Sunday, February 20, 2011

Who Invented the Vacuum Cleaner?

Like a lot of inventions over the years the invention of the vacuum cleaner is also surrounded with great debate as to who came up with the first vacuum cleaner. We have to go as far back as the 1800's to try and understand what people had in their homes and how they went about cleaning.

Firstly we can trace one of the earliest and better known devices back to 1860 when David Hess came up with a way to solve a problem which housewives were having at the time. In those days people used rugs on the bare wooden floors to try and keep the dust down to a minimum. Of course all the dust remained on the rug and the only way off was to hang the rug and whack it with a stick. Shortly after came the rug-beater, which resembled a tennis racket.

However, it was only David Hess who thought there must be an easier way to do the rug cleaning and he came up with a Carpet Sweeper which had a rotating brush with a bellows system which provided the suction. Is or was this a 'vacuum cleaner'? The machine also consisted of two water chambers which collected the fine dust and particles. The only problem with this invention is that there is no proof it was ever produced.

Then along came Melville Bissell, who's surname will sound familiar if you know your vacuum cleaners, who also came up with a carpet sweeper that picked up dirt and deposited it in a pan behind the sweeper head.

But it wasn't until 1899, when what can be described as the first 'motorized' cleaner, was invented by John Thurman and it was another few years before Hubert Booth of London came up with the first electric vacuum. The only problem was that the vacuum was so big it was stored on the back of a trailer outside the house and a very long hose was run inside to do the cleaning.

As time went by more and more inventors had a go at coming up with the ultimate cleaner and one which could be used in the home without much fuss and was portable. Then along came James Spangler in 1908 with the first portable suction cleaner. This cleaner proved to be extremely popular and for some reason he sold the patent to William Hoover. Yes, the man who's name has become synonymous with house cleaning. The fact that the Hoover name stuck was a testament to how good and popular the early cleaners were and now nearly 100 years later the vacuum cleaner can still be best described a clunky, noisy piece of hardware. Although innovative designs such as the Dyson and the next generation robotic Roomba are starting to give us some idea of what we can expect of 21st century vacuum cleaners.

Whoever is responsible for the invention of the vacuum cleaner, of which I believe there are many, would be proud to know that the principles of their early day designs still remain in vacuum cleaners in millions of homes around the world.

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