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JOSEPHINE COCHRANE (1839-1913) Invented the Dishwasher

In American History, Biography, Entrepreneurs, Feminists, Inventions, Millionaires, People, Trivia, Victorian Women, women on April 20, 2010 at 9:03 AM

Josephine Cochrane

Josephine Cochrane believed that if you want something done right you better do it yourself.  But when it came time to doing the dishes, she really didn’t want to, so she invented a machine to wash them for her.

Cochrane’s early childhood is not known.  After her mother died and her sister moved out, she lived with her father, John Garis, in Ohio and Indiana.   He worked as a supervisor in mills and as a hydraulic engineer, perhaps instilling in Cochrane an instinctive knack for the mechanical.  She attended a private high school, but when it burned down, Garis sent his daughter off to live with her sister in Shelbyville, Illinois. 

After high school graduation, Cochrane’s life took a traditional turn.  At age 19 she married 27 year old William Cochran.  In 1857, after a disappointing four years trying to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush, he returned home to Shelbyville and made his mark and fortune in the dry goods business along with other investment opportunities.  No doubt the comfortable life he could offer his bride was one thing she was attracted to. 

In spite of her young age and the societal norm at the time, Cochrane was guided by her independent nature and personal confidence.  She assumed her husband’s name but preferred spelling it with an “e” on the end, a point of contention with his family. 

The Cochrans had a busy social life, and in 1870 when they moved into what could be considered a mansion, they had the perfect house for entertaining.  They threw dinner parties using heirloom china allegedly dating from the 1600s.  After one event, the servants did the washing up and carelessly chipped some of the dishes.  Cochrane discovered this the next morning while she was putting the dishes away.  She was furious and refused to let the servants handled the china any more. 

She may have regretted her decision, but she didn’t give in.  The morning after every subsequent dinner party she begrudgingly endured dishpan hands wondering why someone hadn’t invented a machine that could clean dirty dishes.  This was, after all, the late 19th century, and if someone could invent a machine to sew clothes and cut grass, then how hard could it be? 1 

One such morning while she was up to her elbows in soap suds, she had an epiphany.  Why not invent a dish washing machine herself?  Consumed with the idea, she immediately went into the library to think it through, forgetting she was holding a cup in her hand.  Within half an hour Cochrane had the basic concept for the first mechanical dishwasher.  Just like she had been doing by hand, it held the dishes securely (in a rack) while the pressure of spraying water cleaned them off.

William Cochran was a rising star in the Democratic Party, but too much alcohol led to a violent temper and illness.  While Cochrane was busy with the details of her invention, William went away for a rest. Unfortunately, he didn’t get well, and he died two weeks later in 1883.  

While the Cochrans appeared to be successful socialites to their friends, all was not well at home.  Her husband left Cochrane with a mound of debt and only $1,535.59.  Now, developing the dishwasher was not only for convenience, it was for survival.

Her creation had wire compartments for plates, cups and saucers.  They were put inside a wheel that lay flat inside a copper boiler.  A motor turned the wheel pumping hot soapy water from the bottom of the boiler over the dishes.  Cochrane showed her design to a few men for their input which ended up being a frustrating experience.  “I couldn’t get men to do the things I wanted in my way until they had tried and failed in their own,” she said.  “And that was costly for me. They knew I knew nothing, academically, about mechanics, and they insisted on having their own way with my invention until they convinced themselves my way was the better, no matter how I had arrived at it.” 2   Finally she got help with the construction from mechanic George Butters and received her first patent on the Garis-Cochran Dish-Washing Machine December 28, 1886. 

