Friction vacuum cleaners are based on an ingenious concept conceived by James Kirby. They utilize the driving force of the rear wheels to power the cleaner. This style of vacuum derives its power when the operator pushes it across the floor. The wheels contact the floor and turn the axle. This energy is transferred to the fan via a worm gear during every forward motion of the machine. The front wheels are connected to a brush roller to create a sweeping action. These machines look like an early electric upright vacuum, but do not need electrical current to run. As a result, they have no electric motor, cord, plug, or switch. This makes them lightweight, quiet, and cost free to use. Friction vacuums were popular well into the 1940s in communities where electricity was not available. s a matter of fact, we still use them in our home when the occasional “brown out” hits our neighborhood.
I have removed the bag in this illustration to allow the viewer to see the wheel assembly, transfer gear box and fan from the rear of the cleaner. You may want to take a moment to appreciate the genuine antique dust that was picked up by this machine.