History of the Vacuum Cleaner

History of the Vacuum Cleaner

The idea of a vacuum cleaner originates from the 19th century. The first vacuum cleaners had to be operated manually. Two persons were needed for this: one to operate the bellows and the other to move the mouthpiece over the floor. The dust was blown into the air.

On August 30th 1901 Hubert Cecil Booth, a British engineer, received a British patent for a vacuum cleaner. It took the form of a large, horse-drawn, petrol-driven unit which was parked outside the building to be cleaned with long hoses being fed through the windows.

Until then vacuum cleaners blew the dust away, but Booth came up with the idea of sucking away dust, instead of blowing. Furthermore Booth equipped his cleaner with a filter, which kept the dust in the machine. All modern vacuum cleaners are based on Booth's principle.

As Hubert Booth, demonstrated his vacuuming device in a restaurant in 1901, two Americans introduced variations on the same theme. Corinne Dufour invented a device that sucked dust into a wet sponge. David E. Kenneyís huge machine was installed in the cellar and connected to a network of pipes leading to each room in the house. A corps of cleaners moved the machine from house to house.

The first vacuum cleaners had to be operated manually. Two persons were needed for sume machines were to large, one to operate the bellows and the other to move the mouthpiece over the floor. The dust was blown into the air. Prior to the introduction of "electric suction cleaners", most housewives used brooms and dust pans. Many of the mid-Victorian homes had large and small rugs and carpets on the floors of principal rooms. In order to remove dirt, dust and animal dander from the nap of these floor coverings, the rugs and carpets were removed from the home and beaten with a device similar to an oversized fly swatter called a rug beater.

Patent papers ( 29,077 US) have revealed that a vacuum sweeper was produced by Daniel Hess in July 10, 1860. Hess, a resident of West Union, Iowa, called his invention a carpet sweeper, not a vacuum. The machine did, in fact, have a rotating brush like other sweepers, however, the machine also possessed an elaborate bellows mechanism on top of the body to generate suction. The amazing thing about his machine was that it incorporated two "water chambers" to capture the dust and fine dirt. He states that the air is cleansed as it passes through the device. There is no record that this machine was every produced.

Another early model, the ìWhirlwind,î patented (91,145 June 8, 1869) by Ives McGaffey of Chicago, created suction with a hand-cranked, belt-driven fan. All of these early vacuums were awkward, bulky, and expensive.

In the late 1870s, Melville Bissell began marketing his invention, a carpet sweeper with revolving brushes which picked up the dust and dirt and deposited it inside the sweeper housing. It depended on the rotation of the wheels to drive the sweeping mechanism and only removed debris from the uppermost regions of the carpet nap.

John S.Thurman invented his gasoline powered vacuum cleaner, in 1899 and some historians consider it the first motorized vacuum cleaner. Thurman's machine was patented on October 3, 1899 (patent #634,042). Later he started a horse drawn (door to door service) vacuum system in St. Louis, his vacuuming services were priced at $4 per visit.

The next technological leap in cleaning came in 1901, when Hubert Cecil Booth of London invented the electric vacuum. It was so large that its vacuum pump and motor were housed in a horse-drawn cart, from which a 100-foot long hose was extended and snaked into the house. This event was such a novelty that society ladies in England invited their friends over for vacuum parties! Queen Victoriaís carpets were cleaned this way, as were Britainís naval barracks, ending a plague which swept through the Navy at the turn of the 20th century. The vacuum cleaner greatly improved sanitation and health. Tons of germ-laden dust were removed from theatre seats, home and shop floors.

At about the same time, two Americans introduced variations on the same theme. Corinne Dufour invented a device that sucked dust into a wet sponge. David E. Kenneyís huge machine was installed in the cellar and connected to a network of pipes leading to each room in the house. A corps of cleaners moved the machine from house to house.

In 1905 'Griffith's Improved Vacuum Apparatus for Removing Dust from Carpets' was patented by Walter Griffiths Manufacturer, Birmingham, England. It comprised of a portable and easy to store vacuum device which was powered by 'any one person (such as the ordinary domestic servant)' who would have the task of compressing a bellow type contraption to suck up dust via a removable, flexible pipe to which a variety of shaped nozzles could be attached.

Chapman and Skinner in San Francisco invented a moveable electric vacuum in 1905. It weighed ninety-two pounds and used a fan 18 inches in diameter to produce the suction. A woman needed her man to move the heavy vacuum around, giving new meaning to the term domstic togetherness. Because of its size and cumbersome nature, it did not sell well.

