Hoover is an American vacuum cleaner company that started out as an American floor care manufacturer based in North Canton, Ohio. It also established a major base in the United Kingdom and for most of the early-and-mid-20th century it dominated the electric vacuum cleaner industry, to the point where the “Hoover” brand name became synonymous with vacuum cleaners and vacuuming in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The Hoover Company in the United States was part of the Whirlpool Corporation but sold in 2006 to Techtronic Industries for $107 million. Hoover UK/Europe split from Hoover U.S. in 1993 and was acquired by Candy, a company based in Brugherio, Italy. It currently uses the same Hoover logo Techtronic uses outside Europe with the slogan “Generation Future”.
In addition to producing floorcare products, Hoover was also an iconic domestic appliance brand in Europe, particularly well known for its washing machines and tumble dryers in the UK and Ireland, and also had significant sales in many parts of Europe. Today, the Hoover Europe brand, as part of the portfolio of brands owned by Candy Group (which is also owned by Bain Capital), remains a major player in the European white goods and floor care sectors in a number of countries.
The first upright vacuum cleaner was invented in June 1908 by Canton, Ohio department store janitor and occasional inventor James Murray Spangler (1848-1915). Spangler was an asthmatic, and suspecting the carpet sweeper he was using at work was the cause of his ailment, he created a basic suction-sweeper by mounting an electric fan motor on a Bissell brand carpet sweeper then adding a soap box and a broom handle. After refining the design and obtaining a patent for the Electric Suction Sweeper he set about producing it himself, assisted by his son, who helped him assemble the machines, and his daughter, who assembled the dust bags. Production was slow, completing just 2-3 machines a week.
Spangler then gave one of his Electric Suction Sweepers to his cousin Susan Troxel Hoover (1846-1925), who used it at home. Impressed with the machine, she told her husband and son about it. William Henry “Boss” Hoover (August 18, 1849 – February 25, 1932) and son Herbert William Hoover, Sr. (October 30, 1877 – September 16, 1954) were leather goods manufacturers in North Canton, Ohio, which at the time was called New Berlin. Hoover’s leather goods business was not too threatened by the introduction of the motor car, but seeing a marketing opportunity, Hoover bought the patent from Spangler in 1908, founding the Electric Suction Sweeper Company with $36,000 capital, retaining Spangler as production supervisor with pay based on royalties in the new business. Spangler continued to contribute to the company, patenting numerous further Suction Sweeper designs until his death in 1915, when the company name was changed to the Hoover Suction Sweeper Company, with Spangler’s family continuing to receive royalties from his original patent until 1925.
Henry Dreyfuss and Hoover
Patent for Dreyfuss’ 150 design
In the early 1930s the company retained the services of Henry Dreyfuss, an up-and-coming industrial designer, to give the Hoover line-up a much needed update. Prior to Dreyfuss’s involvement with the company, the majority of the machines manufactured consisted of a black motor and an aluminum base; this was the norm for more than twenty years. When Hoover introduced the ‘Hedlite’ in 1932, it was rather awkward and unattractive. Dreyfuss integrated this into the housing of the cleaner, making the machine more aesthetically pleasing and echoing the trends of streamline design. Of Dreyfuss’s designs before 1936, he was able to update the basic Hoover machine and keep the company’s products relevant with the times. In 1935, he was commissioned to completely redesign the Hoover cleaner. In 1936, for a fee of 25,000 USD, Dreyfuss sold Hoover the design which would become the Model 150 cleaner. For the first time since the introduction of the Hoover vacuum cleaner, the mechanical workings were completely concealed from sight by a Bakelite cover. This cover was a tear-drop styled shell, which seamlessly incorporated the headlight. Also, he totally revamped the base of the machine. Since the release of this design, all Hoover cleaners consisted of a fluid base and a hood to cover the electric motor. These designs suggested efficiency, cleanliness, and speed. Dreyfuss brought excitement and style to an otherwise mundane household appliance. His final design for the Hoover Company was the 1957 Convertible.
