It has a funny name. But the dumbwaiter represents an important invention of convenience for homes and businesses. There are actually two types of dumbwaiters of different configuration but similar purpose. Both take their name from the same attribute.
Have you ever wondered how dumbwaiters got their unique name? Tracing its exact origin is difficult. But the concept is widely agreed upon. “The small car performed services in restaurants, allowing the noise and odor of cooking to be isolated from the patrons. No doubt, this was where the silent servant earned the name ‘dumb waiter’! The mini-lift may have been silent but it did not remain dumb,” from the Elevator Museum website.
First the dumbwaiter acted as a silent, inanimate cart acting as a stand-in for an actual member of staff. These days we just call those kitchen or serving carts. Nowadays, we associate dumbwaiter with a mini freight elevator. Dumbwaiters today carry food still in restaurants and upscale homes. You’ll find them in factories and shops moving storage items, dry goods and valuables. One even carries automobiles. And now there’s a dumbwaiter you can install in your home to lift storage items in and out of your home or garage attic.
Dumbwaiter History to Present
Thomas Jefferson used the “silent cart” kind of dumbwaiter during his presidency. He favored them for both his Virginia home and the White House. “These ‘dumbwaiters’ were small tables, equipped with shelves placed at varying heights. Some might hold salads and wine; others would accommodate cutlery and serving utensils. Servants brought in hot food, but did not remain in the room during the meal. Conversation could flow freely, without the possibility that workers might overhear sensitive information and repeat it outside the White House,” from White House History website.
In America, the first elevator type dumbwaiter was hand powered. It used a lifting mechanism comprised of pulleys and weights. According to the United States Patent Office, inventor George W. Cannon of New York City was first. He applied for a unique brake system patent for a dumbwaiter elevator in 1883. Four years later he applied for the patent on a mechanical lifting dumbwaiter. Patents for dumbwaiters are still issued today. Two U.S. patents protect the SpaceLift™ attic lift. It is a dumbwaiter for moving storage items between floors in homes and businesses. It uses electrical power and computer controls. But the basic purpose is still the same.
Dumbwaiter for Items, Not People
As a silent waiter, food and drinks are to this day whisked from kitchen to floors above. They save the manual labor of climbing stairs to deliver the goods. Dumbwaiters provide a simple, space-efficient alternative to carrying items between floors. Unlike elevators, “distinguishing the dumbwaiter was its inability to handle a passenger – no control ever existed in the car,” from the Elevator Museum website.
The White House now has a series of dumbwaiters. They connect the kitchen to various dining rooms. A dumbwaiter connecting the main kitchen to a smaller kitchen in the residence was featured in the 2013 movie “Whitehouse Down.” The president escaped bad guys by shimmying down the dumbwaiter shaft hidden inside the walls.
Dumbwaiter for More Than Food
Dumbwaiters move more than food. Banks use dumbwaiters to move currency, gold bars and valuables securely between floors. Retail stores of all sorts use dumbwaiters to move goods between storage and the sales floor. People install lifts in their homes for transport of food, yes, but also storage, laundry and more.
One SpaceLift attic lift customer uses our dumbwaiter in its model rocketry store. “We usually try to be careful not to reveal any ‘trade secrets,’ but here is an exception,” says the owner of Jon Rocket. “Our office is located in a loft. So, we are often moving products and packages up and down between floors. A few years ago we installed an “attic lift” from Spacelift which works like an elevator or powered dumbwaiter. Not only does it make it easier and quicker to move things between the floors, it makes it much safer than trying to carry things while going up or down stairs.”
Another SpaceLift attic lift customer uses our dumbwaiter in its commercial kitchen. Connie Sun at Tiny Drumsticks says, “We’re so delighted with your Spacelift! The lift has allowed us to provide a machine that has made our tenant’s lives easier. They’re happy, so we’re even happier. Not only does the lift work well, your customer service is even better! Incredibly friendly and very accommodating staff. We sincerely appreciate and rarely come across better service! Thank you so much!”
Dumbwaiter for Your Home?
Another customer installed his dumbwaiter to move a hot water heater into his attic when the old one didn’t work. Another stores a large portable table saw in his attic. Little used but valuable, it is impossible to haul up a ladder. Other customers move a whole artificial Christmas tree in and out of attic storage. Read more on the Testimonials Page.
Storage lifts are an increasingly popular type of dumbwaiter for home use. Having easier access to storage helps you claim more storage space thereby reducing clutter in your living space. Storage lifts are like mini freight elevators. They make it easy to carry storage items between floors in homes and garages. Rather than trying to carry boxes and storage containers up the attic stairs, a dumbwaiter like the SpaceLift attic lift carries the heavy load up and down with an electric motor.
A smart dumbwaiter, the SpaceLift has computer controls for safety features like object detection that automatically stops the lift if it encounters any obstruction. Smart weight detection stops the attic lift from operating if it exceeds the 200-pound weight limit. You can see a video of it in action on our website.
Dumbwaiter for Cars?
Today dumbwaiters serve commercial kitchens, restaurants, hotels, nursing homes, schools, retail establishments and private homes. The automobile vending machine introduced in March 2018 by Alibaba and Ford in Guangzhou, China relies upon a dumbwaiter, albeit a rather sophisticated one. Carvana now sells used cars online. They can deliver, or if you live near one, you can use their car vending machines.
Still silent servants, dumbwaiters are getting smarter all the time.