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When Was the Vacuum Cleaner Invented

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Updated February 6, 2023

Exactly when the vacuum cleaner was invented is debatable. There are many iterations, from crank-and-lever models like the Baby Daisy to the modern portable vacuums driven by electrical power. We’ll explore the beginnings of vacuum technology and how it evolved over the years to create the best vacuum cleaners.


  • American inventor James Murray Spangler created the first basic model for the first powered vacuum.
  • Before the turn of the 20th century, most vacuums were operated by cranks and levers, making their usage difficult and time-consuming.
  • Henry Dreyfuss revolutionized vacuum designs in the 1930s to make them more modernized and stylish.

The Evolution Of Vacuum Cleaners

From the 19th century onward, different models of vacuum cleaners flooded the market. Hubert Cecil Booth created the first powered vacuum cleaner in 1901 with a machine that ran on gasoline. While the first portable electrical-powered vacuum cleaner, closer to what we know today, was invented by American James Murray Spangler, who sold the patent to William Henry Hoover. There are a few big names to know in this invention’s timeline progression and a few fun facts waiting beyond that.

The First Vacuum Cleaner Design

“Puffing Billy” was a massive powered vacuum and the first of its kind ever invented. It had to be pulled by horses and used gasoline for fuel. However, only wealthy citizens could afford to rent it, and there became a growing need for a portable vacuum cleaner for household usage. Vacuum cleaners have evolved so much that you no longer have to worry too much about where to store a vacuum in an apartment. There are lots of small, portable options to choose from.

Hubert Cecil Booth

The creator of “Puffing Billy,” this British Engineer is considered the father of powered suction. He had seen a machine on display at London’s Empire Music Hall and thought he could design it better. From there, he began to work on perfecting Puffing Billy. 

John S. Thurman

He invented the first cleaner that was powered by a gasoline motor. It didn’t operate as a vacuum that drew in air, but it blew air instead like a carpet sweeper.

William Henry Hoover

“Hoover” is one of the most famous names in the industry. William Hoover purchased a design from an asthmatic inventor from America, James Spangler. From there, Hoover used excellent marketing practices to further the design and bring it en-masse. This was the upright vacuum cleaner model that was portable and easy to use, as well as easy to maintain, like replacing a vacuum belt or cleaning the dust bin. 

Henry Dreyfuss

In the 1930s, Henry Dreyfuss joined William Hoover’s efforts to modernize the company’s designs with the first upright vacuum cleaners fit for mainstream consumers. This brought a new edge to the creation and marketing of vacuum cleaners. Dreyfuss’ can be credited with creating patents. While vacuum cleaners have gone through many changes, some things, like the loudness, haven’t changed, which can annoy your neighbors if you live in an apartment. In this case, it’s a good idea to always try to vacuum your apartment at the right time.

STAT: The first powered vacuum cleaner was invented in 1901 by a British engineer named Hubert Cecil Booth. (source)

Strange Facts About Vacuum History

Here are a couple of the most extraordinary stories in the history of vacuum cleaners.

How Hairdryers Inspired Vacuums

Alexandre Godefroy used his knowledge of how vacuum cleaners were power to draw up hair dryers’ designs. He created “the first large hood dryer” in 1888 because of this. From then on, hairdryer manufacturers relied heavily on vacuum designs to figure out how to make their products.

The First Robotic Vacuum

In the late ’90s, an extinct arthropod became the inspiration behind the first-ever robot vacuum. It was called the Electrolux Trilobite and appeared on the show “Tomorrow World” on the BBC. This first model had some setbacks. Overall, it was a huge game-changer and set the stage for continuously pushing the boundaries of what robotic vacuum cleaners can do in our households.


Where was the very first vacuum cleaner invented?

In Perivale near Wembley, located in England. The royal family purchased two vacuums for Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle after Lord Chamberlain saw a demonstration.

What did people do before they had vacuums?

Rugs and other upholstery would be taken outside, hung over a line, and beaten with brooms, bats, or beater bars to clear it of dust and dirt. This was done by a “carpet beater” in households that could afford hired help.

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