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Fascinating facts about the invention of
vacuum cleaner
by Daniel Hess in 1860.

VACUUM CLEANER
AT A GLANCE:
Daniel Hess appears to have been the first to patent (#29,077 U.S. issued July 10, 1860) a vacuum cleaner. Hess, a resident of West Union, Iowa, called his invention a carpet sweeper, not a vacuum.  The machine did, in fact, have a rotating brush like other sweepers, however, the machine also possessed an elaborate bellows mechanism on top of the body to generate suction. The amazing thing about his machine was that it incorporated two "water chambers"  to capture the dust and fine dirt.  He states that the air is cleansed as it passes through the device.  There is no record that this machine was every produced.
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Invention: vacuum cleaner in 1860
Copy of D. Hess patent # 29,077 U.S. issued July 10, 1860. Courtesy www.uspto.com
Definition: noun / vac·u·um cleaner
Function: A household appliance for cleaning (floors, carpets, or upholstery) by suction, also vacuum sweeper
Patent: 29,077 U.S. issued July 10, 1860
Inventor: Daniel Hess  
Resident: West Union, Iowa
Criteria: First to invent. First to patent.
Nationality: American
Milestones:
1860 Daniel Hess patents a vacuum clearner, appears to be the first recorded
1869 Ives McGaffey patents the"whirlwind" vacuum cleaner. Starts
American Carpet Cleaning Co.
1876 Melville Bissell invents the carpet sweeper.
1899 John S.Thurman invented his gasoline powered vacuum cleaner
1901
Hubert Cecil Booth of London invented the electric vacuum.
1901 two Americans Corinne Dufour and David E. Kenney introduced variations on the same theme.
1905 Walter Griffith patents a vac with pipe to which a variety of shaped nozzles could be attached.
1905 Chapman and Skinner in San Francisco invented a moveable (92 pound) electric vacuum
1906 James Kirby's first cleaner used water for dirt separation. Later he uses a cloth to filter the dirt.
1908 James Murray Spangler invents a smaller vacuum and starts a company with William Hoover
1909 Detroit businessman Fred Wardell starts the Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company
1910 Charles Beach and Frederick Osius, and a master marketeer, Louis Hamilton, made household appliance history by inventing a small motor that ran on either AC or DC electrical power
1919 Jim Kirby agreed to design vacuum cleaners exclusively for George Scott and Carl Fetzer.Co.
1920 Air-Way Sanitizor of Toledo, Ohio.introduced the first vacuum cleaner with a disposable bag
1924 Gustaf Sahlin introduced the Electrolux tank vacuum cleaner to the United States.
1926
Hoover developed a positive agitation vacuum that greatly increased the dirt removal efficiency
1930 the first plastic vacuum cleaners hit the market and headlights were added to some models.
1935
Scott and Fetzer introduce the first of a long line of products to carry Jum Kirby's name.
1950 the introduction of the convertible upright line of vacuums
1963
David Oreck begins manufacturing upright vacuum cleaners for the hotel industry
1969 The first self propelled vacuums debuted
1978
James Dyson built 5000 prototypes before he perfected his Dual Cyclone machine in 1993.
1979
Black & Decker's markets cordless Dustbuster hand-held vacuum designed by Carroll Gantz
2002
Helen Greiner and her colleagues at iRobot introduce Roomba the robot vacuum cleaner
vacuum cleaner, daniel hess, Ives McGaffe, Hubert Cecil Booth, James Murray Spangler, William Hoover, Fred Wardell, James Kirby, Gustaf Sahlin, David Oreck, James Dyson,
Helen Greiner, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
The birth of the vacuum cleaner is due to a number of advancements in science and technology brought about by the Industrial Revolution. By the mid 1800s factories were producing tens of thousands of manufactured items along with tons of pollution. Dirt and soot were everywhere. About that time scientist Louis Pasteur made several significant discoveries which led him to theorize that infectious diseases were caused by microorganisms or “germs.” Thus the development of the germ theory and the reaction against industrial pollution caused people to focus for the first time on hygiene and cleanliness.

The first vacuum cleaners had to be operated manually. Two persons were needed for sume machines were to large, one to operate the bellows and the other to move the mouthpiece over the floor. The dust was blown into the air. Prior to the introduction of "electric suction cleaners", most housewives used brooms and dust pans. Many of the mid-Victorian homes had large and small rugs and carpets on the floors of principal rooms. In order to remove dirt, dust and animal dander from the nap of these floor coverings, the rugs and carpets were removed from the home and beaten with a device similar to an oversized fly swatter called a rug beater.

