The History of the Vacuum Cleaner

vacuum cleaner history

These funny-shaped, noisy contraptions can clean up a mess in just a few seconds flat, thanks to their powerful suction. Today, the vacuum cleaners that we see stocking the shelves of our favorite home stores are part of a billion dollar industry. However, it hasn’t always been this way. Believe it or not, the development of vacuum cleaners took hundreds of years to get right.

The broom was, of course, the first step in the creation of the vacuum cleaner. There are examples of this useful tool dating all the way back to 2000 BC. However, until 1797 the broom wasn’t as useful as it is today, as its bristles weren’t quite right. They were too soft and because of this, failed to pick anything up. Until a farmer changed the bristles that were used and made it a success.

Although the broom was useful, it didn’t make cleaning easier. This meant that soon enough people started coming up with ideas for cleaning methods that were a little less tedious. In England, automatic machines were invented for street cleaners. These were simple devices that relied on an internal pulley system. However, as these used brushes to mechanically sweep, they were little better than a broom.

In 1858, Hiram Herrick, an American man, submitted a patent for a carpet sweeper. This was something very similar to England’s street sweeper machines. It was effectively a mechanical dustpan and brush for use on carpet. It was a small step up from manual brooms but still wasn’t the vacuum cleaner that we know and love today.

Daniel Hess then changed the cleaning game forever in 1860 with his addition of air to carpet sweepers. It might have still been a manually operated machine using bellows, but it was a lot closer to the vacuum cleaners that we use today.

In 1869, mechanical cleaners were taken one step further with the addition of a fan. This was the idea of Ives McGaffey, an American man from Chicago. However, even with the addition of a fan, this machine was hard to use, due to the fact it had to be run by hand.

Come 1898; John Thurman created a gas powered carpet renovator. It wasn’t a vacuum cleaner as it didn’t suck, but it did produce a blast of air to move dust and blow it into an attached box. However, the problem with this was that it was as big as a horse and carriage, so wasn’t a practical solution.

However, in 1935, Hubert Cecil Booth came up with a similar invention that was a lot more popular. He created the Puffing Billy, a machine that was pulled around the streets of London by a horse. The Puffing Billy did so well it was even used to clean Westminster Abbey. The King and Queen were so impressed with how well it worked that they purchased machines for Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. By the start of the 19th century, Booth’s machines were installed in large homes, buildings, and hotels. However, as they took up so much space, they weren’t suitable for regular sized homes.

James Murray Spangler, a custodian from Ohio, came up with a new type of vacuum cleaner. He used a broom, electric motor, and a pillowcase. What made his invention so popular was that it stood upright and was easily portable. In 1907 he quit his job to start selling his invention. However, it wasn’t to be. He ran out of money and wasn’t able to continue with his venture. That was when his cousin, Susan Hoover, stepped in, along with her husband, William Hoover. They purchased the patent from him and gradually turned his invention into a success.

Today, Hoover is a name that’s known across the world.

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