Bissell, Booth, Sprangler, Hoover

Vacuums are an everyday sort of thing, aren’t they? Almost every home has some sort of vacuum. Perhaps it’s older or perhaps newer, but its always there. Now, turn the clock back one hundred and fifty years – vacuums aren’t just uncommon, they’re completely unknown. Carpet cleaning was done in the Spring when you would haul your rugs outside and beat them with sticks to remove the dust. Ineffective as it was, there wasn’t much else anyone could do – that is until the Big 4 came on the scene.

Mr. Bissell
Melville and his wife Anna were the owners of a crockery store who had a problem – sawdust. It always got into their carpet and was annoyingly difficult to remove. When faced with a frustration like this, many of us would just get rid of the rug and be done with it. Mr. Bissell had a different approach. In 1876, he invented a carpet sweeper that swept dust and dirt out of the carpet and into the machine. Seeing how successful the device was, Mr. and Mrs. Bissell started producing and selling the Bissell Carpet Sweeper. This device, while not a vacuum, was one of the first real steps toward a new way of cleaning.

Mr. Booth

In the next 25 years, several carpet cleaning machines were created, including one that used compressed air to blow dust off of furniture. Now, if that doesn’t sound like a terribly effective way to clean, you’d be thinking just like England’s Hubert Cecil Booth. Happening upon a demonstration of the aforementioned machine, he wondered if sucking up the dust wouldn’t be better than blowing it all over creation. To test his theory, he put his handkerchief on a chair and tried sucking dust up through it with his mouth. Strange, yes, but he found it was very effective.
That was proof enough for Mr. Booth, who started to work on what some consider the first real vacuum cleaner. His machine, the Puffing Billy, wasn’t exactly normal looking. It was bright red, large, had to be pulled by horses, and had enormous hoses that were extended into homes to clean the carpets. Despite this, the device was quite popular and is usually considered one of the first real vacuum cleaners.

Mr. Spangler & Mr. Hoover
About five years later, back in America, James Spangler was in a tough spot. He was a janitor with asthma – not an ideal combination – and was plagued with a cough. He blamed it on the carpet sweeper he was using and set about to make something better. His contraption greatly resembled modern carpet cleaners and, while a bit clunky, worked very well. With his cough rapidly disappearing, he declared the invention a success and patented the device.
But Spangler wasn’t the best salesman, and his “Suction Sweeper” didn’t really take off – that is until he showed it to Mrs. Hoover. She loved the machine, as did Mr. Hoover. He purchased the patent from Spangler and the Hoover Company was born. Over the years, Mr. Hoover’s vacuums continued to evolve – adding beater bars, lights, etc. – until it became the machine we all know today.

We owe these Big 4 quite a bit. To Mr. Bissell we owe the idea that there was a better way to clean. To Mr. Booth we owe one of the first real vacuum cleaners. To Mr. Spangler and Mr. Hoover we owe the modern vacuum cleaners we see in our homes.

Thanks to all of them for cleaner, dust-free homes!

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information. Thanks to Rasbak, the City of Gloucester, and Robert Kautzman for the images.

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