History of Vacuums

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.

US Patent 29077

1869 Whirlwind – 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!

U.S. Patent 91,145

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

horse-drawn vacuum

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

Really, really old vacuum cleaner

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 and his vacuum

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

Hand-held vacuum cleaner

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

Adorable little robot vacuum cleaner

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

Miele Scout RX1

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?

If so, call or visit one of our stores today.


Absolutely great service! They gave me a free estimate on my Riccar and pin-pointed the exact issue. My vacuum has since worked great after they repaired the motor. I highly recommend this place to anybody! Hunter Miller


Incredible product knowledge for both sewing and vacuums. Great service, the owner and staff try to go above and beyond to help. Plus they sell top of the line Riccar vacuums. Highly recommend!! Mathew Ralphs