Patent papers ( 29,077 US) have revealed that a vacuum sweeper was produced by Daniel Hess in July 10, 1860.  Hess, a resident of West Union, Iowa, called his invention a carpet sweeper, not a vacuum.  The machine did, in fact, have a rotating brush like other sweepers, however, the machine also possessed an elaborate bellows mechanism on top of the body to generate suction. The amazing thing about his machine was that it incorporated two "water chambers"  to capture the dust and fine dirt.  He states that the air is cleansed as it passes through the device.  There is no record that this machine was every produced.

Another early model, the “Whirlwind,” patented (91,145 June 8, 1869) by Ives McGaffey of Chicago, created suction with a hand-cranked, belt-driven fan. All of these early vacuums were awkward, bulky, and expensive.

In the late 1870s, Melville Bissell began marketing his invention, a carpet sweeper with revolving brushes which picked up the dust and dirt and deposited it inside the sweeper housing. It depended on the rotation of the wheels to drive the sweeping mechanism and only removed debris from the uppermost regions of the carpet nap.

John S.Thurman invented his gasoline powered vacuum cleaner, in 1899 and some historians consider it the first motorized vacuum cleaner. Thurman's machine was patented on October 3, 1899 (patent #634,042). Later he started a horse drawn (door to door service) vacuum system in St. Louis, his vacuuming services were priced at $4 per visit.

The next technological leap in cleaning came in 1901, when Hubert Cecil Booth of London invented the electric vacuum. It was so large that its vacuum pump and motor were housed in a horse-drawn cart, from which a 100-foot long hose was extended and snaked into the house. This event was such a novelty that society ladies in England invited their friends over for vacuum parties! Queen Victoria’s carpets were cleaned this way, as were Britain’s naval barracks, ending a plague which swept through the Navy at the turn of the 20th century. The vacuum cleaner greatly improved sanitation and health. Tons of germ-laden dust were removed from theatre seats, home and shop floors.

At about the same time, two Americans introduced variations on the same theme. Corinne Dufour invented a device that sucked dust into a wet sponge. David E. Kenney’s huge machine was installed in the cellar and connected to a network of pipes leading to each room in the house. A corps of cleaners moved the machine from house to house.

In 1905 'Griffith's Improved Vacuum Apparatus for Removing Dust from Carpets' was patented by Walter Griffiths Manufacturer, Birmingham, England. It comprised of a portable and easy to store vacuum device which was powered by 'any one person (such as the ordinary domestic servant)' who would have the task of compressing a bellow type contraption to suck up dust via a removable, flexible pipe to which a variety of shaped nozzles could be attached.

Chapman and Skinner in San Francisco invented a moveable electric vacuum in 1905. It weighed ninety-two pounds and used a fan 18 inches in diameter to produce the suction. A woman needed her man to move the heavy vacuum around, giving new meaning to the term domstic togetherness. Because of its size and cumbersome nature, it did not sell well.

Best known for the vacuum cleaner that bears his name, Jim Kirby's life goal was to reduce or eliminate drudgery wherever it existed. After watching his mother's cleaning effort result in the dust settling back onto everything in the house, he developed his concept of a vacuum cleaner. His first cleaner, invented in 1906, used water for dirt separation. In 1907, displeased with the unpleasant task of disposing of dirty water, he went back to work and designed a system that used centrifugal action and cloth to filter the dirt.

James Murray Spangler, an inventor and janitor in Canton, Ohio, patented (889,823 June 2, 1908) the first portable electric suction cleaner, making life a bit easier and cleaner for the homeowner. An asthmatic, Spangler wanted a smaller vacuum to help keep down dust on the job. Using a variety of items — a broom handle, a pillow case, a tin soap box — he created a device that used motor-driven fan blades to create suction. In 1908 he sold the vacuum’s patent to his cousin’s husband, William Hoover, and became a partner in Hoover’s Electric Suction Sweeper Company. Soon many new vacuum companies sprang up, taking advantage of the growing popularity of electric appliances and of people’s fear of germs.