Best known for the vacuum cleaner that bears his name, Jim Kirby's life goal was to reduce or eliminate drudgery wherever it existed. After watching his mother's cleaning effort result in the dust settling back onto everything in the house, he developed his concept of a vacuum cleaner. His first cleaner, invented in 1906, used water for dirt separation. In 1907, displeased with the unpleasant task of disposing of dirty water, he went back to work and designed a system that used centrifugal action and cloth to filter the dirt.

James Murray Spangler, an inventor and janitor in Canton, Ohio, patented (889,823 June 2, 1908) the first portable electric suction cleaner, making life a bit easier and cleaner for the homeowner. An asthmatic, Spangler wanted a smaller vacuum to help keep down dust on the job. Using a variety of items ó a broom handle, a pillow case, a tin soap box ó he created a device that used motor-driven fan blades to create suction. In 1908 he sold the vacuumís patent to his cousinís husband, William Hoover, and became a partner in Hooverís Electric Suction Sweeper Company. Soon many new vacuum companies sprang up, taking advantage of the growing popularity of electric appliances and of peopleís fear of germs.

Detroit businessman Fred Wardell starts the Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company, in 1909. Unlike their competitorsí vacuums, which were heavy, difficult to maneuver, and unreliable, Eurekaís vacuums were versatile and lightweight. The company offered several helpful attachments to clean upholstery, walls, and bare floors ó even a blower to dry hair. Eurekaís vacuums were so well designed that they won an award at the San Francisco International Exposition in 1915. By 1919 Eureka was able to make 2,000 vacuums a day in their sophisticated, 3.5-acre manufacturing plant.

In 1910, two Racine, Wisconsin engineers, Charles Beach and Frederick Osius, and a master marketeer, Louis Hamilton, made household appliance history by inventing a small motor that ran on either AC or DC electrical power -- the first Great Leap Forward for plug-powered domestic machinery. Osius deployed this gem in a Hamilton Beach Mother's Little Helper -- the first portable vacuum cleaner.

In 1903 wealthy society ladies threw 'vacuum cleaner parties'. Guests sipped their tea and lifted their feet for Booth's uniformed attendants to vacuum the carpet. After giving a vacuum demonstration at the Royal Mint, Booth, on leaving, was promptly stopped by the police. He had forgotten to empty the dust bag, which contained a large quantity of gold dust from the Mint.

In 1910 Professor Stanley Kent of University College, Bristol found 355,500,000 living organisms in just one gramme of dust extracted from Marlborough House, the home of HRH The Princess of Wales.

In 1907, James Murray Spangler, a janitor in a Canton, Ohio department store, deduced that the carpet sweeper he used was the source of his cough. He tinkered with an old fan motor and attached it to a soap box stapled to a broom handle. Using a pillow case as a dust collector on the contraption, Spangler invented a portable electric vacuum cleaner. He then improved his basic model the first to use both a cloth filter bag and cleaning attachments, and received a patent in 1908, and formed the Electric Suction Sweeper Company. One of the first buyers was a cousin, whose husband, William H. Hoover, later became the president of the Hoover Company, with Spangler as superintendent. Hooverís improvements resembled a bagpipe attached to a cake box, but they worked. Sluggish sales were given a kick by Hooverís 10 day, free home trial, and eventually there was a HooverÆ vacuum cleaner in nearly every home.

John Thurman started a horse drawn (door to door service) vacuum system in St. Louis, similiar to Booth's. His vacuuming services were priced at $4 per visit in 1903. He invented his gasoline powered vacuum cleaner, in 1899 and some historians consider it the first motorized vacuum cleaner. Thurman's machine was patented on October 3, 1899.

History at a Glance

1860-1900 Crude bellows operated machines and unsuccessful experiments with suction sweepers.

1901- Hubert Cecil Booth invents the first successful vacuum cleaner.

1907-James Murray Spangler invents the first domestic single-operator upright vacuum cleaner.

1908 -William Henry Hoover produces the first commercial bag-on-a-stick upright vacuum cleaners.

1912 -First Hoovers imported to Britain.

1912-15- Axel Wenner-Gren in Sweden collaborates with Lux to produce the first cylinder cleaner - Lux 1 (later Electrolux).

1919- Hoover cleaners manufactured in the UK for the first time.

1926 -Booth's British Vacuum Cleaner & Engineering Company brand all their domestic vacuum cleaners under the famous 'Goblin' trade name. Re-usable paper bags first introduced.