The Rassbach Heritage Museum has in its collection a very rare manual vacuum cleaner called the Golden Rod — one of many different types of manual floor cleaning devices that did not rely on electricity. Rather, the Golden Rod Vacuum used suction created by using a piston being pushed down a tube. Patented on Dec. 26,1911 by Charles Boyer of Marengo, Ill., the Golden Rod was produced by the Hugo Manufacturing Company of Warsaw, Ind.
Manual vacuum cleaners, such as the Golden Rod, were operated by a single person and were hardly a labor-saving device because they were not very efficient. There were models of manual vacuum cleaners requiring two people to operate which were slightly more efficient. One model of vacuum cleaner even employed a rocking chair. The back-and-forth movement of the rocker created enough energy to create suction. Still other models were foot operated. Sound crazy? Keep reading.
During the early 20th century, there were a number of entries into the manual vacuum cleaner field. One was the Baby Daisy, designed in France and built in Britain. It required two people to operate it. The first person had to stand on the base of the bellows, moving it back and forth with the aid of a broomstick that was placed in a holder on the front of the machine to activate a double connected bellows. Hard to say what the second person did.
There was also the Spencer Turbine Vacuum This machine was installed as a stationary device with light weight hoses. These hoses could operate on as little as five inches of water suction. When you think about it, this machine may have worked similar to today’s central vacuum systems.
Sears, Roebuck and Company sold three different models of manual vacuum cleaners between 1909 and 1917 — the lightweight Quick and Easy, the valve and piston pump type Dust Killer, and the bellows type Everybodies Vacuum Cleaner. All three were heavily marketed in the rural areas where people had no electricity.
A very interesting vacuum cleaner was the Kotten. This particular vacuum required the operator to stand on a platform and rock side to side like a teeter-totter-activating two bellows that sucked up the dirt and dust. This would be fun to see.
Another vacuum of interest was the Star Vacuum Cleaner consisting of a concertina-like drum that was pushed up and down the handle to suck dust through the cleaning head on top of the machine. A little difficult to imagine.
And last but not least was the Hoover WW1 Friction Motor Vacuum Cleaner. It was powered by a friction motor similar to, but larger than those powering toy cars. To power the cleaner, the user would run it back and forth, lower the intake to the floor and clean until the motor ran down, This sounds like a great upper body exercise program.
You have to admit that this was a very colorful time in vacuum cleaner history. If you lived back then, which one would you have chosen?