The first recorded use of dumbwaiters dates back to around 200BC, during the age of the Romans. An architect described installing a dumbwaiter to allow the movement of goods. However, it is incredibly likely that they were used in many cases much before this.
Since then, almost every culture, from those in the East to those in the West, have used dumbwaiters to make it much easier to move items throughout buildings that have multiple stories.
Many early dumbwaiters were simply human powered devices, which looped a rope around a pulley or even simply a rafter. Items were then hauled up by hand. This evolved to more advanced units, which were sometimes powered by water or even animals.
Beginning in the eighteen-hundreds there were many advances in the technology that is behind dumbwaiters. This included safety dumbwaiters, which prevented the dumbwaiter from falling if a cable broke, advanced hydraulic dumbwaiters, and steam powered dumbwaiters.
It was also in the eighteen-hundreds that the first electric dumbwaiter was created, but it would be a good number of years before these became common in homes. Instead the electric dumbwaiter would extensively be used in businesses and ships, while homes most frequently used manual dumbwaiters.
Manual dumbwaiters were also incredibly common in apartment buildings in large cities, like Chicago during the early nineteen-hundreds. This is because these buildings were often very tall, with steep steps and no elevator, so the dumbwaiter was used to make the tenants lives much easier.
In today’s age, the electric dumbwaiter is increasingly common. Some ancient dumbwaiters, like the one at Thomas Jefferson’s estate, are still used, but for practicality purposes, an electric dumbwaiter wins hands down.
To most easily install an electric dumbwaiter, it should be added into the home as it is being built. Many builders seeking to add buyer incentive to their homes, will add a dumbwaiter. This is increasingly common in today’s housing market, because having a dumbwaiter adds value to a home. It is also almost always possible to install a dumbwaiter into an existing home.
The path that dumbwaiters have followed over the past several thousand years is very interesting. They have evolved to be very important tools in the home that not only make it easier to do housework, but also much safer. This is because of having to lug items up the stairs, which increases the risk of a fall, but instead can place them in the dumbwaiter and let it do all the work.