The History of Vacuum Cleaners: How Did It All Start?

Vacuum-cleaning your house may seem ordinary to us today. However, have we ever asked ourselves this simple question – What is the history behind vacuum cleaners that are found in almost every household today? Who invented them?

The history of the vacuum cleaner has a long and interesting story that dates back to as early as the 1800s. Perhaps dust doesn’t seem to bother you, but that never happens to allergy sufferers. They need them for survival.

The carpet is one unknown killer that lies right in your living room. It is the greatest haven for dust mites, mold spores, lint, soil particles and other allergens that may cause many problems.

However, thanks to our original inventors that came up with a device that rescues a million lives today. Let’s begin with how it all started.

The Early Days

Before the vacuum cleaners were invented, people had less clue about how much effect the carpet allergens had on their lives. The dust mites must have enjoyed those days because most homeowners cleaned their carpets after a year or so.

One felt it was time to clean the carpet when a single footstep stirred a whirlwind of dust up the air. One would take the carpet outside and use any object to beat the dirt, dust, and other allergens out of the fabric.

Today, the story is different after someone spotted a problem right in our homes we clean our carpets on a regular basis.  Let’s talk about the history of vacuum cleaners.

old vacuum

The First Vacuum Cleaners

1860: Daniel Hess

It is rumored that the first attempts to clean the carpet using machines dating back to as early as the 1600s. However, the first documentary evidence gives credit to Daniel Hess of the West Union, Iowa who invented the machine that used spinning brushed to stir up dust and used bellows to collect the debris in a container.

1868: McGaffey of Chicago

Ives W. McGaffey was the first man to invent the first-hand machine that could clean rugs. He called it “Whirlwind” It was the first device to receive a patent. It was had to operate as it required the user to manually turn on the crank before pushing it across the floor. His work was a great improvement to Hess’s early invention.

1876: Melville Reuben Bissell

Bissell was an allergy sufferer who couldn’t withstand all that dirt hidden in the carpet fabrics. He, therefore, invented the first mechanical carpet sweeper. Thanks to his keen eye for his saw a potential market in his Michigan, Rapids, and Grand neighborhood.

To boost sales, he would demonstrate how a handful of dirt would disappear into the changing contraption of his carpet sweeper. He reduced the burden of using the bulky whirlwind invented by Ives. His model could also be operated with one hand.

1898: John Thurman

He invented the first gasoline-powered vacuum cleaner and received his patent on October 3, 1899. His horse-drawn door to door services led to his popularity in St. Louis. According to history, he invented the first motorized cleaner that blew dust, lint, and other debris in a cyclone which was then directed into a container.

1901: Hubert Cecil Booth

Booth was a British engineer who invented a petrol-driven vacuum cleaner. Even though the cleaner took the form of a large horse-driven unit, he was the first person to come up with a device that sucked dust. His invention remains to be a remarkable milestone in the evolution of vacuum cleaners. He received his patent on August 30th, 1901.

1907: James Murray Spangler


This genius did invent the first portable electric vacuum cleaner. It was started when he realized the carpet cleaner he used stirred a lot of dust into the air, the reason for his cough. He used a fan motor, soapbox, broom handle, and a pillowcase as a dust collector to make his vacuum cleaner.

Later in 1908, he received a patent for his invention after improving his basic model using cleaning attachments and a cloth filter bag. His cousin was among the beneficiaries of his work. He then formed the Electric Suction Sweeper Company. Unfortunately, Spangler didn’t make much from his invention.

In 1908, he decided to sell his patent to William Henry Hoover who made the business explode. Up to know, the word “Hoover” is used in place of “Vacuum” because of the popularity of the Hoover cleaners in the UK and USA.

World War II: Modern Vacuum Cleaners Coming Home

After several years of vacuum cleaner evolution, “High-Efficiency Particulate Air” HEPA was introduced during World War II to remove radioactive particles from the air. Since then, the evolution of vacuum cleaners has taken a different direction. Allergy sufferers are all required to use a vacuum with HEPA filtration whose efficiency is at least 99.97%.

During World War II, vacuum cleaners weren’t seen as a necessity. However, almost all middle-class homes today have at least one vacuum cleaner. More efficient cleaners such as the canister begin to spread across our homes.

Further Evolution: Advanced Technology

Since the late 1990s, several vacuum-related inventions have taken place. One recognizable figure is Kirby who came up with the water filter idea. The aiRider was also introduced in England in 2004 and is sold in the US too.

This is a special technological advancement where the cleaner hovers in the air; there is no contact with the floor. With the rapid advancement in technology, we can only expect cleaners to continue to improve like our current top of the line manufacturers, like Roomba, Miele, and  Electrolux