Brit Patents Vacuum Cleaner
The 8th of February 1901 AD
Dust-removing devices of various sorts had preceded that produced by Hubert Cecil Booth, the Gloucester-born engineer and designer, but his is widely regarded as the prototype for the modern vacuum cleaner – pre- Dyson at least. His first patent for such a contraption was granted on February 8 1901.
Booth’s background included designing suspension bridges and Ferris wheels, and even work on Royal Navy battleship engines. He had seen a dust-blowing machine demonstrated at St Pancras Station, and immediately realised that a version able to suck the dust up and capture it would be far superior.
The engineer’s rather unsettling test for his theory was to place a handkerchief over a dusty restaurant chair, and then by mouth suck that dust into the cloth. Try not to think of what sort of dust is deposited on chair cushions. Booth’s micro-test led to macro-machines – he supplied cleaning services using a carriage-mounted vacuum machine, powered by an oil-engine, long tubes being fed into buildings to cure their dust ills. He was less successful in the domestic market, both with his original machines – too noisy – and subsequent designs for smaller units. But he did manage a major marketing coup, his firm cleaning the carpets in Westminster Abbey prior to Edward VII’s coronation on August 9 1902.
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