These are among the most common of the non electric vacuum cleaners. Some people believe this style of cleaner is from the 1800s. In actuality, the plunger vacuum made its appearance after 1900. There may be a few exceptions, but most of them were sold under a patent license that dates from December 26, 1911. They are normally long, slender cylinders that taper at the bottom of the machine with a nozzle connected at the end which contacts the floor. A plunger handle at the top of the cleaner is drawn upward with one hand, while the other hand stabilizes the machine. This action develops suction as air is drawn into the nozzle when the plunger seal moves up through the cleaner’s body. If you can visualize a hypodermic needle in action as a nurse draws a blood sample, you will notice that these machines work on the same principle. Dust was sucked into a small diameter tube where it entered the center of the body. After the dust fell to the side of the cleaner’s interior, it was trapped in the funnel shaped part of the machine. In addition, a cloth air filter, above the containment area, was incorporated into the design.
Some hybrids existed as well. They may have used bellows, exterior dust collecting bags, or twin handles. None-the-less, they are still exciting to watch in action.
Made by the R. Armstrong Mfg. Company Cincinatti, Ohio The Allen: Manufactured by the Allen Company Chicago The New Home: Made by the R. Armstrong Mfg. Company, Cincinatti, Ohio. The Allen: Manufactured by the Allen Company Chicago
The placement of the valves allowed for vacuum to be produced during both the upward and downward movement of the plunger. The plunger style vacuum was the forerunner of the lightweight "stick-vacs" of today.
The JEM Manufactured by the Guarantee Sales Co., Chicago. The photos illustrate the inner parts of the plunger machine. They worked to a certain degree. Remember, they were designed to pick up dust and light dirt on very thin carpeting, oil cloth, or bare floors. Of course, they would not do an adaquate job on today’s thick flooring.
The main drawback of the early plunger machines was the fact that they only created suction on the upward stroke. The energy expended by the user to force the plunger down did not result in any cleaning action. As a result, the machines were effective only 50% of the operation time under optimum conditions.