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Invention and History of Vacuum Cleaners

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The vaccum cleaner replaces the traditional four wheels with one ball

Inventor James Dyson's latest hoovering invention is demonstrated on March 14, 2005 in London. The vaccum cleaner replaces the traditional four wheels with one ball to guide it across the floor giving it increased maneouverability.

Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
By definition, "a vacuum cleaner (also called a vacuum or hoover or a sweeper) is a device that uses an air pump to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt, usually from floors."

The first attempts to provide a mechanical solution to floor cleaning were begun in England in 1599. Before vacuum cleaners, rugs were hung over a wall or line and hit repeatedly with a carpet beater to pound out as much dirt as possible.

On June 8, 1869, Chicago inventor, Ives McGaffey patented a "sweeping machine". This was the first patent for a device that cleaned rugs, however, it was not a motorized vacuum cleaner. McGaffey called his machine the Whirlwind and it was the first hand-pumped vacuum cleaner in the United States, a wood and canvas contraption.

John Thurman - Door to Door Service

John Thurman started a horse-drawn vacuum system with door to door service in St Louis. 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 (patent #634,042).

Hubert Cecil Booth

British engineer, Hubert Cecil Booth patented a motorized vacuum cleaner on August 30, 1901. Booth's machine 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. Booth first demonstrated his vacuuming device in a restaurant that same year and successfully sucked dirt.

More Americans inventors introduced variations of the same cleaning-by-suction type contraptions. For example, Corinne Dufour invented a device that sucked dust into a wet sponge; and, David Kenney designed a huge machine that was installed in a cellar and connected to a network of pipes leading to each room of a house.

Of course, these early versions of vacuum cleaners were bulky, noisy, smelly, and unsuccessful.

Handheld Units - James Spangler

In 1907, James Spangler, a janitor in a Canton, Ohio department store, deduced that the carpet sweeper he was using was the source of his chronic coughing.

Spangler 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, Spangler invented a new portable and 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.

Hoover Vacuum Cleaners

James Spangler soon formed the Electric Suction Sweeper Company. One of his first buyers was his cousin, whose husband, William Hoover became the founder and president of the Hoover Company, a vacuum cleaner manufacturer. James Spangler sold his patent rights to, and continue to design for, William Hoover.

William Hoover financed additional improvements to Spangler's vacuum cleaner. The Hoover design resembled a bagpipe attached to a cake box, but it worked. William Hoover's company produced the first commercial bag-on-a-stick upright vacuum cleaner. Initial sluggish sales were given a kick by Hoover's innovative 10 day, free home trial, and eventually there was a Hoover vacuum cleaner in nearly every home. By 1919, Hoover cleaners were widely manufactured complete with the "beater bar" to establish the time honoured slogan "It beats as it sweeps as it cleans".

Filter Bags

The Air-way Sanitizor Company which began in Toledo, Ohio in 1920, introduced a new product, the "filter fiber" disposable bag - an important cleaning "first".

Dyson

James Dyson invented the Cyclon, the first bagless dual cyclone machine.

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