Cochrane’s first customers were not the housewives she thought she was helping. They didn’t want to spend the money on something they didn’t really need, so she turned to hotels.  After selling a dishwashing machine to the Palmer House hotel in Chicago, she had one recommendation.  Then she did one of the hardest things she’d ever done: she made a cold call to the Sherman House hotel in Chicago, waiting in the ladies’ parlor to speak with the manager.  “You asked me what was the hardest part of getting into business,” she once told a reporter. “…I think, crossing the great lobby of the Sherman House alone. You cannot imagine what it was like in those days … for a woman to cross a hotel lobby alone. I had never been anywhere without my husband or father —the lobby seemed a mile wide. I thought I should faint at every step, but I didn’t—and I got an $800 order as my reward.”2

In 1893 Cochrane convinced restaurants at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago to use her invention, and it was an exhibit in Machinery Hall.  That success led to her opening her own factory in an abandoned schoolhouse.  Her customers extended to hospitals and colleges for whom the sanitizing effects of the hot water rinse were important.  Homemakers finally started using it, too.

In 1912, at 73 years old, Cochran was still personally selling her machines.  She died in 1913.  In 1916, her company was bought out by Hobart which became KitchenAid and is now Whirlpool Corporation.  Cochrane is considered the founder.

 QUESTION:  Which modern convenience do you think it would be impossible to live without?

                       ©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

 Sources:

 1 http://www.enchantedlearning.com/inventors/1800a.shtml

 2http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1999/2/1999_2_54.shtml

  http://www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/256.html

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MADAME C.J. WALKER (1867-1919) First Self-Made American Woman Millionaire

In African-American women, American History, Biography, Entrepreneurs, Feminists, Guiness Book of Records, Hair, History, Millionaires, People, Uncategorized, women on March 22, 2010 at 8:12 PM

Madame C .J. Walker

Madame C. J. Walker turned a bad hair day into a fortune and a Guinness World Record.  She followed her dream, literally, turning her life into a true “rags to riches” story. 

Sarah Breedlove was the fifth of six children born to former slaves in Louisiana. Both of her parents died when she was seven years old, but being an orphan wasn’t a life sentence to poverty.   She moved in with her older sister and brother-in-law and survived by working in the cotton fields of Louisiana and Mississippi.  This turned out to be a bad situation, so at age 14 she married Moses McWilliams to escape her brother-in-law’s abuse.  

Four years after her marriage, Breedlove had a baby girl.  Two years later her husband died and she was again forced to find her own way.  She moved to St. Louis where her four brothers had become successful barbers.  She earned $1.50 a day working as a washer woman and eventually saved enough money to send her daughter to school.  

Breedlove’s own education was spotty.  When she reached school age, there were no funds allocated by the white legislators in Louisiana to educate black children.  Then she was pressed into working full time to contribute to the household of her sister and brother-in-law.  In St. Louis, she managed to improve her reading and writing with the help of the women at the St. Paul AME church.  These women also became her social network and eventually an inspiration for growing her business. 

Loss and abandonment followed Breedlove to St. Louis.  All her brothers died and she married and divorced John Davis.  In addition, an ailment that caused her to lose almost all her hair plagued her. She desperately tried various homemade remedies and store bought products.  One potion she used was created by Anne Malone, and in 1905 Breedlove moved to Denver as a sales rep for Malone.  

Life took a turn for the better in Denver.  Not one to depend on another, Breedlove wanted to develop her own hair products.  The formula for a solution to her problem was revealed to her in a dream.  “…One night I had a dream…a black man appeared to me and told me what to mix up in my hair. Some of the remedy was grown in Africa, but I sent for it, mixed it, put it on my scalp, and in a few weeks my hair was coming in faster than it had ever fallen out. I tried it on my friends; it helped them. I made up my mind to begin to sell it.”1 She worked with a pharmacist to develop her own line that rivaled Malone’s. 

Her love life was looking up, too.  She married newspaperman Charles Joseph Walker.  Breedlove changed her name to Madam C.J. Walker, and it proved to have the sophisticated sound that instilled confidence in shoppers.  Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower scalp conditioner was her ticket to success. As for her marriage, unfortunately the third time was not a charm, and they divorced after six years.  

Madam Walker remembered the relationships she developed with the women at the church in St. Louis.  She saw a large potential market in such fellowships and gave product demonstrations at churches and lodges. She also implemented a door to door, grass roots selling strategy that led to hiring individual sales agents. Walker acknowledged that her level of education was insufficient to run a profitable business, so she hired a former teacher to tutor her privately.  

The Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company was founded with five original products.  Expansion was inevitable, and for a year and a half she moved to Pittsburgh and opened the Lelia College of Beauty Culture, named after her daughter.  In 1910 Walker moved her entire operation to Indianapolis where she built a factory, training school, and hair and nail salon.  

Walker’s success was three-fold.  First, she accrued an enormous personal wealth.  Second, she provided economic opportunity for black women which gave them an alternative to domestic labor. Her sales agents could potentially earn between $5 and $15 dollars a day when unskilled white laborers were only earning about $11 a week.2 The sales force was organized into local and state clubs with opportunities for management on every level, a model that is used in many companies today.  In 1917 the Madam C. J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America was big enough to hold a convention in Philadelphia.  

Third, Walker believed that with wealth comes responsibility, and she became a role model for using her riches to support political and philanthropic causes.  She gave generously to African-American organizations and instilled this virtue in her sales force.  At the 1917 convention, Walker gave out awards to her agents not just for their business achievements but also for their political activism.  

The headquarters for the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company remained in Indianapolis, but in 1916 Walker and her daughter moved to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, and Walker supervised the business from there.  Their new home was a 30-room mansion designed for them by black architect Vertner Tandy, and Walker spared no expense on the furnishings.  The estate was named Villa Lewaro after the first two letters of her daughter’s name: Lelia Walker Robinson, and is in the National Register of Historical Places. 

During the last year of Walker’s life, total sales of her company exceeded $500,000 and she had trained some 40,000 sales agents serving customers the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean.3 Her legacy includes The Guinness Book record as the first self-made American woman millionaire, and in 1998 the U.S. Postal Service put her image on a stamp. 

QUESTION:  What would you do if someone gave you one million dollars today? 

                                 © 2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved 

Sources: 

1http://www.brilliantdreams.com/product/famous-dreams.htm 

2Henry Louis Gates Jr., “Madam’s Crusade”, Time magazine, December 7, 1998, Canadian edition. 

3http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5662.html 

http://madamcjwalker.com/bio_madam_cj_walker.aspx 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madam_C._J._Walker 

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5662.html 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/walker_hi.html 

http://www.brilliantdreams.com/product/famous-dreams.htm 

http://www.irvingtonhistoricalsociety.org/nrhp/nrhp04.html

EUGEN SANDOW (1867-1925) First Bodybuilder and Perfect Physical Specimen

In Biography, Bodybuilders, Bodybuilding, Entrepreneurs, Exercise, History, Inventions, People, People from Germany, Uncategorized, Vaudeville Acts, Victorian Women on March 15, 2010 at 9:15 PM

Eugen Sandow

Eugen Sandow had a body that men envied and women drooled over, and it brought him fame and fortune.  The only person who didn’t appreciate his success was his wife. 

Sandow was born Friedrich Muller, the son of a green grocer in a German city in East Prussia.  He was a draft dodger and changed his name to Eugen Sandow to avoid conscription.  His family didn’t appreciate that.  When his parents said, “What are you going to do, join the circus?” Sandow said yes, and ran away with one that was passing through town.  

He toured and performed as an acrobat until the circus went bankrupt in Brussels.  In this city he met Louis Attila who helped Sandow develop his physical structure and showmanship.  Together they made ends meet showing off their strength in music halls.  In 1889 Attila moved to London and sent word to Sandow of an irresistible challenge.  

The popular duo Sampson and Cyclops were posing as strongmen on stage with a cleverly choreographed act that concealed their lack of strength.  Each night Sampson issued a challenge to the audience: he would pay 500 pounds to anyone who could match the stunts he performed on stage.  Sandow was intrigued, so he went to London and briefly resumed training under Attila.  One night he answered Sampson’s call to prove his physical prowess and handily won the prize. 

This turned Sandow into a sensation, and he spent the next four years touring the music halls of Britain, wowing audiences with his feats of strength.   In 1893 he followed fame and fortune to New York where his act was under appreciated, perhaps because he had to share the stage with some third rate burlesque talent.  

