Friday, October 30, 2015

Bissell's carpet sweeper

I bought this 1930's or 40's Bissell carpet sweeper at a yard sale for $2!  It's primarily of plywood construction.  All it needed was some glue to repair delaminations on some of the veneer and the brush driven wheels.

In the 1870's, Melville and Anna Bissell owned a china store in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  In those days, fragile objects usually came packed in sawdust, which got everywhere.  Melville had purchased a carpet sweeper to address this problem, but his own improvements led him to patent his own version in 1876.  Soon, he and his wife had founded a cottage industry to supply these to local customers.  Business expanded, and a manufacturing plant was opened in 1883.  Sales increased even more when they heeded the advice of their bookkeeper to market the appliance based on the quality of the wood ("golden maple, opulent walnut and rich mahogany") and not its engineering merits.  In Britain, even Queen Victoria had palace staff buy Bissell cleaners.  In 1889, following Meville's death, Anna took over the company reins, becoming one of the first female CEO's in the U.S.  By 1890, the company was producing 1000 sweepers a day and "bisselling" had become a verb.  The company continued to prosper, and in 2009 took the lead from Hoover to become the premier North American floor-care manufacturer.


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