What were the origins of this humble but useful home applaince?

Vacuum Cleaner

A vacuum cleaner, also known as a sweeper or hoover, is a device that uses an air pump to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt, usually from floors, and from other surfaces. Basically, it is a device which sucks your home tidy.


  • 2300 B.C. - First rudimentary forms of broom and cleaning tools came into existence
  • 1797 - Levi Dickenson devised a broom with the use of sorghum bristles. The sorghum broom business exploded and by 1860 sorghum got the name broomcorn.
  • 1858 - Hiram Herrick patented a carpet sweeper which was the first American patent for a carpet sweeper. The device consisted of a rolling broom and dustpan.
  • 1860 - Daniel Hess produced a carpet sweeper which used suction through a rotating brush and bellows. It was completely manual and that is probably the reason why it was not successful. It was the first rudimentary design of a vacuum cleaner.
  • 1869 - Ives W. McCaffe came up with ‘Whirlwind’, the first manual vacuum cleaner which was upright. The belt driven, hand-powered device was sold for a retail price of $25 which would be around a whopping $450 in the present. This proved to be the reason for the unsuccessful run of the device.
  • 1898 - A gasoline powered blower was developed by John S. Thurman, which had to be horse-drawn to locations due to its bulky nature. It was a moderately successful device which relied on blowing the dust into a receptacle instead of suction.
  • 1901 - Hubert Cecil Booth from England manufactured the ‘Puffing Billy’ which was also a bulky device but relied on suction. The gasoline-powered machine was later upgraded to electric power. It used a cloth filter to collect the dust. Puffing Billy was extremely successful and hotels started installing it in their compound. It was once also used to clean West Minister Abbey.
  • During the same time, David T. Kenney came up with a vacuum cleaner which was powered by steam engine. But it did not succeed in getting much business due to its weight of 4000 pounds.
  • 1906 - Walter Griffiths came up with the first portable vacuum cleaner which used bellows and flexible pipe for suction.
  • 1906 - Jame B. Kirby developed a vacuum cleaner that used water for dirt separation instead of a filter. It was called ‘Domestic Cyclone’.
  • 1907 - James Murray Spangler, a janitor from Ohio devised a vacuum cleaner with the use of a broom, electric rotating motor, and a pillowcase for dust collection. Because he did not get the funding, he sold the patent to William Henry Hoover in 1908.
  • 1926 - Hoover redesigned the vacuum cleaner by adding a steel box for sturdiness and disposal filter bags to collect dust. It became a mainstay in the market
  • 1997 - A Swedish company came up with ‘Electrolux Trilobite’, the first autonomous cordless robotic vacuum cleaner. This was made available to the consumers in 2001.
  • 2004 - A British company came up with ‘Airider’, a vacuum cleaner which uses the technology of hovercrafts to float above the floor.

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