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Pneumatic Cleaner: The First Vacuum or a Medical Procedure

Written By: Christine Dantz

June 2016

If you guessed vacuum cleaner, you were right! Although, you have to admit, it sounds like the lung equivalent of a colon cleanse. The "pneumatic carpet renovator" was a carpet cleaning invention patented in 1899 by John S. Thurman of St. Louis, Missouri. Until 1860, you only had one way to clean a floor, and that was sweeping it with a broom. But, as more people added carpeting, people needed a better way to clean a soiled carpet. Thurman's carpet cleaner, powered by gasoline, was the first known attempt to improve the manual vacuum cleaner.

***Pneumatic Cleaner: The First Vacuum

Patent illustration of a Bissell carpet sweeper (left) and the underside (right).

The first patent was filed in 1876 by Melville R. Bissell, an entrepreneur in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the carpet sweeper, the predecessor to the vacuum cleaner. Bissell and his wife were owners of a small crockery shop and were looking for an easier way to clean the sawdust plaguing their floors.

As many useful inventions start, Melville Bissell built the first carpet sweeper to achieve that task, and his customers took notice. He realized he could sell his carpet sweepers and began selling the manual floor cleaners. Unfortunately, Bissell died from pneumonia in 1889 and never got to see the full success of his company, which took off after Queen Victoria became a fan of the product. It is still a leader in floor care today.

By 1908, the vacuum cleaner went electric

By 1908, the vacuum cleaner went electric! Murray Spangler, a department store janitor in Canton, Ohio, upgraded the domestic vacuum cleaner to the electric suction sweeper with a rotating brush to loosen the debris embedded in the carpet. Spangler was unable to manufacture the electric suction sweeper on his own, so, not long after he filed the patent, he sold his design to a leather goods manufacturer, William Henry Hoover. He would improve Spangler's design to add steel casings, and in 1922, he rebranded his business as the Hoover Company.

An advertisement for a hand-powered vacuum cleaner in 1910 by the  Regina Company. The company, founded in 1889, originally sold music boxes, as  the magazine ad mentions

(An advertisement for a hand-powered vacuum cleaner in 1910 by the Regina Company. The company, founded in 1889, originally sold music boxes, as the magazine ad mentions.)

Today, inventors are still working on the perfect vacuum, but, the idea is still the same more than 100-years later; clean the floor of dust, dirt, and other particles without inhaling the toxins into your lungs!

About Hoover. (n.d.). Retrieved from Hoover.
Daderot. (2011, January 18). File: NMAH DC-IMG 8859.jpg. Retrieved from Wikimedia commons.
Our History: A History of Good Business Since 1876. (n.d.). Retrieved from Bissell.
The Regina Company via The National Georgraphic Magazine. (1910, October). File: Vacuum cleaner 1910.jpg. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
Thurman, J. S. (1898, November 14). Patent No. US634042 A.
Yubalem, A. E. (1946, July 20). Traces Ancestry of Juke Box. Retrieved from Google books.
Zahuranec, T., & Saunders, C. (1991, July 17). File: Carpet sweeper.png. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.


Other Articles of Interest:

A History of Traveling in Cars with Dogs

Cocaine: America's First Cure-All Drug

Vintage Lysol: All-Purpose Disinfectant and Feminine Hygiene Product?

Elizabeth Jennings Graham: The Rosa Parks 1855


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