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What is the History of Dumbwaiters?

Dumbwaiters, or small lifts meant to carry goods between floors

Dumbwaiters, or small lifts meant to carry goods between floors, are typically known for being used in mansions and restaurants to transport food and dishes between kitchens and dining rooms. These devices are a hidden and essential way to transport products between floors–but how did they originate? The history of dumbwaiters is a unique one worth knowing for anyone who uses lifts in their home. Here are a few critical points of the history of dumbwaiters in homes.

Ancient Origins

Though we may associate dumbwaiters with old Victorian mansions or Colonial houses, the earliest evidence of these lifts actually comes from ancient Rome. The first recorded use of a dumbwaiter occurred in 200BC when a Roman architect described the installation of a dumbwaiter to allow the movement of goods in a building. Of course, in 200BC, these lifts weren’t yet known as dumbwaiters. So what is the origin of the name?

History of the Name

These useful lifts became known as dumbwaiters as they became commonplace in large houses with hired staff. They would generally transport food and dishes between a dining room to the service kitchen in the basement or “servant” level of the house. However, it wasn’t until 1957 that Harold Pinter coined the term ‘dumbwaiter’ in his play, The Dumb Waiter. This play takes place in the service kitchen of a large house, and the characters communicate with mysterious characters in another room who send food orders through the dumbwaiter.

Development of Dumbwaiters

Over the years, dumbwaiters have become useful in several industries. Initially, transportation involved using a pulley system, but in the 1920s they began to implement electric motors–about 40 years after electric elevators came around. In the 21st century, we still rely on dumbwaiters in several settings, including bars, restaurants, and medical labs and offices! These silent lifts make our lives easier in various industries and continue to improve our quality of experience in the home. A growing trend in townhouse design incorporates dumbwaiters to easily transport items without having to carry them up multiple flights of stairs. They continue to be a fantastic investment for multi-level homes and a way to add buyer incentive to townhouses.

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For 11 years, Preferred Elevator has served residents in Central Maryland, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. You can rely on our experienced home installation team and quality products.

For our commercial elevator clients, we also provide annual inspections of your equipment to adhere to standards established by the state of Maryland. During these inspections, we make sure that your commercial mobility product is functioning correctly and efficiently. We’ll also go over all safety devices and customized features offered within your plan!

Get in touch with us! Our business hours are Monday-Friday 8 am -5 pm. Reach us by phone at 410-238-2555, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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