The Hoover O was Hoover’s very first vacuum cleaner, brought out in 1908. Murry Spangler was working as a caretaker, but all the dust he was sweeping up irritated his asthma. He used a tin soap box, a fan, a sateen pillow case and a broom handle to create an invention which sucked the dust away from him. He sold the patent of this device to his cousin’s husband, W. H. Hoover. Mr Hoover owned and ran a leather crafting shop, but realised the potential of this “suction sweeper” and hired six people to make them in the corner of the shop. That is how it all began.
According to many sources, the main body of the Hoover O was made of tin; however this doesn’t seem feasible to me. The element of tin is not very strong at all and would have been unlikely to have been used, and it is also very expensive. However, one of the main advantages of tin is its ability to fuse well with other metals to create alloys, such as bronze. Bronze is an expensive metal though, so it would not have been used to make a vacuum cleaner. The material most probably used for the body I think would have been steel (this would also explain the 40lb weight), which would then be plated in tin. The reason tin would have been used for plating is that it is very resistant to corrosion. The handle would have been made of very cheap native soft-wood. The bag was made of sateen. This is a cotton-like material with a satin finish. It would allow air to flow through the small holes in the fabric, stopping it from bursting, whilst still trapping the dust inside. The satin finish would have just been the fashion at the time.
Since all the Hoover Os were assembled by a team of 6 men in the corner of a leather shop, it is obvious that fabrication was the main technique used to manufacture them. The wooden handles would either have been hand-wasted, or since that is a very time-consuming way to make things, W. H. Hoover may have simply bought a number of brooms that were already made and used the handles. Since he wasn’t sure on how well these would sell at first, it wouldn’t make sense to invest too heavily in the tools required to make his own when he could simply buy parts separately. Pattern detail can be seen on the chassis, which suggests that it was not made by hand wasting, machine wasting, or forging. The most likely way would probably have been casting. This does have a high start-up cost implication however, so Hoover may have contracted out that work until the Hoover O was well established.
This was the first electric vacuum cleaner on the market. Other vacuum cleaners used various technologies such as bellows technology, pumper technology and plunger technology. All of these usually required two people to operate, one providing the power, and the other vacuuming the floor. Customers must have been very happy to see a vacuum cleaner which “powered itself”.