British engineer, Hubert Cecil Booth, inventor of the vacuum
cleaner, helped to revolutionise the way we clean our
He did it by putting a handkerchief over his mouth in a restaurant and sucking in air to test his theory of a device that could suck up dirt instead of blowing it away. Up until then, machines intended to clean just blew the dirt around rather than collecting it.
Booth was inspired by an American inventor who had come up with a device that blew dust off chairs which he demonstrated at a theatre in London in 1901.
Later, Booth said that he realised, “if the system could be reversed, and a filter inserted between the suction apparatus and the outside air, whereby the dust would be retained in a receptacle, the real solution of the hygienic removal of dust would be obtained”.
So, much to our future benefit, he tested his theory in a restaurant by putting a handkerchief over his mouth and seeing how much dust he could suck up – and essentially the vacuum cleaner as we know it, was born.
Booth then developed a horse-drawn, petrol driven ‘Puffing Billy’. Powered by an internal combustion engine, it used piston pumps and a cloth to draw air through flexible pipes fed through a building’s windows – granted, it was a little unwieldy for a quick whizz round the carpets!
After founding the British Vacuum Cleaner Company, and by then, using an electric-powered device, he offered cleaning services to businesses, naval barracks, factories, theatres and shops.
The machines went on to receive the royal seal of approval and were even used to clean the carpets of Westminster Abbey before Edward VII’s coronation.
After founding Goblin, a company which manufactured his vacuum cleaners for sale, Booth went on to focus to the domestic market. Unfortunately for him, his great rival was William Henry Hoover whose firm went on to dominate the domestic market for years.
Frankly, we should be eternally grateful to both of them.