A Brief History Of The Vacuum Cleaner

A vacuum cleaner is a machine that creates a partial vacuum inside itself, which allows it to suck up dust and debris. The vacuum cleaners we have in our homes today create this vacuum, using an electric air pump; because these motors are electric, we have very powerful vacuums that can suck up dirt trapped in carpets and very hard to reach places. The vacuum cleaner was first patented in 1869 by Ives McGaffey, a Chicago inventor, as a hand pump device he called “Whirlwind,” which was used to suck up dirt from rugs; however, the first vacuum cleaner dates back even further than McGaffey’s so-called Whirlwind.

The idea to mechanize floor cleaning to yield better results dates back to 1599, in England. Back then if someone wanted to clean out their rugs or curtains, they’d have to hang them on a wall and beat the dust out of them; which was in no way an elegant method and probably resulted in damaged fabric, too. Unfortunately, all we know is that the idea that led to the advent of the first Vacuum cleaner came up back then but the actual credit for piecing together a dust gathering conception might still go to McGaffey and his Whirlwind. Now that we’ve covered some background, here’s a chronicle of how the vacuum cleaner went from being a wood and canvas contraption to the high-powered 6000w industrial vacuum machines we see today.


john-thurmanA gentleman from St Louis by the name of John Thurman invented a gasoline powered vacuum cleaning system that he drew from door to door, by horse, offering his cleaning services for a reasonable charge of $4 a visit. Historians regard Thurman’s vacuum cleaner as the first motorized vacuum cleaning machine.

At the same time, in 1901, a British engineer by the name of Hubert Cecil Booth also patented a vacuum cleaner that was fuelled by petrol and drawn by a horse. Booth too offered his services door to door and inn to inn. These vacuum cleaners were both large and noisy and probably emitted too much carbon-heavy smoke for the cleaning they did.


A janitor in an Ohio department store by the name of James Spangler created a makeshift vacuum cleaner by attaching a fan motor to a soap box appended to a broom handle, with a pillow case as a pin to collect dust. He improved his makeshift cleaning solution and got a patent by 1908. Spangler later formed the Electric Suction Sweeper Company which he later sold to his cousin, William Hoover (that’s right, that’s where the ‘Hoover vac’ came from).


Disposable filter bags were introduced to the vacuum cleaner by a company in Ohio known as Air-way Sanitizor Company. This was when the vacuum cleaners became home friendly machines that anyone could use.

The ever so popular Cyclon vacuum cleaner was invented by James Dyson later on. And there you have it, a brief history of how the vacuum cleaner came to be what it is today.

Leave a Reply