Who Invented the Garbage Disposal?

Posted on 01 Jun 2015 21:07

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There are many brands of garbage disposals: KitchenAid, Whirlpool, General Electric, and Waste King, to name a few. But the first brand of garbage disposal is the brand I have operating under my sink right now. It is an InSinkErator. It is a kitchen workhorse that allows me to get rid of food scraps without having to place them into the garbage pail and cause a stinky situation. Believe it or not, the device was first invented as early as 1927.

The first garbage disposal device was invented by John W. Hammes of Racine, Wisconsin. He was actually an architect. He wanted to find a way to make cleaning up the kitchen easier for his wife. So, beginning around 1916, he started tinkering in his basement and came up with an initial design. He was obviously a brilliant tinkerer, but not brilliant enough to come up with the idea of actually helping his wife clean. Her loss, however, was our gain.

After coming up with his initial unit, Hammes rented a machine shop and started developing prototypes. He finally hit on a fully working disposal in 1927, and filed for a U.S. patent on May 22, 1933. He was granted a patent on August 27, 1935.

first garbage disposal patent diagram

The patent diagram for the first garbage disposal unit, by
John W. Hammes

first garbage disposal patent diagram

The patent diagram for the first garbage disposal unit, by
John W. Hammes

After being granted his patent, Hammes founded a company called InSinkErator to sell his units, and begain marketing the first under-sink garbage disposals in 1938. The first machines were called "electric pigs." The preferred industry term today is "food waste disposal."

In its first year of poeration, the company produced only 52 units. The demand was small because people were not sure if the results would interfere with septic or sewer systems. It took until after World War II for garbage disposals to become generally accepted, and by that time, Hammes faced competition from several big appliance companies, such as the aforementioned KithcenAid, Whirlpool, and GE.

The InSinkErator company was bought by Emerson Electric Co. who has been manufacturing InSinkErator ever since. Despite the early competition from big-brand companies, the brand continues to be a leader.

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