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Oral History: Vacuuming

Technology: Vacuum Cleaning

The introduction of the vacuum cleaner was invaluable to women struggling with cleaning their carpets the old fashioned way.

Before the vacuum cleaner arrived cleaning carpets was an infrequent chore. For a rough clean, carpets could be swept with a broom or in some homes a manual carpet sweeper would be used. For a more thorough clean the carpets needed to be rolled up, taken outside, and beaten with a stick. Without the help of a maid this could be an incredibly difficult undertaking from the housewife.

The vacuum cleaner simplified housework and also brought the terms 'vacuuming', 'luxing' and 'hoovering' into common usage.

carpet beatersOne of the few ways to beat the dust that accumulated in early homes was to hang carpets, rugs, blankets and even clothes over a clothesline and smack them with a stick. Typical carpet beaters, like this one, were made of wood, rattan, cane, wicker or wire. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

carpet sweeperThe carpet sweeper was the first mechanical device to aid household cleaning. Carpet sweepers were first patented in the 1850s with the modern variety emerging around the end of the nineteenth century. British firm Ewbank began making carpet sweepers, such as the Ewbank models displayed here, in 1889. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

newspaper advertisementThe qualities and features of a range of carpet sweepers are extolled in very great detail in this newspaper advertisement from the early 1900s. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Baby DaisyOne alternative to beating and sweeping was to use a hand pumped vacuum cleaner such as the Baby Daisy (pictured) or the Star vacuums. The Baby Daisy, introduced in 1904, was essentially a broom handle fixed to a set of bellows. The Star, with its larger circular bellows, was another variation of this type of suction device. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

HooverIn 1901 Briton Cecil Booth invented a machine to suck up dust and dirt which he named the vacuum cleaner. The device was also known by the nickname 'Puffing Billy'. In 1908 American James W Spangler patented a more practical device that would set the pattern for future vacuum cleaner design. W.H. Hoover began manufacture of a refined version of Spangler's invention and the name Hoover became synonymous with vacuum cleaners. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

ElectroluxIn 1912 Lux of Sweden produced its first vacuum cleaner, the Lux 1. In 1919 the company became Electrolux, a name that like Hoover would also become synonymous with vacuum cleaning devices. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

newspaper advertisementThe labour saving, cleaning and 'disinfecting' features of the new Electrolux are detailed in this newspaper advertisement from the 1920s. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Haywin vacuum cleanerAnother popular vacuum cleaner make was Haywin. This advertisement features the numerous attachments that come with the cleaning unit. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

 

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