Detroit businessman Fred Wardell starts the Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company, in 1909. Unlike their competitors’ vacuums, which were heavy, difficult to maneuver, and unreliable, Eureka’s vacuums were versatile and lightweight. The company offered several helpful attachments to clean upholstery, walls, and bare floors — even a blower to dry hair. Eureka’s vacuums were so well designed that they won an award at the San Francisco International Exposition in 1915. By 1919 Eureka was able to make 2,000 vacuums a day in their sophisticated, 3.5-acre manufacturing plant.

In 1910, two Racine, Wisconsin engineers, Charles Beach and Frederick Osius, and a master marketeer, Louis Hamilton, made household appliance history by inventing a small motor that ran on either AC or DC electrical power -- the first Great Leap Forward for plug-powered domestic machinery. Osius deployed this gem in a Hamilton Beach Mother's Little Helper -- the first portable vacuum cleaner.

After World War I, Jim Kirby agreed to design vacuum cleaners exclusively for George Scott and Carl Fetzer. Over the ensuing years, he developed numerous innovative cleaner designs. Later, the non-electric Vacuette model, manufactured by Scott and Fetzer, became the forerunner of today's multi-attachment models.

Air-Way Sanitizor of Toledo, Ohio.introduced the first vacuum cleaner with a disposable bag in 1920.
Aerus began in 1924 under the name Electrolux when Gustaf Sahlin introduced the Electrolux tank vacuum cleaner to the United States. Almost overnight, its unique design became the standard of excellence.

Hoover developed positive agitation in 1926, and this greatly increased the dirt removal efficiency of the vacuum. One model featured a rigid beater bar which was used in combination with the brush on the agitator to dislodge dirt from the carpet. In the 1930s the first plastic vacuum cleaners hit the market and headlights were added to some of the fancier models.  In 1935, Scott and Fetzer introduced the Model C, the first of a long line of products to carry Kirby's name. Jim Kirby continued to work on new ideas for the company into the 1960's. The 1950s saw the introduction of the convertible upright line of vacuums. The first self propelled vacuums debuted in 1969. Since then, improvements such as higher speed motors have been added.

David Oreck starts Oreck Corporation as a company manufacturing upright vacuum cleaners for the hotel industry in the U.S. The concept was to design a lightweight yet powerful and durable vacuum that hotel housekeepers would prefer to the very heavy models available to them. The idea proved so successful that now over 50,000 hotels throughout the world use Oreck vacuums. After a short time, hotel personnel asked to buy the machines for their own use, which gave the Oreck Corporation the idea to sell its unique products to the general public.While Whirlpool was unable to make a success of its upright vacuum cleaners, Oreck believed that with a redesign of the machine, he could give it a new lease on life. So Whirlpool gave him exclusive rights to market them throughout the United States. The company also gave Oreck free reign to redesign the machine and then produced his prototype for him under the RCA Whirlpool label.

Between 1978 and 1993 James Dyson built 5000 prototypes before he perfected his Dual Cyclone machine. "This project is dead from the neck up". a Hotpoint, executive said when Dyson offered them his technology in 1982. In May 2001 Dyson had 29% of the vacuum cleaner market by volume and 52% by value.

It was iRobot’s 2002 foray into the home that is putting the company on the map. Helen Greiner says she and her colleagues knew that if they could find a way to relieve folks from the drudgery of household tasks, it would be a big hit with consumers. “For 13 years, when we introduced ourselves, people would say, ‘Can you make a robot that will clean my house?’” So the trio turned their attention to creating a robotic vacuum they could market for $200. Roomba is a small, disc-shaped vacuum that cruises around a room, using sensors to maneuver around furniture and avoid stairs.Indications are they did it right. Since its launch in September 2002, Roomba has been selling briskly and won the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. It was chosen as one of Oprah’s “favorite things” .

The vacuum cleaner is one of the greatest household aids ever invented. It’s right up there with sliced bread and the flushable toilet. Its speed and efficiency allows more time for leisure and less for cleaning. It’s obvious that the vacuum has an important and impressive pedigree. This reducer of pollutants, eliminator of germs, and status symbol shouldn’t be hiding in the closet, but should be proudly displayed in a place of honor in our homes!

