You use a vacuum cleaner every day (well, more like every month!) to keep your house clean. You use this appliance so often that you have taken cleaning with it for granted. But have you ever wondered who invented the vacuum cleaner?
Well, unlike how clean your floor looks after a vacuum run, the invention of the vacuum cleaner is a pretty messy business. It’s like saying Al Gore invented the Internet (he didn’t). Truth be told, a lot of people were behind developing the Internet and the same goes for the vacuum cleaner. Let’s look back at the American and British inventors who created this nifty cleaning device.
Who Invented The Vacuum Cleaner?
Back in the day when people were using brooms, inventors were thinking up mechanical sweepers to clean houses. These devices had brushes that rapidly rotated and pushed dirt inside into the sweeper. American inventor Daniel Hess switched things up by using air instead. As stated in his patent, Hess’ device blew “fine dust and dirt through the machine by means of a draft of air.” This prototype could be called the early vacuum cleaner. Many inventors improved upon Hess, particularly Ives McGaffey with his “sweeping machine” (America, 1899).
The one problem with all these early vacuum cleaners was that they were manual. You had to use your own energy to crank the machine and make it work. Who wants to do that?! In 1898, St. Louis native John S. Thurman created his “pneumatic carpet renovator.” The invention, powered by gasoline, was large enough to fit a horse carriage! Thurman took his vacuum system door-to-door in St. Louis, cleaning houses for $4 per visit.
And The Story Continues…
Thurman’s invention (as well as the previous vacuum cleaner iterations) couldn’t suck dirt and dust. The ‘sucking’ aspect of the vacuum cleaner as we know it was innovated upon by the British. In 1901, engineer Hubert Cecil Booth improved upon Thurman’s work with his “Puffing Billy.” Puffing Billy was also large, gasoline powered and drawn by horse. But it had large hoses that went through windows into houses (mostly rich folks) and sucked dirt into the machine outside. Basically this was an Uber for vacuum cleaning!
You’ve probably guessed what comes next. Vacuum cleaners became smaller, compact and cheaper. James Murray Spangler was a janitor working in an Ohio department store in 1907. Spangler was sick of his sweeping machine, especially because it blew up dust and worsened his asthma. Spangler fiddled around and–using a pillowcase, broom handle, soap box and electric motor–created a souped up vacuum cleaner. This was your first portable electric vacuum cleaner–Spangler patented the device in 1908.
Spangler eventually quit his job and started up the Electric Suction Sweeper Company. However, his business went under and he was forced to sell the patent rights to his device to William Hoover. (Yes, the very same Hoover you’re thinking of!) The rest, as they say, is history. William Hoover was a well-known leather goods businessman. He took Spangler’s invention, applied his entrepreneurial skills to it, and popularized the modern-day vacuum cleaner. Today, the Hoover company still sells vacuum cleaner products.
So now you know who invented the vacuum cleaner! As we said, it is a messy history and its development is still an ongoing process. Like Hoover back in the day, today’s big name is James Dyson. Dyson has created the next generation of vacuum cleaners with his Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner. And of course, there are advanced robotic vacuums.
In any case, that’s the end. Now it’s time to clean the house!