How was it before vacuum cleaners

History: the vacuum cleaner and its development

There are around 40 million private households in Germany. It can be assumed that there are at least as many vacuum cleaners there. There are also devices from service providers and companies. A mass market. However, there are significant differences between the devices. Last but not least, this is due to the history of the vacuum cleaner.

The beginnings of vacuum cleaner development do not go back that far. However, it has picked up speed significantly in the last few decades and spawned a number of completely different approaches. These explain the variety of vacuum cleaners. A little more than a hundred years ago, the various techniques were not foreseeable for a long time. It is worthwhile to take a look at the history of the cleaning device that appears to be taken for granted today.

Table of Contents

The beginnings: washing fur and beating the carpet

The people laid out their camps and dwellings with fur, animal skins and later carpets at an early stage. When using these documents, there was also a need for cleaning. Partly water was used. However, carpets were shaken out alone or by several people. Aids such as a broom or carpet beater later appeared, which until a few decades ago were typical cleaning tools in many households.

  • The carpet broom has been in use since at least around 2,300 BC. People literally swept out their carpets and floors with the device. However, this had a negative impact. Both the carpet and the broom suffered from being swept up. In 1797 the farmer Levi Dickenson invented a more robust carpet sweeper. This consisted of stalks of millet and was convincing due to its greater stability. The millet whisk was born. From 1850, the term broom maize became established.
  • The carpet beater is much older. Depending on the region and processing, this consisted of willow or rattan, for example. A racket was created with the basket-making technique. People used this to knock out carpets with it. That was laborious, because the carpets first had to be brought outside and hung over a line or a beam. Sometimes parents alienated the carpet cleaner as a punishment device.

Technology for cleaning: first devices for removing dirt

The first developments towards the modern vacuum cleaner were very rough and not yet targeted. However, the following data was essential for the further history of the vacuum cleaner. Without these intermediate steps, the development into a modern device would hardly have been conceivable.

1858: first patent registered

The inventor Hiram H. Herrick registered a patent in the USA. However, his carpet sweeper never saw the trade.

1860: Patent for the Carpet Sweeper

Already in 1860 the inventor received Daniel Hess a patent on a device he called the Carpet Sweeper. Remarkable: He integrated a system with water tanks in which the dirt could be collected and rinsed out. His invention is now considered to be groundbreaking in vacuum cleaner history, although it did not catch on.

1865: Whirlwind by Ives W. McGaffey

Another construction similar to a vacuum cleaner goes to the American Ives W. McGaffey back. He invented a device with which he removed dirt from the carpet using a hand crank (see patent). There was a vacuum effect, but it was difficult to operate. For cleaning, the crank had to be operated on the one hand, and the device had to be pushed across the floor on the other. The American Carpet Cleaning Company began selling the model in 1869.

1876: Melville Bissell's bellows

Significantly more vacuum cleaners was the invention of Melville Bissell (see patent). However, it was a huge bellows called Grand Rapid, which several people had to operate using kicks and cranks. The dust extractor blew away the dirt, it did not suck it up. Only a little later did the inventor add a collection bag. After his death, his wife Anna Bissell took over the specially founded company Bissel Carpet Sweepers.

1899: the pneumatic carpet renewer

The American John S. Thurman invented his pneumatic carpet renewer at the end of the 19th century. It was a gas-powered dust blower that loosened the dirt and blew it away. The General Compressed Air Company offered a $ 4 cleaning service. The device came to the house in a horse and cart. Attached hoses were laid by the cleaners in the house.

1900: sponges hold the dirt

Corinne Dufour improved the previous models of the Carpet Sweeper with sponges (see patent). This water-soaked device sucked the dirt out of the carpet after the fan had loosened the dirt. The model had an electric motor. But it didn't catch on.

