HISTORY OF THE DUMBWAITER
The first knowledge of one of these lifts dates back to around 200 BC, during the age of the Romans, to transport goods.
The term 'dumbwaiter' was first used in wealthy houses that used to have their household staff transporting food and dishes upstairs to the dining room and back down to the kitchen, so offering a noise free transportation of items, hence “dumb waiter”.
A simple dumbwaiter is a movable frame/lift car in a shaft, dropped by a rope on a pulley, guided by rails; most dumbwaiters have a shaft, car, and capacity smaller than those of passenger lifts, usually 25, 50 to 100 kgs. Dumbwaiters were controlled manually by ropes on pulleys.
Dumbwaiter lifts in London houses were extremely popular for the rich and privileged. Maids would use them to deliver laundry to the laundry room from different rooms in the house. This obviated carrying handfuls of dirty washing through the house, saving time and preventing injury. Many were simple human powered devices, where a rope around a pulley could be pulled manually. Older versions even had a speaking tube next to them, which enabled waiters to talk to staff in the kitchens. These then evolved with the progress of the industrial revolution, with electric motors being added in the 1920s.
More recent dumbwaiters are more sophisticated, with electric motors, automatic control systems, recently constructed book lifts in libraries and mail or other freight transports in office tower blocks may be larger than many dumbwaiters in public restaurants and private homes, supporting loads as heavy as 500 kgs. 20th-century product changes means the introduction of structures, heated cars, intercoms and safety locks, as well as the options to have a the lift skip floors on its journey, return back to the main floor etc.
Increasingly developers and home owners have started to view them as a must have item in kitchens.
In the 21st Century, the service lift / dumbwaiter is still alive and well and in most modern, trendy bars, pubs, restaurants and clubs, still acting as a silent and unseen waiter. It's become a reliable workhorse and essential to businesses where items need to be transported between floors.