James M. Spangler Biography

Picture Of James Murray Spangler

James Murray Spangler (1848 - 1915) is known as an inventor of a first portable vacuum cleaner. His invention was an improvement of relatively recent vacuum cleaner which was so big that it had to be drawn by horses, could not enter buildings and needed more people to operate it.

James M. Spangler was born on November 20, 1848, in the family of William and Elizabeth Lind Spangler, among nine other children. They all first live in Plain Township, Pennsylvania and the moved to Stark County, Ohio. He married Elista Amanda Holtz on May 21, 1874, and with her he had three children Clarence, Francis, and Jennie.

After they moved to Akron in 1880, he started working as a salesman, first with his brother and then for the Aultman Company. At that time, he started inventing things. His first patent was a patent on a grain harvester in 1887 where he removed a standard tailboard and replaced it with a sliding tailboard which was adjusted according to the grain of different length. His next patent was a combination of a hay rake and tedder which was patented in 1893. Because it was a combination of two tools, it had a lower cost. He tried to sell it and made a company which would do that but it was unsuccessful and of a short life. In 1897 he patented a velocipede wagon which he managed to sell to a company in Springfield, Ohio but bicycle became popular at the same time and wagon didn’t sell well.

James started working as a sweeper at the Zollinger Department Store in the Folwell Building. The problem was that he was asthmatic. Dust that sweepers he used made irritated his lungs, and he decided to find a solution to that problem. He decided to make an electric carpet sweeper. In 1907, he made a first variant for which he used a mechanical carpet sweeper as a base. He mounted an electric motor from a sewing machine on it and placed fan blades in a hole at the back of the box of a sweeper. Motor rotated brushes off the sweeper which removed dust from the floor, and fan blades sucked the air from the box into a dirtbag (which he made from a pillowcase). For an improved version of this cleaner (which he called "suction sweeper") he used a wooden soap box as a body. And his invention worked! He used it to clean Folwell Building, his asthma receded and at last, he had an invention that he could sell. He continued to improve it and finally patented it on June 2, 1908.

Picture Of Hoover 4 Old Vacuum Cleaner

Spangler tried to manufacture his suction sweeper by himself. He found investors but by the time he applied for patent investors gave up, and he was left without resources to mass-produce the machine. At the same time, he showed the device to his cousin Susan Hoover, which was married to William Hoover, a leather-goods manufacturer who made horse collars and harnesses. William Hoover had his problem at the time because automobiles slowly gained popularity and equipment for horses were sold less and less. Hoover saw an opportunity, and he bought Spangler's patent in 1908. At first, he made six suction sweepers a day and sales were slow, but it occurred to him to give potential buyers 10-day free trial. He also employed door-to-door salesmen that demonstrated new machine to people. All this help the sales enormously.

James M. Spangler stayed as superintendent at the Hoover’s Company. Until 1914, Spangler's wife and daughter made bags for sweepers when the job moved to New Berlin, and Spangler’s son worked there for a year when he died. James M. Spangler died on January 22, 1915, a night before his first vacation in Florida.