A publication of the Department of English & Philosophy at Drexel University

Suck it Up

vacuumvacuumingCleaning.  It’s a mundane and tedious task.  Magic piles of mess that seem to reappear moments after removal, which of course must be removed again: an endless cycle. How anybody could find joy in cleaning… the thought of that astounds me.   Well, astounded me.  I had a breakthrough this past weekend, a revelation as I was vacuuming.  I was frustrated that my vacuum wasn’t sucking up some of the things on my floor I knew it was capable of removing.  How could tiny scraps of paper and pretzel crumbs be that hard to suck up?  I wondered then, about other vacuums of the past and if they made other people just as frustrated.

I did a little research about how far vacuums hspaceballave come over time, and they truly have come a long way.  Vacuums didn’t come into existence until the mid 1800s.  Before then, people didn’t feel they needed to clean up dirt and soot since these things weren’t thought to be the source of germs that would lead to infectious diseases.  It was a time for industry and innovation, not a time to worry about health.  But once the idea of hygiene caught on, all kinds of dirt and soot removal devices started to catch on too in hopes of eliminating the pollution and spread of germs that made people sick.

The first vacuum to come out was so big that it had to be operated by two people.  One would push and the other would pump a large bellow that was attached to the side.  The bellow would essentially blow the dust and dirt back into the air, but would remove it from the ground.  Doesn’t sound like the best idea, right?  That’s why another vacuum design was developed — one that would suck up dirt rather than blow it all over the place.

In 1869, Ives McGaffey created the “Whirlwind.  This was the first vacuum with suction, but the turn offs to most consumers were the manual labor involved (a crank that had to be turned by hand to generate power for suction) and the expensive cost.

The vacuum cleaner’s growth made a big leap in 1901, when Hubert Cecil Booth made it electrically powered.  Although the size of the vacuum was large and unusable by homeowners, his vacuum design greatly improved health and living conditions.  The floors of theaters and shops became cleaner as dirt and dust were actually removed, permanently.

From that point on, when vacuums became electrically powered, they continued to transform in size and shape.   Inventors designed upright vacuums that could easily fit inside of a home and developed better brush-sweeping mechanisms to pick up and trap loose dirt and dust.  Vacuums continued to evolve into what we have today: the small 8-pound, upright machines that can easily maneuver throughout the house.  Cleaning is probably one of the easiest things to do thanks to innovators of the past.  Even though my Hoover may not be able to pick up every single scrap or crumb, it does clean my apartment, and doesn’t require multiple people to push it around.

It’s very easy to take the innovations and technology we have today for granted.  For me, the vacuum was among several other technology greats that I had overlooked and underappreciated.  I’m not saying that we should all take a moment of silence to reflect about how far technology has come and pay our respects to innovators of the past.  But the vacuum really is a great aid for cleaning, and I’m just glad it has made our lives a whole lot easier.  No more complaints about vacuuming from this girl anymore.

Heather Schwartz is a junior psychology major at Drexel University.

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