February 9, 2007

Hoover

And the man behind the brand is...
William Hoover

Listen to the Podcast http://oscarmeyerpodcast.podbus.com/Hoover.mp3

In 1908 William Henry Hoover operated a harness and leather goods factory in New Berlin (now North Canton), Ohio. The infant auto business was seriously threatening the future of Hoover's horse collars and he was looking to expand his company. On a hot summer day Hoover met with James Murray Spangler on his front porch to discuss a cleaning contraption Spangler had sold his cousin, Hoover’s wife.

Vacuum cleaners were a boon to sanitation and health in the early 1900s but they were cumbersome and required two people to operate. Spangler was an aging, sometime inventor working as a janitor to clear debts. He developed a portable cleaning device to minimize dust that rose from the carpets he cleaned every night - dust that aggravated his asthma.

Spangler attached a creaking electric fan motor atop a soap box and sealed the cracks with adhesive tape. A pillow case billowing out the back served as a dust bag. Hoover and his wife were both impressed with the new machine but not many homes had electricity in 1908.

Hoover bought the patents anyway and started the Electric Suction Sweeper Company. He set aside a corner of his leather goods factory for the production of suction sweepers, turning out six cleaners a day. James Spangler, his debts now relieved, became Hoover's superintendent of production.

The first Hoover advertisement appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on December 5, 1908. The ad described the simple premise of the suction sweeper: "A rapidly revolving brush loosens the dust which is sucked back into the dirt bag." The ad went on to further state that "Repairs and adjustments are never necessary." Finally, readers were offered a free ten-day trial at home.

Hundreds of homemakers took Hoover up on his offer. He shipped the suction sweepers through local dealers who received a commission if the cleaner was purchased. If not, the dealer could keep the vacuum cleaner for in-store demonstrations. Thus began the national network of loyal Hoover dealers.

Hoover then organized an army of door-to-door demonstrators. The sales power of the skilled demonstration was Hoover's secret weapon. No one could deny that his portable vacuum cleaner, which embodied all the basic principles of today's vacuums, was effective and time-saving. Research and innovation followed. In 1926 Hoover patented an agitator bar which beat the carpet before brushing it. When he died in 1932 the horse and William Hoover’s leather fittings were long since departed from the American scene but Hoover vacuums were established as the American standard for cleaning.

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