Cyberspace Vacuum Cleaner Museum — Hoover
Model O
This is the very first Hoover, the “ Model O.”

In 1907, James Murray Spangler, a janitor in a Canton, Ohio department store, concluded that the carpet sweeper and broom he used were the source of his asthmatic cough so he began to experiment with a better type of sweeping apparartus. He salvaged an old fan motor and attached it to a soap box affixed to a broom handle. Using a pillow case as a dust collector on the contraption, Spangler invented a portable electric vacuum cleaner.

He then improved his basic model -- the first to use both a cloth filter bag and cleaning attachments -- and received a patent in 1908. He formed the Electric Suction Sweeper Company.

One of the first buyers was a cousin, whose husband, William H. Hoover, later became the president of the Hoover Company, with Spangler as superintendent. Sluggish sales were given a kick by Hooverıs 10 day, free home trial, and eventually there was a Hoover vacuum cleaner in nearly every home.

The machine in this photo is from the Hoover Historical Center, not from my collection unfortunately. There are very few of these left, and they are quite rare and valuable.

By the way, Murray Spangler’s “ suction sweeper” was the first [American] electric vacuum cleaner. Some accounts credit the Royal Company with this distinction, saying their cleaner was introduced in 1905. This is incorrect. Well, partly incorrect. The Royal Company did introduce a sweeper in 1905 but it was a cylindrical, upright, hand-pumped model, not an electric one.

Model 541
This is one of my oldest Hoovers. (I also have two earlier models, the 102 and 105.) It is whisper-quiet, yet does an excellent job of vacuuming rugs. The bag on my 541 machine is not original but it is from the Model 543, the very next model (1925).

An interesting note about these early Hoovers: At a time when a new Model A Ford ran about $300, a new Hoover Sweeper was around $75 —- one-fourth the price of a new car! Think about that in today’s economy: Would you buy a vacuum cleaner that cost $7500??!

Obviously the Hoover was very much a luxury item and was found only in homes of the well-to-do. And the illustrations in the instruction booklets do not picture a housewife*; rather, uniformed domestic servants demonstrate the use of the Hoover. Then, in the 1920s, Hoover users were portrayed as “Flapper” girls — which intimated that the “hip set” of that era had found the Hoover to be “the bee’s knees” — see the illustrations below accompanying the Models 700 and 725.

(*Later, in the ’50s, it’s interesting to note the changes in advertising and instruction booklets: Now, we see the housewife using her now-affordable-and-widely-available vacuum cleaner ... yet there she is, in pearls, dress, and high-heels — rather than house-dress, bandana, apron and old loafers — to illustrate how easy, sanitary, and glamorous it is to use the smart, new 1955 model! This is true of just about every vacuum cleaner manufacturer and, indeed, of nearly all household appliances.)

Model 700 (1926)
Model 725 (1930)
These two machines are pictured together because they are very similar. The 725 has a more powerful motor and slight differences in design details but they are very much alike.

Model 925
The Hoover 925, a heavy-duty commercial model, is an exquisitely designed machine. While the motor is still visible, the polished-aluminum housing has been accented with graceful filigrees and a very tastefully designed dust bag. A lovely machine but rather heavy and a little clumsy to use.

Model 150
The Hoover 150, styled by the great Machine-Age designer Henry Dreyfuss, reflects the new philosophy of Machine-Age design: to conceal and mystify the “works” of household appliances, office machines, automobiles — indeed, virtually every aspect of industrial design from the mid-to-late 1930s embodies this desire to hide bulky, clumsy, unsightly motors and mechanical workings inside a flowing, graceful metal “skin.”

Incidentally, a marvelous book that explores the evolution of industrial design — primarily from philosophical and psychological standpoints — is the now out-of-print (yet available in some libraries) Objects of Desire — Design & Society from Wedgwood to IBM, by Adrian Forty (America: Pantheon Books, New York, 1986; Great Britain: Thames & Hudson Ltd., London, 1986)

This was the first of the Hoover Constellations, a type of cleaner they sold right up into the late 1960s. Later models were said to “float on air” — a cute advertising gimmick but in reality all it meant was that the exhaust blew onto the floor under the metal ring that the machine rested on. This did make it easier to drag the machine around; the exhaust formed a sort of cushion of air. However, it also affected the suction power of the machine because the free-flow of air through the cleaner was impeded and tended to blow dust around when the machine was lifted from the floor. A textbook example of form not following function!

Regina Electrolux Airway
Hoover Scott & Fetzer / Kirby Eureka
Sears-Kenmore Universal Westinghouse
Miscellaneous Exhibits Entranceway Museum Foyer


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