A Brief History of Dumbwaiters

The first recored use of a dumbwaiter dates back to the era of the Romans. Since then, almost every culture has in some way, shape, or form used a dumbwaiter to help make the movement of goods more efficient. To simply a rope tied to a rafter, to complex worm gear driven systems, dumbwaiters have been a way of reducing work for many years.

Dumbwaiters have a very rich history in pretty much every culture and this is especially true of America. Beginning in the late eighteenth century and continuing on until present day, these devices have been used extensively in homes and businesses. The earliest types of dumbwaiters used a simple rope system, which was operated by hand. This proved to work great around the home, but for larger loads, such as in businesses or construction, it was often unpractical.

As a result there were many innovations to the dumbwaiter in the eighteen-hundreds. The steam engine was invented during the eighteenth-century and, like most inventions, it was quickly applied to many different areas of technology. During the eighteen hundreds many businesses began using steam to power their dumbwaiters.

This was practical for large businesses, which already had a steam power plant, but proved to be too expensive for many smaller businesses. This changed, however, when Elisha Otis, the father of the elevator, invented an elevator that contained its own steam engine.

Also during the eighteen-hundreds, several inventors began experimenting with hydraulic powered dumbwaiters. Otis and his sons developed a system, which could use city water and using a special reservoir build up enough pressure to raise a substantial amount of weight. Many also began experimenting with using oil instead of water.

While the hydraulic and steam powered dumbwaiter would prove very popular commercially, it was seldom practical for most homes. As a result, the manual dumbwaiter remained very popular. Increasingly, electric dumbwaiters were developed for use in the home, but it would not be until the 1930s for these devices to truly take off and be extensively used in residential settings.

Today, while some still opt for a manual system, the electric dumbwaiter is by far the most popular choice for a home dumbwaiter system. They can quickly be installed into existing homes and use a track system, which not only keeps the dumbwaiter level, but also allows it to safely move between floors.

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