The Earliest Electric Vacuum Cleaners

The Earliest Electric Vacuum Cleaners

The first vacuum cleaners to come to market in the United States was around 1908. The problem at the time was the availability of electricity in the home. Here is an article from the New York Trubune that speaks about the housewife of the day and the vacuum cleaner. We will take a detailed look at all the cleaners and their advertisements when available.

New-York Tribune, 1920

heavy stand vacuum 1920

The heaviest type vacuum of the day

PORTABLE vacuum cleaners were first put on the market about twelve years ago, but it is only in the last four or five years that they have been so perfected to construction and design as to be entirely satisfactory. Now, however, they are so thoroughly established in the affections of the wise housewife that the home which does not possess a vacuum cleaner is becoming as rare as the Great Auk.

The Favorite Son

If you are within reach of electricity, it is far and away the best, provided you can afford it – to choose an electrical cleaner rather than the kind that is operated by hand. Not only is it more efficient, but it does the work much quicker and requires nothing like the labor that it takes to run the hand machine.

Because of their comparatively low price and also because it is much easier to operate them, the small fan-type suction cleaners are the most popular with housekeepers. The type generally used consists of a motor, either horizontally or vertically mounted, with the fan attached directly to the shaft. The whole is inclosed, mounted upon rollers or rubber tired wheels, and guided by a handle from which the dust bag is suspended.

play-audioClick the player below to hear period music of the era –

These small machines are not only operated back and forth over the floor, like a carpet sweeper, but should be used in the same manner, that is, the carpets and rugs should be cleaned with them daily or at least every other day to prevent the accumulation of dirt. The electricity consumption of the motor is small, only 150 to 250 watts.

To the housewife – unless she has a natural leaning toward mechanics – all small electric suction cleaners look alike. For these reasons it may help some women to a wise choice if we mention the principal points to take into consideration when selecting a cleaner.

The Four Main Points

1920 vacuum cleaner

Typical Machine Test in 1920

There are four chief points to be considered: Efficiency, which means effectiveness, or power; quality of materials, which makes for durability; special features, which give convenience in operation; general construction and simplicity.

The efficiency of a cleaner can not be judged from the horsepower of the motor. The suction power depends upon the size and speed of the motor, the size and shape of the fan blades, the fan housing, the floor nozzle and whether or not these factors are properly coordinated. The motor Is either horizontally or vertically mounted. The horizontal type is usually considered to be mechanically stronger than the other because the shaft is supported on two bearings, but the life of both is dependent largely on the user, since proper lubrication is an important factor.

Regular oiling is essential. If this is not attended to the bearings overheat and their life is shortened because of the high speed at which the shaft revolves. Therefore, it is best to oil a vacuum cleaner under ordinary usage at least once in two weeks, unless the manufacturer specifically states otherwise. But be careful not to use an excessive amount of oil, as it will over flow, “gum up the works,” collect dust or work into parts where injury may result. Too much oil in a machine is almost as bad as too little. This is a case where it saves money to find the happy medium.

Two kinds of material are used in the construction of the body or casing. The lower priced cleaners are made with nickel-plated steel, while the others are aluminum. Of course, the aluminum is the best, since it is non rusting, but a good nickel plating on steel is durable.

vacuum cleaning 1920

Cleaning The Radiator

Many housekeepers to-day demand that the vacuum cleaner be equipped with a brush in the nozzle, so that threads, lint, etc, can be quickly picked up. This brush may be electrically or traction operated, or stationary. The motor driven brush, of course, gives the greater efficiency, though it is not necessary to satisfactory work with good suction. Also, the brash should be removable for ease of cleaning. The dust bag should be of the kind that can be detached mod emptied easily. Also, it is best to choose one so designed that the dirt does not accumulate at the intake.

Conditions Alter Cases

Each housewife must decide for herself as to convenience of operation and simplicity of construction. The conditions under which cleaners of this type are used differ widely and the machine which would be most efficient in one place might not be nearly so satisfactory in another.

For the large household of many rooms, where the cleaning can be done only once or twice a week, a semi-portable vacuum cleaner would be required. This type is more powerful than the others and the machine itself remains stationary while the cleaning is done through rubber hose and tool attachments. All costs of operation are based on a 10 cent rate per kilowatt hour for electricity. New York’s rate is 7 cents.



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