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of the Carpet Sweeper   from The Great Idea Finder
James Dyson Biography   from The Great Idea Finder
Helen Greiner Biography   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder  

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Never Done: A History of American Housework
by Susan Strasser / Paperback: 361 pages / Owl Books (NY) (November 1, 2000)
It is truly an eye-opening perspective on housework, not to mention a history of the tools of the trade.
Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs
A Social History of American Technology
by Ruth Schwartz Cowan / Paperback: 352 pages / Oxford University Press; (December 1996)

This book surveys the history of American technology from the early 17th century to the present,
focusing on the key individuals, ideas, and systems that have shaped the important technological
developments throughout American history.

More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave
by Ruth Schwartz Cowan / Paperback Reprint edition (February 1985) / Basic Books (Sd)
Inventions such as washing machines, cotton cloth, and even white flour acted as catalysts by giving the less well-off a chance at the comforts the prosperous already possessed, but in general it was men and children whose chores were relieved by these innovations.
The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America
by Harvey Green, Mary-Ellen Perry / Paperback: 205 pages University of Arkansas Press (2003)
From the greatest collection of American Voctoriana comes a wonderful evocation of the lives of women 100 years ago. 125 black & white photos.
American Home Life, 1880-1930: A Social History of Spaces and Services
by Jessica Ho Foy, Thomas J. Schlereth / Paperback: 284 pages / University of Tennessee Pr. (1994)
The home is a subject jam-packed with material evidence of social attitudes and adaptations to modernity.

ON THE SCREEN:
Digi-tech
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
See how the computing capacity of World-War II era room-sized computers is now surpassed by hand-held devices; visit Zenith to see a side-by-side comparison of regular television and HDTV; discover how a Cold War era NASA program is transforming personal photography, and get the inside story about MP3s.

Household Wonders  
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
HOUSEHOLD WONDERS tells the story of seven taken-for-granted inventions that make modern life comfy, fast and clean: the stove, sewing machine, refrigerator, air conditioner, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, toaster and mixer.

ON THE WEB:
First Recorded Vacuum Claener
Patent 29,077 issued July 10, 1860 to Daniel Hess for the invention of a vacuum cleaner.
(URL: www.vachunter.com/history.htm)

History of the Vacuum Cleaner
People started to think of ways to invent a more efficient and less time consuming device to clean their floors. Also, many health factors contributed to the drive force behind the invention.
(URL: www.bergen.org/AAST/Projects/Engineering_Graphics/_EG2000/vacuum/History.htm)
A Brief History of the Vacuum Cleaner
Many products designed to make life and work easier emerged from the Industrial Revolution. Among them was the lowly vacuum cleaner.
(URL: www.137.com/museum/)
First Motorized Vacuum Cleaner
John S. Thurman's machine was patented on October 3, 1899 (patent #634,042). POP-UPS.
(URL: inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blvacuum.htm)

What's That Hiding in Your Closet
The birth of the vacuum cleaner is due to a number of advancements in science and technology brought about by the Industrial Revolution.
(URL: www.rogersarkansas.com/museum/donationOfTheMonth/11-02.asp)
Canada Science and Technology Museum
The largest of its kind in Canada devoted to Science and Technology education.

(URL: www.science-tech.nmstc.ca)
Kirby Vacuum Cleaners
Over 200 patents and products still in use today are a tribute to Jim Kirby's success and innovation.
(URL: www.kirby.com/story01.shtml)
The History of the Vacuum Cleaner
The only way to clean carpets was to take them outside and beat them and this was only done once a year during the spring clean.
(URL: www.gizmohighway.com/history/vacuum.htm)
The Land of Milk and Money
Racine Wisconsin the birth place of many of today's successful consumer products. The blender, malted milk, milkshake, lollipop, Colby cheese, and the portable vacuum cleaner. Article Land of Milk and Money by Margaret McArthur and Dave Scantland
(URL: www.egullet.org/index.cgi?pg=ARTICLE-blender)
A Century of Sucking
From early cleaners the size of a car through to the modern cyclone vacuums of today
(URL: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/on-line/vacuums/index.asp)
Electrolux Vacuum Cleaner History
Aerus began in 1924 under the name Electrolux when Gustaf Sahlin introduced the Electrolux tank vacuum cleaner to the United States. Almost overnight, its unique design became the standard of excellence.
(URL: www.aerusonline.com/about/history.cfm)
Dyson Dual Cyclone machine
James Dyson's vacuum was nearly never made due to patent fees and legal costs incurred defending his invention against patent infringement by a corporation. During the development years when James had no income, this nearly bankrupted him. He risked everything, and fortunately the risk paid off.
(URL: www.dyson.com/homepage.asp)
iRobot Corporation
Our robots combine the latest artificial intelligence technology with easy to use interfaces. The consumer robots are supervised by their owners and respond to a click of a button or mouse. The toys simply "know how they are being played with" and respond. 
(URL: www.irobot.com/home/default.asp)
Vacuum Cleaner Reviews n Ratings
What type of vacuums are there to choose from, for commercial & home use. Lots of information, reviews, ratings and details on vacuum cleaner companys.
(URL: www.best-vacuum-cleaners.net/)
Greatest Household Inventions
The vacuum cleaner is one of the greatest household aids ever invented, right there with sliced bread and the flushable toilet. Its speed and efficiency allows more time for leisure and less for cleaning.
(URL: www.housenotsobeautiful.com/Articles/vacuum_p.html)
Air-Way Vacuum Cleaner
Air-Way Sanitizor of Toledo, Ohio.introduced the first vacuum cleaner with a disposable bag in 1920.
(URL: worlddmc.ohiolink.edu/)