Faced with a total lack of interest by the public in his expensive and unfamiliar new gadget, Hoover placed an ad in the Saturday Evening Post offering customers ten days free use of his vacuum cleaner to anyone who requested it. Using a network of local retailers to facilitate the offer, Hoover thus developed a national network of retailers for the vacuums. By the end of 1908, the company had sold 372 Model 0s. By 1912, sales had been made to Norway, France, Russia, Belgium, Holland and Scotland.
In 1919, Gerald Page-Wood – an art director of Erwin, Wasey & Company, Hoover’s advertising agency – came up with a succinct slogan which summed up the Hoover’s cleaning action: ‘It Beats…as it Sweeps…as it Cleans’. At this time, it referred to the action of the revolving brushes, which vibrated the carpet and helped loosen the trodden-in grit. This offered an advantage over competitors machines, which used suction alone to remove dirt, and therefore were not as efficient as The Hoover. Seven years later, the famous slogan would adapt to even more significance.
Hoover’s business began to flourish, and, a year after Hoover acquired the patent from Spangler, he established a research and development department for his new business. By 1926, Hoover had developed the ‘beater bar’ – a metal bar attached to the rotating brush roll, situated in the floor nozzle cavity of the upright vacuum cleaner. Introduced on Models 543 and 700, the beater bars alternated with the sweeping brushes to vibrate the carpet while sucking. It provided a more distinct ‘tap’ than the bristle tufts used on the former machines, and led to a 101% increase in efficiency. This cleaning action was marketed by Hoover as “Positive Agitation”. ‘It Beats…as it Sweeps…as it Cleans’ rang more true now than ever.
The Model 200 Duster and Model 575 upright, which used the same motor
In 1929, Hoover introduced the Model 200 Duster. This would be their first attempt at a cylinder cleaner. It used a Model 575 motor with a modified suction impeller, which was mounted on a unique aluminum body with runners, allowing the cleaner to be pulled behind the user. The Duster was produced for only three months and roughly 9,000 were made.
Herbert W. Hoover, Sr. took over as president of the company in 1922 and as Chairman of the Board of the Hoover Company in 1932.
1930 saw the introduction of the world’s first handheld vacuum cleaner, the Hoover Dustette. The good design and exceptional durability of these machines mean many are still in service today, some at over 80 years old.
In 1932, Hoover introduced a new optional headlamp called the Hoover Hedlite on Models 425, 750 and 900. By March 1932, it had become standard equipment on Models 750 and 900, and a $5 extra-cost option on Model 425. The Hoover Hedlite illuminated the floor ahead of the cleaner, useful for dimly-lit rooms and corridors, and under furniture. Several new slogans mentioned the light, including ‘It shows you the dirt you never knew you had!’, and ‘It lights where it’s going…it’s clean where it’s gone!’.
In 1936, Hoover introduced top-of-the-line Model 150. It had a time to empty bag indicator; automatic height adjustment; a magnesium body, which made it weigh less than previous models; instant tool conversion; and a two-speed motor. One of the first Dreyfuss designs for Hoover, it was the symbol of the machine age; the beautiful Bakelite hood hid the entire motor from view and there were no protruding knobs or gadgets. It was the first Hoover cleaner that was not of the traditional “coffee can” style, which Hoover had been using since its earliest years. The cleaner sold from 1936 to 1939 and was priced at $80 (which is about $1,500 to $2,000 in today’s money). Two other lower priced Hoovers sold along with the 150: the Model 25 (1937–38), which was the middle of the line cleaner priced at $65; and the Model 300 (1935–38) which became the bottom of the line cleaner and sold at $49.75. Due to the backdrop of the Depression, Hoover produced only 166,000 150s in its three-year production run.
From 1941 to 1945, Hoover ceased all vacuum cleaner production and converted the North Canton, Ohio factory to support the war effort. When the war ended in 1945, Hoover started producing cleaners again and unveiled the Model 27 for post-war America to enjoy.
