• FA-121666 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Everyday Life
Household Technology
Everyday Life - directions for use
1850 - 1899
  • Dr. Roswitha Muttenthaler

Mechanical vacuum cleaner, approx. 1890 - 1910

Dust is dangerous and we are surrounded by it - this perception came about from 1850 onwards. Dust removal became the driving force for technical development. The vacuum cleaner is one product of these endeavours.

This mechanical device is a forerunner of the modern-day vacuum cleaner. Fighting dust with brooms, wipes and carpet beaters was literally "dirty work" and also considered to be insufficient. Various patented inventions were intended to make this task easier, more efficient and more hygienic. Many experiments were carried out: initially, the dust was blown away. This was soon followed by the concept of vacuum cleaning. From 1859/60 onwards, manually operated devices were tested. After 1900, vacuum cleaners followed which were powered by petrol or electrical motors. Mechnical devices, however, were still manufactured until the 1960s. Depending on their function, they are categorised as propeller, bag bellow or pump systems and their application methods as hand-powered, foot-powered or wheel-powered machines.

This model from the collection of the Technisches Museum Wien (Vienna Technical Museum) belongs to the last category. Chambers and a container with a dust bag are mounted onto a frame with wheels and push-pull handle. The chambers contain pump bodies. The air is sucked in and blown out by means of leather inserts connected with the dust container and a floor nozzle. If the appliance is moved, negative pressure builds up in the chambers. This causes a suction effect in the nozzle in front. The dust is collected in the dust bag.

Initially, a variety of principles and propulsion methods, such as rotating brushes and piston pumps, were also tested. From 1920 onwards, electrification of the devices and the propeller vacuum cleaning method asserted themselves. Early vacuum cleaners were mainly used by female and male service personnel or external male service providers. Later models which were easier to handle initiated the machine's development into an "appliance for housewives".

Inv.Nr. 81976/1
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