Thurman Vacuum Cleaner
According to this page about inventors: "John S. Thurman invented the gasoline powered vacuum cleaner (which he called the "pneumatic carpet renovator") in 1899. His vacuum was patented on Oct. 3, 1899 (patent #634,042). It may have been the first motorized vacuum cleaner.
(URL: marnanel.org/writing/gasoline-powered-pneumatic-carpet-renovator)
Vacuum Cleaner History
Brief description of the evolution of the vacuum cleaner.
(URL: www.historychannel.com/exhibits/modern/vacuum.html)

First Portable Vacuum Cleaner
In 1907, James Murray Spangler, a janitor in a Canton, Ohio department store, invented the first portable electric vacuum cleaner.
(URL: clubs.indiatimes.com/iclubs/pages/20801/Household%20Items.html)
Oreck Vacuum History
While Whirlpool was unable to make a success of its upright vacuum cleaners, David Oreck believed that with a redesign of the machine, he could give it a new lease on life.
(URL: www.oreck.com/about/the-company.cfm)
The Vacuum Cleaner
Nobody knew how clean a carpet could be until it came along. Article by Curt Wohleber for American Heritage magazine.
(URL: www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/2006/4/2006_4_4.shtml)

WORDS OF WISDOM:
"Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within 10 years." -- Alex Lewyt, quoted in the New York Times, 1955
"Anyone developing new products and new technology needs one characteristic above all else: hope." - James Dyson


HOW IT WORKS:
Upright model vacuum cleaners introduced between 1910 and 1920, operated on two principles. One used a fan to suck dust and dirt into a Kenney patented "renovator" or nozzle where it passed to a cloth bag suspended vertically on the handle. The second, produced by the Hoover Suction Sweeper Company, used a fan combined with a rotating head which was intended to loosen dirt prior to its being sucked into the bag.

After 1940, two distinct types of vacuum cleaners were made: the canister and the broomstick. Canister models relied on the suction of a high speed fan and were sold with a series of attachments. Broomstick models used the beater head technology.

The design and manufacture of vacuum cleaners was greatly affected by plastic which was both easily worked and light in weight. Plastic also supplanted other materials in the manufacture of vacuum cleaner wheels. By the 1960s, in some cases, only the motor and axles were made of metal, the remaining parts of the machine were a variety of plastics. The vacuum cleaner eliminated the dust and dirt where germs bred. Its use improved the health of the family.

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • After giving a vacuum demonstration at the Royal Mint, Booth, on leaving, was promptly stopped by the police. He had forgotten to empty the dust bag, which contained a large quantity of gold dust from the Mint.
  • In 1920, a vacuum cleaner cost about $50.00 and the attachments about $14.00.
  • In 1938 about 70% of vacuum cleaners were sold by door-to-door salesmen. In Australia in 1993 a salesman, attempting to illustrate the quality of his machine, confidently tipped a pile of dirt on to a family's brand-new carpet. When the cleaner failed to remove the sooty mound, the salesman was attacked by the irate couple and ended up in hospital.
  • today the Dyson accounts for 20 per cent of all vacuum cleaner sales in America.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised April 27, 2007..
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