Electric Vacuum Cleaner: Booth’s machine makes light of housework
In 1901 mechanical engineer Hubert Cecil Booth (1871-1955) watched a railway carriage being cleaned at St. Pancras Station in London by a series of high-pressure hoses using compressed air to blow away debris. Dining with friends afterward he impulsively covered his mouth against the cover of his cloth chair and inhaled, trapping dust against the outer lining of the handkerchief. Convincing himself that a device using reverse pressure and equipped with a filter would effectively capture and store dust, he set about creating a cleaning machine using suction rather than simply blowing particles into the air.
Together with his friend F.R>Simms who designed a water cooled, six horse power piston engine driven by an electric motor to which Booth attached a simple vacuum pump, he produced the world’s first electric vacuum cleaner. Booth set up the Booth Vacuum Company and began a cleaning service. However with few Victorian homes and businesses having the luxury of electricity, his machine needed to be mobile. He parked his carriage which named Puffing Billy on the street with hoses passed in through the windows of his client’s premises. He used transparent tubes so that sceptical onlookers could witness the dust particles being drawn into his machine.
His invention proved such a success that he gained a commission to clean the ceremonial carpets in London’s Westminster Abbey prior to the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. The king was so impressed he gave Booth a royal warrant to provide vacuum cleaners to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.