A Brief History of Vacuum Cleaners

A Brief History of Vacuum Cleaners

We don’t often think about who invented our household appliances or how they came up with the original ideas. Though we use blenders, microwaves and refrigerators on an almost daily basis, we probably don’t know where they came from.

At Steamer’s we got a bit curious about the history of one of our favorite tools, the vacuum cleaner. When was the first vacuum cleaner invented? Who invented it? How did they get the idea?

We found out that the first vacuum cleaners were manually powered by the operator. The “Whilrwind,” invented in Chicago in 1868 by Ives W. McGaffey, was powered by a hand crank. In 1898, John S. Thurman invented the “pneumatic carpet renovator” which was powered by a gasoline motor. However, instead of sucking in dust, the renovator blew dust into a receptacle.

The first true vacuum cleaner was created by Hubert Cecil Booth, an English engineer, in 1901. “The Puffing Billy” was powered by oil at first and then electricity. It was so large that horses were needed to pull it around London and it couldn’t fit into homes—technicians had to string hoses through the windows to reach interior spaces. Booth’s vacuuming business, “The British Vacuum Cleaning Company,” faced a number of noise complaints during its tenure but was ultimately successful. They were even selected to clean the carpets at Westminster Abbey before Edward VII’s 1901 coronation.

The first modern vacuum cleaner was invented by James Murray Spangler, a janitor from Canton, Ohio in 1908. The device was not only portable, but incorporated a rotating brush to loosen debris. Unfortunately for Spangler, he didn’t have the funds to produce the design himself, so he sold the patent to his cousin’s husband, William Henry Hoover.

Today, the Hoover Company remains one of the leading manufacturers of household goods. In Britain, Hoover’s vacuum cleaner was so popular that the word “Hoover” can actually be used as a verb. For instance, “It’s about time we hoovered the living room.”

As successful as the vacuum cleaner has been, it still can’t do much about stains and spills. If you’ve found that hoovering just won’t keep your carpets as clean as you’d like, call Steamer’s Carpet Care today and ask about our 9-step carpet cleaning process.