Manual vacuum cleaner
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A manual vacuum cleaner was a type of non-electric vacuum cleaner, using suction to remove dirt from carpets, and powered by human muscle, which use is similar to a manual lawn mowers. Their invention is dated to the second half of the 19th century, when patents were granted to inventors in the United States, England, France, and elsewhere.
These household appliances created suction by either a pumping action, bellows, a piston being pushed up and down a tube, or had a fan driven by the wheels. Most required the efforts of two people. The models operable by one person were less efficient, but none were truly labor-saving devices or delivered the cleaning efficiency they promised. Besides hand-operated models, foot-operated models were also available, and according to a Swiss source there was even one where the operator sat in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth to produce the energy needed to create suction.
The Baby Daisy
The Baby Daisy was a manual vacuum cleaner designed in France around 1910 but built in Britain. It required two people to operate it. The first person had to stand on the base of the bellows, moving it back and forth with the aid of a broomstick in the holder on the front.
"This movement was a key design feature as it has a double connected bellows, meaning that movement in either direction created a vacuum." The second person could use the attached hose then to clean the house. The dust was collected in a cotton bag within the machine.
The Hoover from WW1 (see photo) is an example for a vacuum cleaner powered by a friction motor similar but larger than those powering toy cars. To power it, the user would run it forward and back a few times, and then lower the intake to the floor and clean until the motor ran down.
Production in the United States
In the United States, several dozen firms produced manual vacuum cleaners in the early 1900s, 1914 being the peak year. Three different models were sold by Sears, Roebuck between 1909 and 1917. Their main market was in rural areas, where as late as the mid-1930s, 90% of American farms (over 5 million) did not yet have electricity.
- Collectors News, October 2006, p. 31
- Giedion, S. Mechanization Takes Command. New York: Oxford University Press, 1948.
- Die Geschichte des Staubsaugers (1901–2001). < ifaar.ch/staubsauger/author> (review of Glauser, Christoph. Einfach blitzsauber (Simply Squeaky Clean). Zurich: Orell-Fussli Verlag, 2001)
- Hoover Historical Center, 1875 East Maple Street, North Canton, OH 44720-3331