This was not the American dream he was promised until one patron noticed how the women in the audience responded to Sandow’s flexing and posing.  Florenz Ziegfeld took him under his wing and coached Sandow to play to the audiences’ fascination with his bulging muscles.  He downplayed the heavy lifting for these “muscle display performances” and added some sensationalism such as breaking a chain around his neck.  Ziegfeld used the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago to debut Sandow’s new routine.  The audiences went wild, and for the next three years, Ziegfeld and Sandow toured extensively.  They continually added new ways to demonstrate Sandow’s physical prowess such as fighting a lion, or tearing apart furniture. In addition, Sandow made a short film with Thomas Edison featuring his poses.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wLJtjEv-Ik)  

Sandow got the inspiration for his manly physique from Greek and Roman statues.  He measured the sculptures and crafted his body to their exact proportions, thereby creating “The Grecian Ideal” as the representation of the perfect male body.  After a thorough examination, doctor and Harvard professor Dudley Sargent pronounced Sandow “the most perfectly developed man in the world.”  His stage performances exploited this image by featuring him standing on a rotating pedestal encased in glass.  With physical perfection came lots of female attention, and Sandow became a sex symbol, something he didn’t seem to mind at all.  

The intense schedule and demands of celebrity caused Sandow to have a nervous breakdown.  At some point on a trip to England, Sandow had married Blanche Brookes.  When he became ill, he retreated back to England and the care of his wife. 

Away from the limelight, Sandow became passionate about helping people maintain personal fitness.  He created a place for people to learn about and practice bodybuilding and exercise called Institutes of Physical Culture.  The popularity of these gyms inspired other teachers to do the same, and a fitness craze started gaining momentum.  In order to reach the masses, Sandow published a magazine and five books.  The book that gave the sport its name, Body Building or Man in the Making, was published in 1904.  In Body Building, Sandow states his intention.  “What I live to teach is the gospel of health, and the bringing of the body to the condition to which Nature intended it.”  He outlined his system for achieving maximum physical potential as well as exercises for both men and women that dealt with specific ailments such as constipation, digestion and liver problems. (http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/sandowindex.htm#lied

Sandow capitalized on his success by developing equipment to enhance the efficacy of the exercises.  His spring-loaded dumbbell and weighted resistance band were available through mail order, which made it possible for the general population to get in shape in the comfort of home. In Body Building, he insisted, however, that rote repetition of the exercises was not enough. He emphasized the connection between the body and the mind. “The secret of success does not lie in the construction of the apparatus, but in the proper application and use if it, and this can only be obtained through the brain.  In other words, it is not a question as to how much you exercise, but how you exercise.” 

Sandow’s entrepreneurial spirit extended beyond the gym.  He produced Sandow Cigars and Sandow Health and Strength Cocoa.  In addition, he was one of the first proponents of mandatory physical education in school.  He believed that employers should give their employees time off for daily exercise, and he developed exercises for pregnant women to ease the pain of childbirth. 

Perhaps his biggest contribution to the sport of bodybuilding came in 1901.  Sandow organized the first bodybuilding contest, called the “Great Competition,” held in Royal Albert Hall in London to a standing room only crowd.  One of the judges was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories. 

Being a perfect physical specimen and sex symbol had its price. Despite his physical strength, Sandow’s emotional weakness for women did him in.  When he died, the public story was that he had a stroke, but many believed he had succumbed to syphilis.  In retaliation for his philandering, his wife insisted that he be buried in an unmarked grave. 

Sandow hasn’t faded into total obscurity, however.  He has been immortalized by a bronze statue sculpted in his image which is the prize for winning the Mr. Olympia contest. It is called The Sandow. 

QUESTION: What physical feature do other people appreciate most about you? 

                              © 2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved 

Sources: 

http://www.eugensandow.com/story1.html 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugen_Sandow 

http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Eugen-Sandow 

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_g1epc/is_bio/ai_2419201071/ 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wLJtjEv-Ik 

http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/sandowindex.htm#lied