H Cecil Booth, English inventor of the vacuum cleaner, early 20th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Oil painting of Booth (1871-1955) who is generally credited with the invention of the vacuum cleaner. He built and patented his first machine in 1901. 'Booth's Original Vacuum Cleaner Pumps' were also known as 'Puffing Billies'. His filter bag system made commercial vacuum cleaners practical, although the machine was so large it needed two people to operate it. It was supposedly used to clean the blue coronation carpet under the throne at Westminster Abbey for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902, so impresing the crowned heads of Europe that they all wanted a similar machine.