Labour saving devices developed to help with housework included the vacuum cleaner. Early models had many similarities to those of today but lacked modern day efficiency.
The Star Vacuum Cleaner, invented and patented in 1910, was made locally and was a hand operated device.
The first successful vacuum cleaner was invented in 1901 by Hubert Cecil Booth, a British engineer. It was a horse-drawn, petrol-driven unit the size of a milk float, and it took four to six people to operate it. Wealthy society ladies threw vacuum cleaner parties. Guests sipped their tea and lifted their feet as Booth’s attendants cleaned the carpets with long hoses fed through the windows from the unit parked outside.
Variations on the same theme were introduced in America at about the same time. William Henry Hoover produced the first single operator bag-on-a-stick type upright cleaner in 1908. It was invented by his wife’s cousin in 1907, but was not imported into Britain until 1912.
The Star vacuum cleaner illustrated on the right was made by the Star Engineering Co Ltd of Wolverhampton and was invented and patented in 1910.
Star Engineering Co Ltd made bicycles and were early pioneers in the motor industry. They also made electric fires, incandescent goods and wheels for horse drawn vehicles.
This vacuum cleaner works by hand. You pull and push the concertina-like drum up and down the handle, sucking air and dust in through the cleaning head. Unfortunately, the dust doesn’t store very well inside the drum, and tends to blow back out again.
The cleaner satisfied a need for labour saving devices amongst those with no mains electricity. It’s advertising claimed:
“Complete weight only about 6lbs.
Cannot get out of order.
Takes very little room, and stands in any corner.
Cleans carpets, stairs, furniture, mattresses etc.
Light and easily moved.
The dust box can be taken out, emptied and replaced in a few seconds.”
The cleaner was given the patent number 18899 and initially sold for 54 shillings. It was produced until 1938.