Like many sweepers, Hess’ machine had a rotating brush. What made it different than other sweepers was that it also had a bellows mechanism at the top of the machine that was used to generate suction. And, surprisingly, Hess’ carpet sweeper also had two compartments that he called “water chambers.” They were meant to catch and hold dust and other fine particles and clean the air as it went through the sweeper. However, Hess most probably never produced his carpet sweeper.
The Impetus Behind the Invention of Vacuum Cleaner
The invention of the vacuum cleaner is a result of the advancements and problems created by science and technology in the middle of the 19th century. Not only were many items now being produced, but pollution was rampant. Because things were so dirty, and because Louis Pasteur had discovered that diseases were caused by germs, people became interested in cleanliness.
The First Vacuum Cleaner
The early prototypes for today’s vacuum cleaners were operated by hand. The first vacuums needed two operators – one to move the machine around and another to work the bellows. Before this invention, housewives used brooms. Rugs were removed from the home and beaten with rug beaters to get out dirt, dust, and other debris.
Melville Bissell invented and marketed a carpet sweeper in the late 1870’s. It had revolving brushes that picked up dirt and left it inside the housing of the carpet sweeper. The wheels caused the sweeping mechanism to rotate. It didn’t remove any dirt or debris from inside the carpet – only from the surface.
The First Motorized Vacuum
John S. Thurman introduced a gasoline powered vacuum cleaner in 1899. He started a service that took his vacuum into homes and for a $4.00 fee, Thurman vacuumed the rugs in these homes.
The Electric Vacuum
The first electric vacuum cleaner was invented by Hubert Cecil Booth in London and appeared in 1901. It was extremely large and had to be housed on a horse drawn cart. It had a hose that was 100 feet long and was brought into the house that was to be vacuumed by the person providing the housecleaning service.
Other vacuum machines were invented around the same time. The most famous of which was the Kirby, invented by Jim Kirby in 1906. The first Kirby separated dirt from the air with water. He didn’t like dealing with the dirty water so his next vacuum used centrifugal force and a cloth as a filter.
In 1908, James Murray Spangler invented a vacuum that became the first portable suction cleaner. He had asthma and wanted to keep dust down at work. His vacuum, like today’s vacuums, used fans to create air pressure. His cousin, William Hoover, bought the patent from him in 1908.
In 1910, Charles Beach and Frederick Osius invented a small motor that ran on electrical power and was marketed by Louis Hamilton. It was used in an appliance called a Hamilton Beach Mother’s Little Helper. It was the first portable vacuum.
The first vacuum with a disposable bag was invented and was called The Electrolux, after Gustaf Sahlin introduced this vacuum to America in 1924.
Can you imagine what housework would be like today if not for the invention of the vacuum? We’d still be taking out carpets outside and hanging them over a fence to beat them clean!
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Suck It Up - July 1 2005
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