 , Reply# 10   8/23/2017 at 11:23 by sudsmaster (East of SF, West of Eden)        

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Post# 954208 , Reply# 11   8/23/2017 at 11:46 by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        
Very Interesting

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Post# 954217 , Reply# 12   8/23/2017 at 12:29 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

Thanks, Robert


You included a picture years ago that you snapped at an estate sale in an old home with one of those really old dishwashers that sat up on the counter by the sink, IIRC. 


A friend of my mother, who went to school with her girls in Hibbing, told us about a woman there who was a terrible house keeper and who finally went out and bought a dishwasher for her kitchen at a time when most people used girls looking to make money for domestic work. I don't know when this was, but she said it was a big thing that sat up on the counter beside the sink.


Interesting that the 1927 Weidman had a lower rack with the concentric squares like Hotpoint's first wash arm model with the spinning orange disc under the upper rack. The pump for those early Hotpoints with the Bakelite wash arm was tiny and mounted right under the wash arm, not outside the tank like KA and WP wash arm machines so it probably ran on the motor shaft like their impeller design machines offered at the same time.


Impeller machines were much cheaper to build than a machine with a heavy-duty pump rated for constant run usage. I would think that explains why impeller machines for the home use market prevailed for so many years.


Thanks again for the historic diagrams.

Post# 954238 , Reply# 13   8/23/2017 at 14:25 by toploader55 (Massachusetts Sand Bar, Cape Cod)        

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Great Information and research Robert.

Thank You

Post# 954245 , Reply# 14   8/23/2017 at 14:59 by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

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Wow! All very interesting; thanks for sharing the research, Robert. I need to start checking out the Patent Of The Day.

One question: In reply #2, it appears Hobart originally intended for there to be upper and lower spray arms. Do we know why KitchenAid dishwashers had only the lower spray arm for so long; or why it didn't occur to the manufacturer to put the upper spray arm beneath the top rack rather than above it?

As with Mrs. Cochrane's design, the upper arm in the original Hobart design would not have been helpful for bowls, cookware, glasses or cups in the upper rack; but those could have been loaded in the lower rack, leaving the upper rack available for plates, shallow bowls and flatware. Of course, cups and glassware would have to be secured in order to survive a cycle in the bottom rack of the Hurricane In A Box.

Post# 954268 , Reply# 15   8/23/2017 at 17:44 by appnut (TX)        

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Thank you Robert!!!  So much enjoyable information!!

Post# 954312 , Reply# 16   8/24/2017 at 07:23 by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
Why Impeller Dishwashers Were So Popular Early On.

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In one word, they were much easier and CHEAPER to build, the manufacturer eliminated the need for a separate pump housing, wash arm, a water seal for said pump as well as wash arm supports connecting hoses fitting clamps etc etc.


Wash arm DWs really started to take off as manufactures started copying KAs successful washing system.


The first really great copy was the 1958 WP DW SU-70, the next really good performing design was the 1965 Westinghouse wash arm DWs and KA and WP continued to improve and refine their machines and the rest is history as no one would attempt an impeller DW today as the water distribution was just not easy to get correct and loading an impeller DW was just too restrictive.


John L.

Post# 954331 , Reply# 17   8/24/2017 at 09:42 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

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However at the end of the day, having a KD-12/14 KitchenAid dishwasher installed for over a decade in my kitchen I can say that it is extremely rare that something doesn't come out clean. I never pre-rinse and maybe once every three to four weeks one item will need to be re-done, but it is so rare that the difference is hardly worth noting. I've never had a GE like Keven describes and sure the later GE as might be superior in performance over the course of 1000 wash loads, but it can't possibly be that much better because 99.9% of things come out clean from the early KitchenAid to begin with.

Over the past 20 years I have had the Frigidaire spray-tube, Westinghouse Roll-out, Lady Kenmore D&M, Hotpoint Impeller, KitchenAid 12, 14, 15, late 60's Whirlpool, Maytag Reversa-rack, along with many others and all these machines were all installed in my kitchen for multi-year usage. I've also have used many portables from the early 70's Waste King to the KitchenAid 18 to the 1970's GM Frigidaire. The only three dishwashers that I found had an unreasonable amount of "rejects" as I call them were the Youngstown, James and Apex Dish-a-matic. All other machines I've used have been overall excellent. The Frigidaire spray-tube cleaned just fine, but loading very large pots was problematic at the times, however not that big of a deal to me that I didn't love the machine.

Use what you like, because yes one machine might out-wash another slightly, experience has shown me that it's not going to be that big of a difference in the long run. At this stage of my life in order get long-term installation status in my kitchen a dishwasher must:
#1 clean well or well enough,
#2 use a minimun of 7 gallons of water and I want to hear water wooshing
#3 get the cycle done in less than an hour, preferably less than 45 minutes
#4 have the ability to have a custom window and interior lighting installed and
#5 it has to have that CUTE vintage styling and be fun to look at!

This post was last edited 08/24/2017 at 09:59
Post# 954333 , Reply# 18   8/24/2017 at 09:50 by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
have the ability to have a custom window and interior light

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ALL dishwashers should have windows and interior lighting...  LOL  


The ones you have customized are truly extraordinary, Robert.  I remeber how I sat in wonder for at least 2 cycles of the KA and Lady K Roto Rack dishwashers in your kitchen once upon a time!  

Post# 954337 , Reply# 19   8/24/2017 at 10:17 by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        
And for a good laugh this morning...

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Here is a nice picture of our savior Josephine Garis-Cochraine, the amazing inventor of the first practical home dishwasher and the pre-cursor to the KitchenAid. She sure does look like the type who wouldn't put up with her servants chipping her fine china while washing them lol. I know I'd be annoyed if the help chipped my Blue Haven.

Unfortunately 21st century technology/failure is not being all that kind to poor Josephine, Google's face recognition algorithm is a bit off today hahahaha!


Post# 954350 , Reply# 20   8/24/2017 at 11:06 by vacbear58 (Sutton In Ashfield & London UK)        
I wonder how that happened ....

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For those who do not recognise him, the rather strange looking gentleman is Marty Feldman. A writer and performer of some brilliance (including the legendary - in UK at least - Round The Horne radio series) probably best known to Americans as Igor in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein.

He died in 1982 whilst on film location in Mexico

An episode of Round The Horne below


Post# 954381 , Reply# 21   8/24/2017 at 17:14 by whirlykenmore78 (Prior Lake MN (GMT-0700 CDT.))        

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Thanks for all the great information Robert. This was great.

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