In 1950, Hoover introduced the Veriflex, which was the first rubberized suction hose in the industry. Other cleaners at the time were using cloth-braided hoses, which would deteriorate and lose suction over time.
In 1954 Herbert W. Hoover Jr. took over the presidency of the company from his father. A nephew of the founder, H. Earl Hoover, also served as chairman and honorary director.
Debut ad for the Hoover Model 29, the first Hoover cleaner made in red
The sombre and restrained colors of the previous decades gave way to bright, striking modern color-schemes, starting with the Hoover Model 29 in 1950, which was red instead of the regular black and brown colors of the past. This was part of their policy of the continual development and modernization of their output.
In 1957 Hoover introduced the Convertible Model 65 (the De Luxe 652 in the UK). It was the last machine designed by Henry Dreyfuss, the industrial designer who had worked with the company since the early 1930s. This cleaner introduced what Hoover called ‘Automatic Shift’, a system whereby the tool converter plugged into the rear of the cleaner. This was not a new idea: instant tool conversion had been introduced in 1936 with the Model 150 Cleaning Ensemble. However, new to Model 65, and slightly later in Britain on the 652A, was the introduction of a switch which automatically shifted the motor to a higher speed as the converter was inserted. The Convertible, or the Senior, in Britain, remains Hoover’s worldwide best-selling cleaner. Although the domestic line was finally discontinued in 1993, a version called the Guardsman is still available in the commercial sector.
1963 saw the introduction of the Dial-A-Matic in the US – sold in Australia as the Dynamatic, and in Britain as the Convertible. This was the first-ever clean-air upright cleaner. The clean-air principle is similar to the flow of air through a cylinder/canister cleaner. Rather than the dirt passing directly through the suction fan and being blown into the bag, it passes through the bag first, leaving only clean air to pass through the fan. This principle was soon adopted by many manufacturers, and continues to be used today. Also, the machine was constructed out of hard plastic. Hoover produced this cleaner from 1963 until the late 1970s in America.
In the summer of 1969, Hoover further refined the Dial-A-Matic’s design when they launched the ‘Powerdrive’ self-propulsion system on the Hoover model 1170. This idea took much of the effort out of pushing the cleaner, because, by using a system of gears, wheels, and belts, the cleaner used its own power to drive itself forward and backwards, the speed and direction being controlled entirely by the user though the ‘Triple-Action’ handgrip. The powerdrive feature on the model 1170 was so efficient, the user could push the bulky machine forward with one finger, and the feature could also be disengaged with a button on the handgrip so the machine could travel easily from room to room with the motor turned off, the machine was very difficult to push when the motor was turned off and the powerdrive was still activated. This was also the first vacuum cleaner available commercially that used the self-propulsion system. This extra technology made the Dial-A-Matic even heavier than the original, and at around $150, it was very expensive. The ‘Powerdrive’ system was carried over into the Concept range in 1978. The powerdrive system was later renamed “Self Propelled”. Hoover continued to use this feature on many products of the 1980s and 1990s. It is still being used today by Hoover and numerous other companies.
In 1986, the Hoover family sold the company. It was acquired by Maytag Corporation in 1989.
On Friday, 6 March 2009, Hoover confirmed that it would discontinue production of washing machines and other laundry products at its Merthyr Tydfil factory, Mid Glamorgan from Saturday, 14 March 2009; giving the reason, the company stated that it could no longer manufacture competitively priced laundry products at the plant.
Hoover had initially announced its closure intentions on Tuesday, 18 November 2008, beginning a period of staff consultation. The company was established in the town over sixty years ago, its factory at Pentrebach, Merthyr Tydfil, opening on 12 October 1948.
Though 337 jobs were lost because of this decision, Hoover UK anticipated retaining its headquarters, logistics, storage and after sales service functions at the site, with some 113 workers retained.
