A Brief History of Vacuum Cleaners

The very first person to patent a system for cleaning was David Hess from the year 1860. Housewives all over America had switched into using carpets and rugs, a feature brought over from the waves of immigrants coming from Europe, to pay their bare hardwood flooring and keep the dust and dirt to a minimum. When they were dirty, they had to be transported outside, suspended somehow in the air and then smashed with a metal rod or heavy wooden stick.

A bit later someone invented a small, tennis racket-looking device called a carpet beater for precisely this purpose. Mr. Hess shortly realized there was likely an easier way to wash rugs without all of the fuss and mess and he invented the Carpet Sweeper that had a rotating brush combined with a bellows system which generated suction. His incredible invention used two water chambers to trap the dust and fine dirt. The one issue with Mr. Hess’ machine is there is no proof it was produced.

After Mr. Hess’ invention, there came a period of wilder and more bizarre inventions that sought to accomplish the exact same thing. From the late 1870’s, Melville Bissell (sound familiar?) Marketed a carpet sweeper that picked up the dirt and then dropped it into a pan supporting the rotating brush. In 1899, John Thurman invented a gasoline-powered vacuum cleaner that’s credited as being the very first motorized version. Back in 1901 Hubert Booth of London invented the electrical vacuum, a device so big it was parked away from the home and also a 100-foot long hose snaked its way indoors and did the dirty work.

The device was so popular that housewives around London held vacuum parties to enjoy the function. It wasn’t until 1908 when James Spangler, a janitor in Ohio, invented the first mobile, suction cleaner — the precursor to today’s high tech machines. He sold his patent to his cousin’s husband, William Hoover (also familiar?) And the rest, as they say is history.

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