The invention of the first motorized vacuum cleaner

The laurels for the first “real” motorized vacuum cleaner fall to the British Hubert Cecil Booth to. After months of development, he made his breakthrough at the beginning of the 20th century and his concept for a high-pressure cleaner was able to successfully pass the practical test. Rumor has it that the inventor is supposed to be his Initial idea from Thurman's device have received. Booth concluded that the dirt had to be sucked in better than blown away.

1901: Booth invents the first vacuum cleaner

The first version of Booth's Vaccum Cleaner was anything but handy. It consisted of a heavy construction with meter-long hoses, the heart of which was a suction pump. This first motorized vacuum cleaner had to be transported by horse and cart. The result: wealthy citizens and workers ordered the device. These vacuumed the floor and seats. There are even said to have been parties at which the hosts and friends enjoyed watching the goings-on and admired the technology.

Booth developed his so-called suction truck further. He placed the vacuum cleaner in basement rooms, from where the house could be vacuumed with hoses. The centrally positioned construction, however, was as oversized as its mobile vacuum cleaner. Nevertheless, this construction was typical for many models over the next few decades. The vacuum cleaners were often connected to centrally installed pipe systems through which the dirt was sucked into the actual device. The hose connection was changed over and over again during operation.

Rapid development: from the first vacuum cleaner to the present day

In the period that followed, there was real competition between the developers. Everyone wanted to win the market for themselves with a new improvement. With ever new changes in technology and ergonomics, there has been a rapid development of the vacuum cleaner. The advances did not always build on each other, but initially ran largely in parallel. The story begins with a handheld vacuum cleaner and ends with vacuum robots.

1905: The first portable vacuum cleaner

On Walter Griffiths goes the first electric vacuum cleaner back, which both used real suction technology and was portable.

1906: Vacuum cleaner on wheels

Hermann Bogenschild, who immigrated from Germany, patented a vacuum cleaner on wheels in the USA. The device had an electric motor, a filter system and a hose. The patent is considered to be one of the templates for the development of modern cylinder vacuum cleaners and kettle vacuums.

In the same year, James B. Kirby patented a vacuum cleaner that collected dirt in water containers.
Siemens presented its dedusting pump. This was the company's first vacuum cleaner-like machine.

1907: Hoover invents the dust extractor pump

Despite its extremely unwieldy size, Booth's vacuum cleaner device enjoyed success in Europe. That did not go unnoticed. The leather manufacturer William H. Hoover tried to make the construction of Booth much more compact. Together with his co-worker Murray Spangler - the actual inventor - he succeeded in developing the dust extraction pump, which was already reminiscent of today's vacuum cleaner.

A sack to catch the dirt was integrated in a box. A fan driven by a power cable provided the required suction pressure. Nevertheless, it took almost ten years before the device was ready for the market as Model 0.

1910: The electric motor becomes manageable

Charles Beach, Frederick Osius and Louis Hamilton worked on the drive for vacuum cleaners. They succeeded in greatly reducing the size of the previous electric motor and designing it for direct current and alternating current. In doing so, they had invented the forerunner for all other vacuum cleaner drives. By downsizing the motor, the manufacturers subsequently succeeded in producing significantly lighter vacuum cleaners.

1912: Elektrolux offers the first vacuum cleaner

Axel Wenner-Gren launched the Lux I for his Swedish company Electrolux. A company that is still the leading vacuum cleaner brand today intervened in the competition.

1914: AEG offers the Santos

AEG followed suit shortly after Siemens. The Santos vacuum cleaner was comparatively compact and only weighed around 30 kilograms. However, the price of around 550 Reichsmarks was unaffordable for most households at the time.

1916: Hoover's Model 0 is ready for the market

The Hoover Model 0 finally hit the market this year. It later contained an exchangeable disposable bag that hangs in a suction bag. Even rotating brushes to loosen the dust were already installed. This made the Hoover the first handy and affordable handheld vacuum cleaner on the market. Company boss William H. Hoover was far-sighted enough to buy all rights from his developer Spangler. His company developed into the first real vacuum cleaner manufacturer. He succeeded in sweeping Booth off the market with his permanently installed machines.

