The Authors of Writes of Passage

The Authors of Writes of Passage

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Suck It Up

We had a moment of silence around our house this week.My vacuum died this week.
I might manage using a washboard. I’ve washed millions of dishes. But living without a vacuum cleaner… sucks. Or doesn’t.

Historically, rugs were hung over a line and hit repeatedly with a carpet beater to pound out as much dirt as possible. This was done once a year for “spring cleaning.”
During the rest of the year, grated potatoes or damp tea leaves were sprinkled on the carpeting and hand swept into a dustpan. If the carpet were too dusty, it could be placed upside down in the snow and jumped upon. (What desperate mother came up with that?)
Bissell, a jeweler, noticed all the bits and dust on his carpet. He invented a carpet sweeper with rotating brushes to pick them up and tidy his shop.

1860 D Hess Created a carpet cleaning machine with suction and a water filter. Though he received a patent, there’s no evidence his machine was ever made. (No wonder! Look at that!)

On June 8, 1869, Chicago inventor Ives McGaffey patented a "sweeping machine” called the Whirlwind. His machine featured most of the components of a modern day upright vacuum cleaner except for a motor. Suction was created by a fan driven by a belt connected to a hand crank at the top of the cleaner. A wood and canvas contraption, it wasn’t easy for one person to work.
(Yes, that's the one I used in my book, Whirlwind.)
All sorts of pumper and plunger and bellow vacuums came into being.
Pumping a stick back and forth, suction built up in a canister connected to a
hose and nozzle. Two people could do it. Plunger or bellows relied on one operator
who yanked up and down on the handle while moving the nozzle on the carpet.

Potato peelings worked better.
(Unless the housewife needed to defend herself. Those vacuums made great weapons!)
1899 John Thurman invented the first motorized vacuum. The horse-drawn,
gasoline-powered machine went door-to-door. One long hose did the job, and by
1903 he charged $4 per visit.

1901 Hubert Cecil Booth developed a petrol-driven
contraption. The machine met with success and made a hit with royalty. The English monarchy bought two of the huge horse-drawn machines, and Booth
entertained the court by replacing parts with glass plates so they could see
the dust being sucked up!
The problem with horse-drawn machines was, their noise spooked other horses and caused all sorts of accidents.
Multiple inventors tried to create something smaller. Corinne Dufour invented a device that sucked dust into a wet sponge. David Kenney designed a huge machine that was installed in a cellar and connected to a network of pipes leading to every room of a house. Noisy, smelly, bulky and unsuccessful, none of the creations did well.

1907 James Spangler, department store janitor decided the carpet sweeper caused his chronic cough. He took invented a new portable, electric vacuum by stapling a soap box to a broom handle and attaching it to an old fan motor. Using a pillow case as a… and used a pillow case to collect the dust collector. Tinkering with a cloth filter bag and cleaning attachments, he patented his vacuum in 1908.

William Hoover bought the rights to Spangler’s vacuum. He altered it so it looked like a cake box and bagpipe contraption. Sales soared after he offered a ten-day trial.

In 1920, the Air-way Sanitizor Company introduced a ‘filter fiber” disposable bag.

1930 Vacuums are made of plastic. Some feature headlights. Let's hear it for the lightweights!
1969 Self-propelled vacuum cleaners make the chore easier.

1993 Dyson’s dual cyclonic action is perfected and marketed

2002 iRobot makes the Roomba—a robot machine.
My husband ordered a replacement vacuum on Ebay that night. It arrived today. I'm more than thankful. The dogs are shedding, and I'm heartily sick of white fur on everything!
So tell me--if you had to suck it up and sacrifice a household appliance, what would you do without?


  1. Sorry...i can do without a vacuum because we just put in wooden floors. Well, not the hardwood, but the laminate, throughout the house! Still need to wash the throw rugs, but no vacuum!
    Also, i done't use a mixer...i stir by hand, except for the few occasional time i need whipped cream!
    mitzi underscore wanham at yahoo dot com

  2. We are in the market for a new vacuum, too......ladies, please comment about your favorite one~~
    Need help! lol A vacuum for carpets.

  3. Jackie, I own a Dyson. Best vacuum I think I've ever owned. The long dog hair does wrap around the beater bar, but that's true of any vacuum.

    I also own a Roomba. You couldn't get by, I don't think, with just the Roomba. Deep cleaning takes a more controlled approach. But for keeping the carpet looking nice, turning on the Roomba once a day and letting it run is great.

  4. If I had to sacrifice a household convenience it would definitely be the dishwasher! I've never minded washing dishes by hand (although now I cannot stand for a very long time due to my back *sigh*). ~ Thanks for this interesting history lesson on vacuums, Cathy--I was really SWEPT up in your writing! *wink* Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  5. My vacuum went to cyberspace. I've posted twice today, and both times the messages got sucked into a black hole! I'll try again..
    Marianne, I envy your wood floors. Our house is built on a cement slab, so hardwood floors would buckle from the earthquakes. Even more, though, I think I'd envy and admire your arms. Mixing everything by hand is an incredible toning exercise!
    Jackie, I second Robin's nomination. We had a Dyson, and the new vacuum is another of the exact same model. Hubby found it online as new old stock or factory second. That vacuum lasted longer and worked better than any we've owned.
    Robin--you have short hair, and it still gets wound in the brushes? I thought it was because Kelly, Aimee, and I all have long hair!
    Robin--your little pup must be brave to put up with a Roomba. I'm afraid a Roomba would get dragged through the doggy door and buried in our backyard!
    And PJ--our church is doing an Easter morning pancake breakfast. If you like washing dishes, we could use the help!
    Hugs, Cath

    I figured it out. (DUH)
    Being the total technopeasant that I am, I was trying to send posts on my son-in-law's computer.
    Now if only the brain cells that are in that black hole would return...

  7. Haha...Does it have to be an appliance we're using??

    I suppose I would give up the dryer. I'd make sure to wash my clothes ahead of time and line dry them (inside in winter).

    My vacuum? No way! My carpets don't come up to dust outside for "spring cleaning" or "winter stomping," haha!

    You know we also rarely use our dishwasher...but then that wouldn't be a sacrifice, or would it??

    Thanks for the interesting post, Ms. Hake!

    <3 Essie

  8. From carpet sweeper that morphed into a vacuum cleaner, a great great invention indeed. By the way I've created an infographic for this here >>


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