Today’s Google Doodle celebrates what would have been the 147th birthday of Hubert Cecil Booth – the inventor of the vacuum cleaner.
Until 1901, the floor-cleaning technology involved blowing air and pushing away dust and debris.
But Booth, who was an engineer based in London, had a different idea – cleaning by suction.
And after years of experiments, Booth created the first powered vacuum cleaner, which became a staple in UK homes.
As well as the vacuum cleaner, Booth invented many other well-known devices, including Ferris wheels, factories, and suspension bridges.
How did he come up with the vacuum cleaner?
After seeing a demonstration of the “pneumatic carpet renovator” blowing dirt out of railway cars, Booth tried an experiment.
Laying his handkerchief on a restaurant chair, he put his mouth on the tablecloth and sucked air through it.
Inspired by the results he set to work on his first design – nicknamed “Puffing Billy” – which was powered by an engine so big it had to be pulled around by horses and parked outside the house to be cleaned.
Booth started the British Vacuum Cleaner Company (BVCC) in 1903, and his flagship product – a somewhat smaller electric device that arrived in a bright red van and was operated by experts in BVCC uniforms – was soon embraced by fashionable households and even the British royal family.
Watching the Puffing Billy suck dust out the window of your home became a fun afternoon activity, lending housework a certain social cachet.
Booth was a man of many talents who built bridges, designed engines for Royal Navy battleships, and Ferris wheels in England, France, and Austria.
But the Puffing Billy assured that his legacy would live on.
Though it was a far cry from the upright and handheld vacuums we use today, Booth’s invention forever changed the way we clean our homes – and made sweeping dirt under the rug a thing of the past.
Happy 147th birthday Hubert Cecil Booth!