Hi! My name is Bob, but I am also known as the VacHunter. Let me tell you how I became interested in the unusual and unique examples of early technology that have become my antique vacuum cleaner collection.
I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During that time, my family owned a flooring business. We traveled to clients’ homes to clean wall-to-wall carpeting and we sold new carpeting in our shop. During the early 1960’s, my father decided to complement the business by selling and servicing vacuum cleaners. As a result, he became a Hoover Dealer. I was always intrigued by tools and machines. I spent at lot of time with my father, watching him repair used, misused, and abused vacuums. He would assemble and test new models for some lucky customer who would purchase the latest Hoover for their home. To insure that business would “pick up”, he started servicing all makes and models of vacuums. My interest in cleaners grew as I began to see their tremendous diversity in design and features. As time passed, my father showed me how to dismantle, test, repair, and reassemble the machines.
I remember the first old cleaner I was given to work on. It was a Hoover model 575 that someone had traded in for a new Hoover light commercial model 334. Countless times I took the motor apart, tested the armature, field coil, and bearings. With Dad’s guidance, I practiced the same procedures with the beater bar and every other component of the machine. Finally, Dad showed me the techniques of buffing the aluminum castings. The highly polished luster of those cleaners made them sparkle like a new chrome bumper on a car. I still have that Hoover 575. It inspired me to find other aluminum cleaners and make them look as good. Every time I restored another cleaner to its original condition, I couldn’t bear to part with it, and thus my collection was born.
I eventually entered college to pursue a career in music. I graduated with a BSME and began to search for a job as an instrumental music teacher. My goal was to teach during the day and run the family business evenings and weekends. But, the early 1970’s were a rough time for Pittsburgh. Because the steel mills were closing one after another, along with many other businesses, thousands of people were out of work. Families were moving out of town to find new jobs and teaching opportunities were scarce. Not wanting to abandon my college education, I searched farther away from home to find a teaching position. In 1974, I accepted a position in eastern Pennsylvania to build an orchestra program in a beautiful rural community north of Philadelphia. Starting a music program, almost from scratch, is very demanding and it left very little time to find or fix vacuums. As a result, my cleaners (still in Pittsburgh) were gathering dust rather than picking it up. As more time became available, I would venture out on some expeditions to find vacuum cleaners. There were plenty of flea markets and shops to check out.
One Saturday, a close friend and colleague asked if I would like to go “antiquing” with him and his wife. I accepted and we drove off together to a little town that had several antique shops. As we walked through the door of the first shop, I was drawn toward an object on the floor that looked like an iron lung with a long handle protruding from a metal holder. I had no idea what it was. I lifted it up to the light to read the label, and it said, “The Regina Model A Pneumatic Vacuum Cleaner.” I was absolutely stunned. It never occurred to me that vacuum cleaners were around before electricity. I bought the odd looking machine and wondered if any other companies had made non-electric vacuums. Sure enough, I found more… and more… and more! Today, my collection totals well over 1,000 hand-powered and early electric machines.
My hope is that you will enjoy yourself at my site. You may wander around the galleries at your leisure and witness some of the most unusual cleaning appliances that a bygone age has produced. I intend to change the items in the galleries often so you can visit again and again. If you subscribe to my free vacuum magazine “Vac-zine”, I will keep you abreast of new gallery displays, services, and items for sale. Each issue of “Vac-zine” will feature a selected vacuum, along with short stories, and other topics of interest. Well, enough talk. Have a great time and don’t worry about wiping your feet; I’ll vacuum after you leave!