• Before vacuum cleaners existed, people had to take their carpets outside and beat the dirt out of them. Some people cleaned their carpets only once a year during the spring. (The dust mites must’ve loved that!)
  • The first vacuum cleaner, the “Whirlwind,” was invented in Chicago in 1868 by Ives W. McGaffey. The Whirlwind was difficult to use because the operator had to manually turn a crank while pushing it across the floor.
  • Allergy and asthma sufferer Melville Reuben Bissell invented the first successful mechanical “carpet sweeper” in 1876 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Bissell carpet sweeper is still popular today.
  • The first patent for an electric carpet sweeper was granted to Corinne Dufour of Savannah, GA in 1890.
  • In 1901, Hubert Cecil Booth invented a large vacuum cleaner known as the Puffing Billy. The Puffing Billy was first powered by an oil engine and later by an electric motor, but Booth never achieved much success with his large machine, which required a horse-drawn carriage for transport.
  • Walter Griffiths developed an improved manual vacuum cleaner in Birmingham, England in 1905. The operator pumped a bellows-like contraption to suck up dirt through a flexible pipe; this was the first device that resembled a modern vacuum cleaner.
  • Between 1903 and 1913, New Jersey inventor David T. Kennedy was granted nine patents for machines similar to the Puffing Billy and established the Suction Cleaner Company and the American vacuum cleaner industry.
  • Allergy: The Mother of Invention
  • In 1906, motivated by the allergy and asthma attacks he experienced after using his sweeper, janitor James Murray Spangler created an electric vacuum using an electric fan motor, a soap box, a broom handle, and a pillowcase. He also added a rotating brush to loosen dirt and debris. Spangler patented his rotating-brush design in 1908 and eventually sold it to W.H. Hoover of Hoover Harness and Leather Goods Factory. The Hoover company is still a leading manufacturer of vacuum cleaners; as a matter of fact, in Great Britain, “hoover” is often used interchangeably with the word “vacuum” – even as a verb, as in “I hoovered the living room this morning.”

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