Monday, September 7, 2015

We used to make things in this country. #207: The Premier Vacuum Cleaner Company, Toronto, Ontario

Above my Premier Model 86 "Spic-Span" hand-held vacuum cleaner.  Below, a larger Premier Duplex vacuum head that I picked up somewhere and kept because the brass badge was so cool!  It boasts that the device won a Medal of Honor at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915.

The Canadian firm was a subsidiary of the Frantz Premier Co. of Cleveland.  The company was founded in 1910 by the three Frantz brothers.  They had met James B. Kirby through a real-estate deal and, impressed by his new vacuum cleaner design (which Kirby referred to as "a broomstick with a gadget on the end"), bought the rights to make it.  Their "Premier" was first made in 1911 and sold for $25.
By 1914, the Franz Premier cost $32.50 with attachments.  In 1915, it was purchased by General Electric and renamed the Electric Vacuum Cleaner Company.  (I suspect that the Frantz brothers did well on the deal!) This was GE's intro into this market, and they continued to use the Frantz Premier name until World War II.  In 1920, they made it a GE division named the Premier Vacuum Cleaner Company.  In 1931, the Toronto operation at 28 Adelaide Street East (the former location of Carswell & Co., law book publishers and now the location of a real estate company) was making a thousand machines a month for export. 

As for Kirby, he got involved with the Scott-Fetzer Corporation, while continuing his involvement with Frantz Premier.

Popular Mechanics, November 1915

To see an early company brochure, visit earth concerns cleaning.

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