Credit for the invention of the vacuum cleaner should be
given to many people – from Daniel Hess to Don Sheelen.
Some of these men made major improvements to the basic invention.
No one made more major improvements to vacuum cleaners than Don Sheelen whose
prolific creativity as CEO and “inventor extraordinaire” at the Regina company
has changed the way we vacuum today.
Don Sheelan’s inventions cross the vacuum sphere from the basic vacuum
cleaner to the steam cleaner. The “tools on board” idea, “cyclonic” vacuum
technology, and the modern easy to use steam cleaner were all the brainchild of
Hess of West Union, Iowa, invented a vacuum cleaner in 1860. Calling it a
carpet sweeper instead of a vacuum cleaner, his machine did, in fact, have a
rotating brush like a traditional vacuum cleaner, which also possessed an
elaborate bellows mechanism on top of the body to generate suction of dust and
Ives W. McGaffey
The first manually powered cleaner using vacuum principles was the
"Whirlwind," invented in Chicago in 1868 by Ives W. McGaffey. The
machine was lightweight and compact, but was difficult to operate because of
the need to turn a hand crank at the same time as pushing it across the floor.
McGaffey obtained a patent for his device on June 8, 1869.
H. Cecil Booth
The first powered cleaner employing a vacuum was patented and produced by
British inventor Hubert Cecil Booth in 1901. He watched a demonstration of a
device used in trains that blew dust off the chairs, and thought it would be
much more useful to have one that sucked dust
In 1910 P.A. Fisker patented a vacuum cleaner using a name based on the
company’s telegram address—Nilfisk. It was the first electric vacuum cleaner in
Europe. His design weighed just 17.5 kg and could be operated by a single
In 1905 "Griffith's Improved Vacuum Apparatus for Removing Dust from
Carpets" was another manually operated cleaner, patented by Walter
Griffiths Manufacturer, Birmingham, England. This was arguably the first
domestic vacuum-cleaning device to resemble the modern vacuum cleaner.
Several patents granted to the New Jersey inventor David T. Kenney between
1903 and 1913 established the foundation for the American vacuum cleaner
industry. Membership in the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers' Association, formed
in 1919, was limited to licensees under his patents.
James Murray Spangler
In 1907, James Murray Spangler, a janitor in Canton, Ohio invented an
electric vacuum cleaner from a fan, a box, and a pillowcase. Crucially, in
addition to suction, Spangler's design incorporated a rotating brush to loosen
debris. Lacking the funds to produce his design himself, he sold the patent to
just a creative genius, but also the most important inventor of the modern
vacuum. Until Don Sheelan invented the “tools on board” approach to easy,
convenient vacuuming, consumers had to drag a canister vacuum to clean above
the floor or mechanically attach tools to the underside of their upright vacuum
nozzle. Multiple patents were awarded for this breakthrough concept.
Sheelen is also the inventor of the modern day “steam” extractor vacuum that is
commonplace in today’s market. Don Sheelan simplified a dirty, heavy, and
complex process allowing the consumer to steam clean their carpets with ease.
Again, multiple patents were awarded for this innovation and resulted in Don
being referred to as the “Father of the modern vacuum cleaner”..