1937 Hoover ad by Australian photographer Max Dupain
- “However clean, Hoover cleaner” – 1912
- “Just run the Hoover over” – 1918
- “A Hoovered home is as clean as it looks” – 1918
- “Don’t compromise with dirt. Have a Hoover.” – 1918
- “It Beats…as it Sweeps…as it Cleans” – 1919
- “It shows you the dirt you never knew you had” – 1932
- “It lights where it’s going…it’s clean where it’s gone” – 1935
- “It Lights…as it Beats…as it Sweeps…as it Cleans” – 1935
- “Give her a Hoover and you give her the best” – 1938
- “You’ll be happier with a Hoover” – 1948
- “Hoover fine appliances around the house….around the world” – 1954
- “The cleaner that walks on air” – 1957-69, for the Constellation canister cleaner.
- “We’re the same company that makes the vacuum cleaners” – late 1950s-early 1960s, in advertising for non-floor care appliances Hoover manufactured for a few years.
- “Floorcare for people who care” – 1962
- “Hoover. Helping you has made us a household word” – 1971
- “Insist on Hoover” – 1974
- “America trusts Hoover to take care of its homes” – 1977
- “America trusts Hoover” – 1984
- “Hoover keeps making it better” – 1986
- “Hoover invented it” – 1988
- “Nobody does it like You” – 1993, 2010
- “Deep down you want Hoover” – 1998
- “Hoover gets it” – 2004
- “America loves its Hoovers” – 2007
- “Hoover…Nobody Does it Like You” – 2008–2013
- “I Love My Hoover” 2013–Present
Popular Hoover machines
The Junior: Introduced by Hoover Limited (UK) in the 1930s, the Hoover Junior is a smaller upright type vacuum for apartments or small houses which was easy to carry around. The Junior was very popular in the UK; Hoover sold millions of them, and it became the biggest selling vacuum there. Various models were produced, with the final machine being manufactured in 1987. Hoover Limited made Juniors for export to the US from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. The exported Juniors were converted to American electrical standards by The Hoover Company in North Canton, Ohio. Finding a Hoover Junior in the USA is quite rare. The Junior was never referred to as such in the USA; it was tagged in official Hoover literature as the Lightweight Upright.
The Dirtsearcher: Introduced again by Hoover Limited (UK) in 1969, was a development of the Junior with a Model 638 style headlamp fitted in place of the tool adaptor cover at the front. This model the 1354 went on to be the most successful UK Hoover manufactured model selling in both European and Commonwealth markets, however it was never sold in the US, although there were 110V versions of the UK-market Juniors sold in Canada (such as the 1354A). They were sold alongside the Junior and Senior/Ranger models becoming the now rare models U1016 and U1040.
The Portable: The Hoover Portable was launched by Hoover in 1963. It is a “Suitcase” type canister that did not have wheels; you would tug it around with you as you clean. When finished, you would store the hose, attachments, and power cord inside the machine. In 1969, Hoover added wheels to the Portable. The Portable was manufactured until 1978. Also, it used the same motor as the Hoover Dial-A-Matic, the first clean-air upright.
The Constellation: In 1954, Hoover introduced the Model 82 Constellation. It was a radically new design in cylinder and tank cleaners. Designed by Henry Dreyfuss, it represented America’s obsession with the space race. Its spherical shape impersonated developing space technology. Its most memorable attribute was the ability to “walk on air”, which eliminated the need for casters, wheels or runners. The cleaner was made mobile by using its exhaust air, which caused the cleaner to lift from the floor and float behind the user (starting with the Model 84). This was an engineering marvel in and of itself. The Constellation cleaner remained extremely popular in its close to 25-year run, with minor design modifications. The machine was discontinued in the mid-1970s with the introduction of the Hoover Celebrity. The machine was so fondly remembered that it was reintroduced and sold from 2006 to 2009.
Model 28: Introduced in 1946, Hoover produced over two million of this model for post-war America. It sold from 1946 to 1950.
