Who Was The Inventor of the First Vacuum Cleaner?


first vacuum cleaner

The vacuum cleaner is a staple of every household. It is highly likely that you use the vacuum cleaner at least once a week; in fact many households will resonate to the hum of the vacuum on a daily basis.

This is often the case if you have pets; their hair can get everywhere and you will need the best vacuum for pet hair possible to keep your home looking just how you like it.

Of course, the vacuum cleaner is taken for granted; it has been in existence for many years. This is one of the reasons why it can certainly be described as a life changing invention and one that has very interesting origins:

The Invention of the First Vacuum Cleaner

Before vacuum cleaners, there were brushes; these were very effective at moving dirt and dust around if not actually removing it from your home. It was not until the late 1860’s that cleaning your home became much easier.

The first recorded example of a vacuum cleaner was actually a carpet sweeper. It was developed by Daniel Hess and it literally gathered dust by pushing it across the floor. The act of pushing turned the rotor to create a similar effect to sweeping.

Manual Pumps

McGaffey Whirlwing Vacuum

In 1868, a Chicago based inventor called McGaffey invented a vacuum cleaner which he called the ‘Whirlwind’.

Unfortunately, you needed to crank a handle whilst pushing it to create the necessary suction. It was not particularly powerful or effective as well as being difficult to operate.

This can be called the first vacuum cleaner to be made commercially available. Of course, the price and difficulty in using it prevented it from being a huge success.

Powered Pumps

This was the logical next step forward, why manually crank a vacuum when it can be powered by a motor?

In 1901 the British inventor Hubert Booth is recorded as being one of the first to create a vacuum which actually used suction on the floor.

Prior to this the focus was on blowing air across the floor to dislodge dirt.


Booth original vacuumHubert Booth was not alone! At the same time as the release of his invention, an American; known as David T. Kenny created a similar device. The main difference was the engine used to power the vacuum.

Booth used a horse drawn combustion engine and is believed to be the first person to use the phrase ‘vacuum cleaner’. In contrast, David Kenny used a steam engine; this could not be moved!

Whilst these were certainly the first examples of the powered vacuum cleaners in use today; they were not practical examples of these machines.

First portable vacuum cleanerFortunately it took just a few short years for these massive vacuum cleaners to be shrunk. By 1905 Walter Griffiths was manufacturing a vacuum which is similar in appearance to modern machines.

Its biggest benefit was that it could be used by just one person and it was portable!


The next few years saw advancement in vacuum technology as various inventors offered variations of the common theme. Perhaps of greatest interest is the first electric vacuum; it was designed in 1907 by James Spangler.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, James Spangler subsequently sold his patent to William Henry Hoover who produced the first electric Vacuum cleaner. His company, Hoover, is still in existence today!

Vacuum cleaners remained much the same for the first half of the 20th century. It was only after the war that they became a common household item.

How Did the Vacuum Cleaner Change Society?

The obvious answer to this is that it made the job of cleaning the house significantly easier. A powered vacuum can be pushed round the home by virtually anyone; it is no longer necessary to complete back breaking sweeping, carpet bashing and even mopping.

In fact, there were several other significant impacts created by the arrival of the vacuum cleaner:

      • Woman’s work – In the early days of the vacuum cleaner, women were traditionally at home looking after the children. The vacuum allowed for faster removal of dirt but also served to contain a woman to the home. Effectively making her a domestic slave!This was a direct effect of the vacuum cleaners efficiency and ease of use. Cleaning the home was no longer something done every few months; it could be done every week!


      • Cleanliness – despite the best efforts of any cleaner, sweeping and even mopping could not achieve the same level of dirt removal as a vacuum cleaner. The suction created literally forced dirt into the vacuum and removed breeding grounds for bacteria.As a result the home has less germs and bacteria; illness rates have been reduced and even allergies have become easier to control. In modern society, the invention of hypoallergenic vacuum cleaners has dramatically reduced the issues faced by those with allergies.


      • Free Time – As the vacuum cleaner has developed it has become possible to keep your home clean with as little as a half an hour vacuum every day.If you combine this with the ability for women to work, and the changing standards of family life, you will quickly note that the vacuum cleaner has enabled everyone to benefit from more free time. Time is an incredibly precious commodity in the busy, modern world. Being able to minimize the time spent on chores improves the amount of time a family can spend together. This is essential to encourage growth and companionship whilst guiding the younger members of the family.


  •  In addition, the latest vacuum cleaners to become available are capable of operating autonomously.It is no longer necessary to do anything more than turn them on.In fact, it is likely that soon this will be done via your smart phone or the device will simply turn itself on and off; returning to a charging point in the process.

  • Summary

    The vacuum cleaner has developed in stages. The result is a job which would, one hundred years ago, have taken hours or even days; can now be completed in a matter of minutes. This can be achieved just by turning on your autonomous vacuum cleaner.

    Of course, the autonomous version is not suitable for every home yet; you may prefer to look at this guide to discover the best vacuum cleaner for your home

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