A dumbwaiter is a small freight elevator or lift intended to carry food. Dumbwaiters found within modern structures, including both commercial, public and private buildings, are often connected between multiple floors. When installed in restaurants, schools, hospitals, retirement homes or in private homes, the lifts generally terminate in a kitchen.
The term seems to have been popularized in the United States in the 1840s, after the model of earlier "dumbwaiters" now known as serving trays and lazy Susans. The mechanical dumbwaiter was invented by George W. Cannon, a New York City inventor. Cannon first filed for the patent of a brake system (US Patent no. 260776) that could be used for a dumbwaiter on January 6, 1883. Cannon later filed for the patent on the mechanical dumbwaiter (US Patent No. 361268) on February 17, 1887. Cannon reportedly generated a vast amount of royalties from the dumbwaiter patents until his death in 1897.