Model 63: In 1953, Hoover debuted the ‘deluxe’ Model 63 for $116.95. It was the first Hoover to utilize a full wrap around bumper and a completely disposable dust bag. The cleaner was styled in two-tone baby blue (base) and navy blue (everything except the base). It was an extremely popular model and sold over four million units. The machine was produced from 1953 to 1956. It was sold, in smaller numbers, in the UK, as the model 638. Again, this machine was designed by Henry Dreyfuss.
Hoovermatic; A long running line of top-loading washing machines which ran from 1948 until 1992, sold mainly in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Hoovermatics were also sold in North America under the Washdog name. The machines used a unique washing action which made use of an impeller (known as a “Pulsator”) which span at high speed to create a moving current of water in the wash tub that dragged the laundry through the water.
The Convertible: 1957 ushered in the “long, low and rarin’ to go” Convertible. The name derives from the cleaner’s ability to ‘automatically shift’ into a higher speed upon insertion of the tool converter for more powerful above the floor cleaning. Beginning with the Model 65, it soon became one of the most popular and well known cleaners in American history. The Convertible line was in production from 1957 to the early 1990s, and is still sold in variations in the commercial sector. The “Convertible” was also widely sold in the UK under the name “Senior” the Senior Cleaners were viewed to be the model for larger homes, and although it never outsold the Junior in Britain, it was still a massively popular cleaner.
The word “hoover”
In the UK, Ireland and Australia the term “hoover” (properly as a common noun) has long been colloquially synonymous with “vacuum cleaner” and the verb “to vacuum” (e.g., “you were hoovering the carpet”), referring to the Hoover Company’s dominance there during the early 20th century. Despite Hoover’s no longer being the top seller of vacuum cleaners in the UK, the term “hoover” has remained as a genericised trademark.
Over the years, Hoover has expanded into other product lines, including kitchen appliances, hair dryers, speakers, and industrial equipment.
The Hoover Historical Center
Boyhood home of Hoover vacuum cleaner founder William “Boss” Hoover and what is now the Hoover Historical Center, built 1853
In the 1970s, the Hoover Company opened a museum in the old Hoover home in North Canton, Ohio on the campus of Walsh University. It is called The Hoover Historical Center, and is dedicated to the history of the Hoover company in Canton. The museum exhibits include a number of non-Hoover hand-operated vacuum cleaners from before the company started, and displays of Hoover products throughout the company’s history. Also on display are some of the munitions the company produced during World War II to help the war effort, and items personal to the Hoover family.
The Hoover plant in North Canton, Ohio.
The company became publicly traded in the 1940s. Stock in Hoover was first sold on August 6, 1943, allowing the company to expand. In 1985, Hoover was purchased by the Chicago Pacific Corporation, and in 1989, Chicago Pacific was purchased by Maytag.
In 1993, the Hoover Trading Company and Hoover UK merged to become the Hoover European Appliances Group. In 1995, Candy Group acquired the Hoover European Appliances Group in its entirety with the exclusive rights on the brand for the whole of Europe (including all territories of the former-Soviet Union), North Africa and selected countries in the Middle East.
In 2004, Maytag announced that it would consolidate its corporate office and back office operations in Newton, Iowa and close almost all of Hoover’s overlapping functions. This effectively meant that most white-collar jobs at Hoover’s North Canton location would be eliminated. The company had previously closed another manufacturing facility in Jackson Township, Stark County, Ohio, and the facility was sold to a church. Like many manufacturing companies in the U.S., Hoover is facing pressures as consumers demand lower-priced goods. Hoover has operations in Mexico, where operating costs are lower than in the U.S.
After Maytag was acquired by Whirlpool in 2006, that firm reached an agreement to sell Hoover to Hong Kong, China-based firm Techtronic Industries. TTI has announced its intention to close the original plant in North Canton in September 2007.
Hoover in Australia
Since 1954, the Hoover factory at Meadowbank has been manufacturing washing machines and other products. A subsidiary of the US company, Hoover, it merged with Chicago Pacific in 1985 and Maytag in 1989.
