Thursday Feb. 18, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Vacuum Cleaner
On this Day:
In 1901, H Cecil Booth patented a dust removing suction cleaner.
Hubert Cecil Booth (4 July 1871 – 14 January 1955) was an English engineer best known today for having invented one of the first powered vacuum cleaners.
He also designed Ferris wheels, suspension bridges and factories. Later he became Chairman and Managing Director of the British Vacuum Cleaner and Engineering Co.
Booth is known for introducing one of the first powered vacuum cleaners. Before Booth introduced his version of the vacuum cleaner, cleaning machines blew or brushed dirt away, instead of sucking it up. As Booth recalled decades later, in 1901 he attended “a demonstration of an American machine by its inventor” at the Empire Music Hall in London. The inventor is not named, but Booth’s description of the machine conforms fairly closely to American inventor John S. Thurman’s blown air design. Booth watched a demonstration of the device, which blew dust off the chairs, and thought that “…if the system could be reversed, and a filter inserted between the suction apparatus and the outside air, whereby the dust would be retained in a receptacle, the real solution of the hygienic removal of dust would be obtained.” He tested the idea by laying a handkerchief on the seat of a restaurant chair, putting his mouth to the handkerchief, and then trying to suck up as much dust as he could onto the handkerchief. Upon seeing the dust and dirt collected on the underside of the handkerchief, he realized the idea could work.
Booth created a large device, driven by an internal combustion engine. Nicknamed the “Puffing Billy”, Booth’s first petrol-powered, horse-drawn vacuum cleaner relied upon air drawn by a piston pump through a cloth filter. It did not contain any brushes; all the cleaning was done by suction through long tubes with nozzles on the ends. Although the machine was too bulky to be brought into the building, its principles of operation were essentially the same as the vacuum cleaners of today. He followed this up with an electric-powered model, but both designs were extremely bulky, and had to be transported by horse and carriage. The term “vacuum cleaner” was first used by the company set up to market Booth’s invention, in its first issued prospectus of 1901.
Booth initially did not attempt to sell his machine, but rather sold cleaning services. The vans of the British Vacuum Cleaner Company (BVCC) were bright red; uniformed operators would haul hose off the van and route it through the windows of a building to reach all the rooms inside. Booth was harassed by complaints about the noise of his vacuum machines and was even fined for frightening horses. Gaining the royal seal of approval, Booth’s motorized vacuum cleaner was used to clean the carpets of Westminster Abbey prior to Edward VII’s coronation in 1901. The device was used by the Royal Navy to improve the level of sanitation in the naval barracks. It was also used in businesses such as theatres and shops, although the device was too large to be feasibly used as a domestic appliance. When cleaning the Royal Mint, upon leaving he was arrested as his machine had collected a massive amount of silver dust from the coins and he had forgotten to empty it. He was however quickly released.
Booth received his first patents on 18 February and 30 August 1901. Booth founded Goblin, his company to sell vacuum cleaning services and refined his invention over the next several decades. Though Goblin lost out to competition from Hoover in the household vacuum market, his company successfully turned its focus to the industrial market, building ever-larger models for factories and warehouses. Booth’s company, now BVC, lives on today as a unit of pneumatic tube system maker Quirepace Ltd (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
A husband and wife were discussing cleaning methods. The wife claimed that vacuum cleaners are always better for cleaning than a brush. The husband replied, “That’s a sweeping generalization.”
Second, a Song:
Well not exactly a song this time. A movie clip.
Peter Sellers CBE (born Richard Henry Sellers; 8 September 1925 – 24 July 1980) was an English film actor, comedian and singer. He performed in the BBC Radio comedy series The Goon Show, featured on a number of hit comic songs and became known to a worldwide audience through his many film roles, among them Chief Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series of films.
Sellers began his film career during the 1950s. Although the bulk of his work was comedic, often parodying characters of authority such as military officers or policemen, he also performed in other film genres and roles. Films demonstrating his artistic range include I’m All Right Jack (1959), Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964), What’s New, Pussycat? (1965), Casino Royale (1967), The Party (1968), Being There (1979) and five films of the Pink Panther series (1963–1978). Sellers’ versatility enabled him to portray a wide range of comic characters using different accents and guises, and he would often assume multiple roles within the same film, frequently with contrasting temperaments and styles. Satire and black humour were major features of many of his films, and his performances had a strong influence on a number of later comedians. Sellers was nominated three times for an Academy Award, twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his performances in Dr. Strangelove and Being There, and once for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959). He won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role twice, for I’m All Right Jack and for the original Pink Panther film, The Pink Panther (1963) and was nominated as Best Actor three times. In 1980 he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his role in Being There, and was previously nominated three times in the same category. Turner Classic Movies calls Sellers “one of the most accomplished comic actors of the late 20th century”.
After his father’s death in October 1962, Sellers decided to leave England and was approached by director Blake Edwards who offered him the role of Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther, after Peter Ustinov had backed out of the film. Edwards later recalled his feelings as “desperately unhappy and ready to kill, but as fate would have it, I got Mr. Sellers instead of Mr. Ustinov—thank God!” Sellers accepted a fee of £90,000 (£751,598 in 2019 pounds) for five weeks’ work on location in Rome and Cortina. The film starred David Niven in the principal role, with two other actors—Capucine and Claudia Cardinale—having more prominent roles than Sellers. However, Sellers’s performance is regarded as being on par with that of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, according to biographer Peter Evans. Although the Clouseau character was in the script, Sellers created the personality, devising the costume, accent, make-up, moustache and trench coat.
The Pink Panther was released in the UK in January 1964 and received a mixed reception from the critics, although Penelope Gilliatt, writing in The Observer, remarked that Sellers had a “flawless sense of mistiming” in a performance that was “one of the most delicate studies in accident-proneness since the silents”. Despite the views of the critics, the film was one of the top ten grossing films of the year. The role earned Sellers a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy at the 22nd Golden Globe Awards, and for a Best British Actor award at the 18th British Academy Film Awards (per Wikipedia).
Here is Peter from The Return of the Pink Panther, 1975 featuring the hotel cleaner clip complete with vacuum cleaner and light bulb scene. I hope you enjoy this!
The Pink Panther movies can be found on Amazon Prime Video, free with an MGM channel trial (https://www.primevideo.com/search/ref=atv_sr_sug_12?phrase=pink%20panther%20movies&ie=UTF8)
Thought for the Day:
“Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner.” – Sophia Loren
Tom Furlong of Ottawa, Canada writes in response to the Robbie Burns Smile:
“My maternal grandfather always celebrated Robbie Burns Day as it was his birthday.”
Have a great day!
© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky