1860 Daniel Hess invents the manual vacuum cleaner
“The nature of my invention consists in drawing fine dust and dirt through the machine by means of a draft of air.” It’s credited as the first to do so, though it was manually operated and never went into production, as hand-operated bellows were too much of a hassle.
1869 Whirlwind by Ives W. McGaffey
Rather than using a bellows, Ives McGaffey used a hand-operated fan to make his vacuum work. Well, it kind of worked, but being manually operated, it was still difficult to use. It was about the equivalent of $450 today, and you still had to do all the work!
1898 John Thurman – Pneumatic Carpet Renovator
The next step in the right direction was the addition of a motor. This first model used a gasoline-powered motor to blow air and was used on a horse-drawn carriage. Thurman would tow his carpet cleaner around St. Louis and make house calls, charing $4 per visit. It was very loud and it scared the horses.
1901 The Puffing Billy – Hubert Cecil Booth
According to his account, Booth saw an invention similar to Thurman’s in London, and then reversed the flow of air to make the “Puffing Billy”. Booth would pull his vacuum cleaner around London for high-profile jobs, including Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Windsor Castle. Wealthy clients bought their own models, and a few were built into the homes of the rich; much like a central vacuum unit.
1906 James Kirby – Domestic Cyclone
James Kirby begins a successful career in vacuum design with the Domestic Cyclone. This was one of the first vacuums that used water to filter the exhaust which helped to avoid spreading dust and dirt throughout the air. Some models were hand-operated, while a more expensive version utilized an electric motor.
1907 James Spangler Electric Suction Sweeper
Spangler, designed his original prototype using a broom, pillowcase, and electric motor. It was upright, portable, and used a motor-driven brush for carpet agitation. This was the first model of what we now call the modern vacuum. Lacking the resources to go into mass production, Spangler sold the invention to his cousin’s husband, William Hoover.
1908 Hoover creates Spangler’s design, Model O $60
Hoover invested a lot of resources into Spangler’s prototype to produce the Model O version. This was the first commercially available, “modern” vacuum cleaner. It was a tough business, but Hoover supplied stores with test models to use, offering customers a free 10-day trial. It became a sweeping success.
1920 The Air-Way Sanitary System
The Air-Way was light, it swiveled, and the hollow handle pulled out to operate as a hose, negating a need for other attachments. Most importantly, it came to the market including a disposable, filtered bag; an innovation all other manufacturers would copy as soon as the patent expired.
1924 Electrolux designs the first canister vacuum
These tank style vacuums made a big impression with their durability and metal runners. Electrolux became an immediate success with the introduction of this model. They have since carried a reputation for durability and good engineering into future generations.
1954 Hoover Constellation
Even now, I think most people would find the Constellation pretty neat. This little guy used its own exhaust to float on a cushion of air. The early models didn’t work particularly well on carpets, but if you had hardwood floors, you might enjoy using one. They have become a bit of a collector’s item, as of late.
1969 Hoover – Self-Propelled Vacuums
Hoover releases the model 1170 Dial-A-Matic, the first self-propelled vacuum cleaner. It could be directed through the touch of a single finger. Good thing, too — it was really heavy.
1979 Black and Decker DustBuster
Black and Decker’s first patent went not to a power tool, but to a household appliance. Over a million were sold in the first year, which is four times more than the total market of handhelds the year before.
1986 Dyson and the Dual Cyclone
The problem with earlier bagged models is that they lost suction and airflow as the bag was filled and dirtied. Engineer, James Dyson, after 5,000+ practice runs, used cyclonic separation to blow dirt and debris into a bin, and after the air had been filtered is was let back out. Just about every major manufacturer has since produced their own version of bagless, cyclonic vacuums.
1997 Electrolux Trilobite
A trilobite is an extinct bug that scoured the ocean floor for sustenance. The Electrolux Trilobite is much the same kind of thing, being the first completely autonomous robot vacuum cleaner. It could map rooms, avoid objects, and return to its own charger.
2014 Miele Scout RX-1
The Scout is a smart little robot, able to map rooms, avoid collisions, and it knows where it can and cannot go (such as stairways). This little guy knows how to find his own charger and can return to where he left off once he has returned to full power. The Scout RX-1 wasn’t the first automated vacuum cleaner, but it is the most advanced model to date. Learn more about the Scout, here!
Do you find yourself in need of a new vacuum? Ever feel like you’re still using a machine from the 1940’s?
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