by Fenella Saunders
In 1869, Chicago inventor Ives W. McGaffey created a sweeping machine that used a fan to create suction, but the device had to be cranked by hand. In 1901 British engineer Hubert C. Booth devised a motorized method, and other designs followed. These first true vacuum cleaners were huge gasoline-powered contraptions drawn by horse from door to door by professional house-cleaners. In 1907, Ohio janitor James Murray Spangler invented a portable 40-pound electric vacuum, which he sold to entrepreneur William H. Hoover. Manufacturers soon added attachments for crevices and upholstery— the 1913 Eureka even doubled as a hair dryer. In 1926, Hoover introduced a model with beater bars and brushes, which greatly increased its dirt-fighting power. Lighter, more efficient motors and better batteries allowed for the introduction of handheld vacuums, led by Black & Decker's Dustbuster in 1980. Next up: Electrolux engineers are working on a sonar-guided robotic vacuum.