A History of Vacuum Cleaners Part Two: They Just Keep Sucking - Parker & Sons Skip to content

A History of Vacuum Cleaners Part Two: They Just Keep Sucking

As we last left the vacuum cleaner, the most modern device discussed had been John S. Thurman’s “pneumatic carpet renovator.” The “carpet renovator,” was powered by gasoline and accomplished its “renovations” by blowing dust and debris off of an offending dirty surface, rather than through suction like most modern devices.

The next great innovation came in 1901 as Hubert Cecil Booth of England invented the first ever motorized vacuum cleaner. The idea came to Booth after he saw a demonstration of a rather less elegant American rendition of the vacuum cleaner perform by relocating dust from say, on top of a table to spread about the floor (much like the “pneumatic carpet renovator”). He is quoted as saying, “if the system could be reversed, and a filter inserted between the suction apparatus and the outside air, whereby the dust would be retained in a receptacle, the real solution of the hygienic removal of dust would be obtained.”

True brilliance. Booth had reached the shocking realization that through suction, dust could be removed from a room rather than just simply moved around. Booth’s first invention was nicknamed “Puffing Billy.” It was powered by an internal combustion engine, the same type of engine that powers cars! While Booth’s “Puffing Billy,” was an innovative invention, it was unfortunately too large to be brought into any buildings.

Rather than sell his one-of-a-kind devices Booth formed the British Vacuum Cleaner Company and sold cleaning services. Booth’s cleaning services were reportedly excellent and customers were routinely delighted by the pristine condition of their homes following a session with “Puffing Billy.” Neighbors were less enthusiastic as Booth was often cited for extreme noise violations and once fined for “frightening horses.”

Late in 1901 Booth officially made it to the big time when he was hired to clean Westminster Abbey for the coronation of Edward VII.

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