In 1994, Hoover Australia was to be listed as a public company with a six-monthly operating profit of $8,850,000. This sparked a fight between Email Limited and Southcorp, two of Australia’s largest white goods manufacturers for a commercial sale. Both were eager to strengthen their market share and further monopolise the whitegoods industry. By December 1994, Southcorp announced a successful bid to buy Hoover Australia. In March 1996, Southcorp began a big rationalisation, sacking workers in maintenance, stores, administration and supervision at the Hoover factory.
At the same time, Southcorp was announcing a big increase in their share price.Dishlex and Chef, was official with Email now obtaining a conservative 60 per cent share of the Australian white goods market.
In April, 1999, the sale of Southcorp Appliances, including Hoover,
Prior to the Southcorp buy out, Hoover Australia operated as a US subsidiary with its own administration, sales and marketing, large maintenance and engineering departments, a service division and a much larger production workforce. At this time, in the early ’90s, Hoover was making healthy profits, as a result of investment in new technology and machinery through the late ’80s, followed by a big drive towards quality improvement combined with a very flexible workforce.
After the Southcorp takeover, a culture of fear was introduced based on a widespread campaign to strip all the indirect labour from the workforce, and a myth that the factory was inefficient and unproductive. Every month it was reported the factory was losing $1 million or more. Morale at the factory went into a downward spiral. This was followed by decisions to stop production of barrel and upright vacuum cleaners, next was the end of the front loader washing machine. Vacuum cleaners and front loaders were replaced with imported products, the plastic moulding production was contracted out, the factory was being stripped of production, volume and jobs. A cost reduction campaign followed with good quality components being replaced by inferior cheap components and a complete breakdown of any real preventative maintenance program, which gave way to a large number of machine and equipment breakdowns. The reality, rather than the myth, was the Hoover Meadowbank site was being run into the ground by corporate decisions.
By the late 1990s Email had finally closed the Meadowbank factory and integrated its white goods manufacturing into the Simpson plant in South Australia. The vacuum cleaner side of the business was sold to Godfreys. Several years later, Email itself was sold and broken up. The white goods division of Email was then sold to Electrolux. Shortly after taking ownership, Electrolux ceased leasing the Hoover brandname and the manufacturing and supply of Hoover white goods ceased in Australia.
Free flights promotion
In 1992, the British division of Hoover announced the Hoover free flights promotion, the demand for which rose far beyond the company’s expectations, resulting in major costs and public relations problems for the British division and Maytag, which eventually led to its sale to the Italian manufacturer Candy. In 1993, Sandy Jack became the first person in the United Kingdom to take Hoover to court over the Hoover free flights promotion. Upon the decision in Hoover v. Sandy Jack at Sheriff Court in Kirkcaldy, Fife, a precedent was set. Hoover Holiday Pressure Group furthered court action against Hoover at St. Helens in Merseyside.
The products sold under the Hoover brand vary increasingly from one market to the next. For example, in the United States, the Hoover brand is used exclusively to sell floorcare products produced by TTI. Meanwhile,in the UK and most of Europe, Hoover branding appears on Candy Group products including white goods such as washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerators, as well as floorcare products. Current details of the product range available to consumers can be found by visiting the Hoover website for the market of interest.
Over the past decade,
Hoover has lost its dominant position in the UK and in the United States and now faces strong competition from numerous brands.
In the United States, Hoover’s competition includes: Royal, Dirt Devil, and Vax (all of which are owned by Hoover’s Hong Kong owner Techtronic Industries); Kirby; Eureka; Dyson; Electrolux; Oreck; Panasonic; Bissell; and Kenmore (the house brand of American store chain Sears, which is manufactured predominantly by Panasonic and Sanyo).
Dyson and Electrolux lead the list of UK competitors, followed by Bosch, Dirt Devil, SEBO, Vax, Morphy Richards, Miele, Bissell, Numatic (maker of the famous “Henry” cylinder cleaner), Zanussi, Russell Hobbs, LG, and others.