1920/1921: Model V from Electrolux

The Model V from Elektrolux appeared. This vacuum cleaner was already similar to the company's current devices and was very popular. The teat was on a sled, not on rollers.
Air-Way Sanitizor from Toledo was the first to bring devices with interchangeable bags to the market. However, this information is controversial because Hoover's model 0 was also equipped with exchangeable bags in the collection bag early on.

1926: Cleaner with “beater bar”

Hoover improved the cleanup. The company added a bar (“beater bar”) to the brushes on the suction nozzle. As a result, the dirt came off the floor more easily and the suction power was noticeably better.

1927: Hoovering in the Royal Palace

The British Queen Anne honored Hoover. The company became the royal purveyor to the court for vacuum cleaners.

1920s / 1930s: vacuum cleaners in Germany

In Germany, the market for the new suction devices also grew. The cleaning machines became mass-produced goods for the wealthy. Most of the sales took place at the doorstep. The vacuum cleaner salesman was an increasingly common profession.

AEG with the bag vacuum cleaner Vampyr and Siemens with the boiler vacuum cleaner Protos (as early as 1925) contributed significantly to the success. The models were affordable and lighter, so more and more households of wealthy citizens could purchase these vacuum cleaners.

Nevertheless, until the Second World War, the vacuum cleaner truck was not an untypical sight in the streets. Cleaning companies drove through the cities with suction devices and offered vacuuming of upholstery and carpets. For many households, this approach was significantly cheaper than buying a device.

Large suction devices were still permanently installed in parallel in some houses. The system used by Booth for the first time lost its importance due to the increasing number of small handheld vacuum cleaners.

1930: first model made of plastic

The vacuum cleaner was no longer made of metal. The first model with a plastic case came on the market in 1930.
Vorwerk released the Kobold model in Germany. It became a box office hit through direct sales at the doorstep, selling over 100,000 copies. Kobold is still Vorwerk's vacuum cleaner brand today.

1931: Miele's model L with torpedo shape

Miele sold the L. For the first time, the vacuum cleaner had a "torpedo shape." The manufacturers of these devices still orientate themselves on this today. The pointed shape is now more cuboid, but is still reminiscent of the original. The L model already has a carpet brush and rubber shock absorber.

1950: Hand vacuum cleaner on the style

The first light handheld vacuum cleaner on a guide bar came on the market. The bag and the motor are mounted on the rod, at the end of which the suction nozzle sucks in the dirt. In the following years this device became the standard for handheld vacuum cleaners.

1954: Hoover lets the vacuum cleaner float

Hoover converted the exhaust air into some kind of drive. The vacuum cleaner blew the cleaned air down so that the container could be pulled across the floor. The hovercraft system was similar to that of a hovercraft.

1955: Triple nozzle at Miele

Miele became more and more the German market leader for vacuum cleaners. The new President S model had a triple nozzle and could therefore be used on all types of soil.

1950s / 1960s: vacuum cleaners become affordable

It was only after the war and the economic boom that the prices for vacuum cleaners fell. The devices became not only more handy, but also affordable. As a result, the cleaning devices replaced the carpet beater and feather duster. Almost every household soon had its own vacuum cleaner. That was also necessary. Because during the reconstruction and post-war buildings, wooden floorboards and parquet increasingly gave way to permanently laid carpets. The need for cleaning increased accordingly.

Some housewives (at that time this distribution of roles was common) did not trust the new technology and did not want to do without the carpet beater. Miele then launched a vacuum cleaner that could be supplemented with a beater attachment. This knocked on the floor while vacuuming and thus loosened the dust. The combination was a flop that didn't prevail.

1960s commercial for Hoover Vacuum Cleaner -

1969: Hoover introduces self-propelled vacuum cleaners

Once again, Hoover offered an innovation. The company introduced the first vacuum cleaner with a self-propelled suction fan.

1979: The first cordless electric vacuum cleaner appears

Black & Decker introduced a cordless vacuum cleaner (see patent). The DustBuster was powered by a battery and was therefore the forerunner of the later emerging cordless vacuum cleaners.

