Booth's vacuum cleaner at work, 1903.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
In 1901, Hubert Cecil Booth invented the first successful vacuum cleaner. He experimented with sucking air, his new machine was more successful than other similar inventions due to an effective source of power. His first machine, 'Puffing Billy', had a 5 hp piston pump driven by a petrol/gasoline engine or electric motor. There were no brushes; dust was extracted entirely by the powerful suction through nozzles at the ends of long flexible tubes. The machine made so much noise that Booth was often sued for frightening passing horses.