The Evolution of Vacuum Cleaners: From Mystery Contraptions to Modern-Day Marvels

One thing we can always be certain of is that things change over time. Nothing can stop this from happening. People change, technology changes, situations change as well. Change is inevitable! Look back at your own life, for example.

The Mystery Contraption

How much has actually changed? Especially when it comes to advancements in technology. It can be rather scary to look back and see just how much has evolved. But, it can also be quite refreshing!

Remember this “thing” from the 1930s? Unless you were around back then, chances are you won’t know what it is. Don’t worry, you are not alone. It’s a 1930’s vacuum cleaner called the Hercules! Quite odd-looking, isn’t it? Can you guess how it worked?

The Retro Vacuum Cleaner

You would be completely forgiven for not knowing what this contraption is. But, we guess you really want to know! This funny-looking item that looks like a flask or some sort of carrier is actually a 1930’s vacuum cleaner, known as the Hercules! This retro vacuum is a far cry from the hoovers we have today. In fact, right now, I am watching my Roomba® clean my floor while I type this! Can you imagine what life back then must have been like? How exciting and innovative a machine like this was for the time? And yet, today, we all take for granted just how easy our lives have become thanks to technology and progression.

The Hercules Vacuum cleaner was a very stylish and sophisticated machine back then. The one pictured above was covered in crocodile skin, making it quite an expensive purchase. What made it even more of a luxurious item is that it was sold during the great depression – a time when many families were not even able to make ends meet, let alone buy a Hercules. If you did know what this item was, try showing your kids and see if they manage to guess! They definitely won’t know what this is!

The Humble Beginnings

Did you know the humble broom was not even perfected until the year 1797? A farmer from Massachusetts decided to create one that worked properly after watching his wife struggle to sweep. Soon, his broom, known as broomcorn, became a household name. Of course, as time went by, people got lazier! A few new sweepers and brooms came and went, and it wasn’t until the 1860s when Daniel Hess created the first real vacuum cleaner. According to his patent: “The nature of my invention consists in drawing fine dust and dirt through the machine by means of a draft of air.”

Then, in 1869, Ives McGaffey of Chicago took it even further. Although, his design was actually harder to use than a regular broom. His patent reads: “The accumulation of dust and dirt in dwelling-houses is a source of great annoyance to all good housekeepers… to obviate these difficulties is the object of my invention.” Sadly, his invention did not take off.

The Revolutionary Hoover

Many designs came and went. But it was James Murray Spangler who revolutionized the vacuum cleaner. A Humble Janitor, aged 60, living in Canton, Ohio, James slaved away to perfect his design. It even took a toll on his health. His machine was better than the rest because not only was it upright, but it was also portable. The crude machine worked well, sucking dirt and blowing it out the back into the attached pillowcase. Spangler patented it in 1907 and quit his job, opening the Electric Suction Sweeper Company.

“It used a ceiling fan motor and paddle blades to create the air flow… he used a leather belt and journaled it to a rotating brush that he had gotten out of a carpet sweeper… No one was able to get the carpet that clean because they didn’t have a motor-driven brush.“

The Hoover was then born when he ran into financial trouble, selling his company to his cousin, Susan Hoover!

As we look back on the evolution of vacuum cleaners, we can’t help but appreciate how far we’ve come. Who would have thought that a contraption like the Hercules would eventually lead to the convenience of modern-day vacuum cleaners like the Hoover? It’s truly amazing to see how technology has transformed our lives and made our daily chores so much easier. So the next time you’re using your vacuum cleaner, take a moment to appreciate the history behind it and be grateful for the innovations that have made our lives better.

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