1980/1983: Dyson sucks without a bag

After manufacturers continued to improve their devices and make them more ergonomic, James Dyson set an exclamation point at the end of the 1970s. He significantly advanced the technological development by inventing the first vacuum cleaner without a bag. He used a cyclone technology. The air is sucked in and made to rotate. Since dirt is heavier than air, it is pushed outwards and caught.

He patented his idea in 1980. The advantage: Since the bag has so far reduced the suction power of the competing models with increasing filling quantity, the Dyson impressed for the first time with constant suction power. In 1983, a Japanese company took its vacuum cleaner into its range for around $ 2,000. The inventor built up his company Dyson from the license fees.

1980s: Cordless vacuum cleaners hit the market

Manufacturers increasingly took up battery operation. Cordless vacuum cleaners came on the market as handheld vacuum cleaners in small and large sizes. The weak suction power initially prevented a mass success.

1993: Dyson launches cyclone vacuum cleaner DC01

Again it was Dyson who made a new development. The DC01 was the first cyclone vacuum cleaner with dual cyclone technology. When the air was sucked in, it was better cleaned of dirt and the suction result improved. The device is now considered a model for a new generation of cyclone vacuum cleaners.

1993: Acenta with plastic container

The Hoover brand, which has since been taken over by competitor Maytag, surprised with a new technology. The Acenta model was not only very quiet, it also got by without a bag. This was replaced by a removable plastic container (EcoBox).

1996: Elektrolux revolutionizes the market with vacuum robots

In 1996, Elektrolux introduced its Trilobite vacuum cleaner on a BBC science show. The device worked completely autonomously and was considered the first vacuum cleaner robot ready for series production. The first models, however, were prone to errors. In particular, they regularly collided with furniture and objects.

2000s: vacuum robots clean independently

After the turn of the millennium, vacuum robots boomed. The robotics are user-friendly: the models drive independently through the apartment and clean the floor in the process. When the battery is empty or the route has been covered, the helpers drive back to the charging station independently. Most devices can be programmed and come without a bag. The microprocessors that are now available and the sensors that are required to orient the device are essential for vacuuming. Well-known manufacturers are Dirt Devil, iRobot, Medion and Samsung as well as the classic vacuum cleaner brands.

2002: iRobot launches Roomba

The company iRobot presented the Roomba vacuum robot. The device resembled a small disc and was extremely low.In its last series production, it cleaned up to 80 square meters of space. In around 15 years, the company had sold more than 15 million of these devices. This is the top of the range for vacuum robots so far.

2011: sustainable cardboard vacuum cleaner

The Briton Jake Tyler constructed a vacuum cleaner made of cardboard. The flame-retardant, water-repellent device contained only a few plastic parts. So far, its development has remained meaningless.

2018: Dyson relies on batteries and accumulators

Dyson vacuum cleaners are no longer hanging from the cord. In the future, the company wants to concentrate on battery-powered devices.

History of the vacuum cleaner: a look ahead

Over 100 manufacturers offer their vacuum cleaners on the German market. Well-known brands such as Vorwerk / Kobold, Miele, Hoover and Dyson are included as well as unknown manufacturers and own brands of online retailers. They compete for customers in terms of performance, comfort, hygiene and price. It can be clearly seen that the technological progress of the last few decades will continue. The devices become more efficient with higher performance, the noise emissions decrease, the comfort is improved - with relatively stable prices.

There are now developments such as UV lamps embedded in the teat to kill bacilli or anti-bacterial devices. Accumulator and battery operation are increasingly replacing the cable models. At the same time, the market for vacuum robots is growing. There are devices with bags, with removable dirt boxes and versions that do without bags.

This development will continue. Manufacturers will consistently improve their devices in small steps. Sometimes this will have hardly noticeable effects in practical use. But the history of the vacuum cleaner also shows that the next leap in development is certain to come.

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