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History of the Vacuum

by Craig Blake

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A man uses his trusty vacuum to clean the carpet

When it comes to important modern inventions, the vacuum must be near the top of the list. The vacuum has become such a common household appliance that it is easy to forget it is a relatively recent device. Modern vacuums can't be completely attributed to any one inventor, as they were the product of several different mechanical and scientific advances. From their humble beginnings, vacuum cleaners now come in a variety of different models. From upright vacuums and canister vacuums to the bagless vacuum and handheld vacuum, vacuums have invaded modern life. Here are a few bits of vacuum history you probably didn't know.

Vacuum History:

  1. In the beginning: The first trace of the vacuum was a patent by Daniel Hess on July 10, 1860. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, Hess called it a carpet sweeper. His plan included a system that would capture dust and dirt in two water chambers. Whether this early vacuum was ever actually produced is a mystery.

  2. The early years of vacuums: After Hess' patent, there was a flurry of other early vacuum cleaners. In 1869, a bulky vacuum was invented by Ives McGaffey that ran on a belt and a hand crank. Soon afterward, Melville Bissell started to manufacture the Bissell carpet sweeper. Thirty years later, John S. Thurman invented a vacuum cleaner that ran on gasoline. The first electric vacuum cleaner was invented by Hubert Cecil Booth in 1901. The vacuum was so large that it was kept permanently in a cart drawn by a horse. If you wanted your house vacuumed, the vacuum cleaner was pulled in front of your house with a 100-foot hose that could reach into the house. The queen of England took advantage of this vacuum service. In the years following, vacuums became increasingly more maneuverable, featuring well-known names in vacuum circles, such as Jim Kirby and William Hoover.

  3. Portable vacuums and beyond: The first portable electric vacuum was invented by James Murray Spangler in 1908. He sold the patent to his cousin's husband, William Hoover. After Hoover began producing portable vacuums, many other companies picked up similar models. Upright vacuums were first introduced in the 1950s, and the first self-propelled vacuums appeared in 1969. Today, after over 150 years of development, vacuums come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

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