A vacuum cleaner, also known as a sweeper, is a device that uses an air pump (a centrifugal fan in all but some of the very oldest models), to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt, usually from floors, and from other surfaces such as upholstery and draperies.
The dirt is collected by either a dustbag or a cyclone for later disposal. Vacuum cleaners, which are used in homes as well as in industry, exist in a variety of sizes and models—small battery-powered hand-held devices, wheeled canister models for home use, domestic central vacuum cleaners, huge stationary industrial appliances that can handle several hundred litres of dust before being emptied, and self-propelled vacuum trucks for recovery of large spills or removal of contaminated soil. Specialized shop vacuums can be used to suck up both dust and liquids.
The motorized vacuum cleaner was invented by Hubert Cecil Booth of England in 1901. As Booth recalled decades later, that year he attended “a demonstration of an American machine by its inventor” at the Empire Music Hall in London. The inventor is not named, but Booth’s description of the machine conforms fairly closely to Thurman’s design, as modified in later patents. Booth watched a demonstration of the device, which blew dust off the chairs, and thought that “…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.” He tested the idea by laying a handkerchief on the seat of a restaurant chair, putting his mouth to the handkerchief, and then trying to suck up as much dust as he could onto the handkerchief. Upon seeing the dust and dirt collected on the underside of the handkerchief, he realized the idea could work.
Booth created a large device, driven by an internal combustion engine. Nicknamed the “Puffing Billy”, Booth’s first petrol-powered, horse-drawn vacuum cleaner relied upon air drawn by a piston pump through a cloth filter. It did not contain any brushes; all the cleaning was done by suction through long tubes with nozzles on the ends. Although the machine was too bulky to be brought into the building, its principles of operation were essentially the same as the vacuum cleaners of today. He followed this up with an electric-powered model, but both designs were extremely bulky, and had to be transported by horse and carriage. The term “vacuum cleaner” was first used by the company set up to market Booth’s invention, in its first issued prospectus of 1901.
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