William Henry "Boss" Hoover. Courtesy of Tom Anderson
While working as a janitor at a department store in Canton, Ohio, James Murray Spangler invented a portable electric vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner's design was upright, and it used a cloth bag to collect the dirt that was vacuumed up. Spangler first tested his invention in 1907 and patented it after a number of modifications in 1908. He founded the Electric Suction Sweeper Company to manufacture his design.
Ultimately, Spangler's invention became known as the Hoover vacuum cleaner. William H. "Boss" Hoover was married to Spangler's first cousin, who purchased one of Spangler's early models. Intrigued by the new machine, Hoover invested in Spangler's company. He eventually became president of the Electric Suction Sweeper Company. In 1922, Hoover renamed the company the Hoover Company. Under Hoover's direction, many improvements were made in the design of the vacuum cleaner, and new sales strategies were tested. The Hoover Company's headquarters were located in North Canton, Ohio. Hoover set up agreements with stores to become dealerships for the company. The dealer received a commission for each vacuum cleaner sold. In addition, customers were offered a free ten-day trial period to test the vacuum cleaner. This innovative marketing technique made the Hoover Company the largest vacuum cleaner manufacturer in the world. In addition, the company continued to develop innovative designs and additional attachments that made the vacuum cleaner even more appealing to consumers. Hoover produced the first changeable bags for vacuum cleaners as well as steam cleaners and self-propelled vacuums.
Hoover did not concentrate his business interests solely on the United States during this era. He opened a factory in Canada in 1911 and another in England in 1919. To this day, many people in England refer to vacuuming as "hoovering."
During World War II, the Hoover Company switched its production from vacuum cleaners to items needed for the American war effort, such as helmet liners and bomb fuses. Hoover won numerous government awards for its contributions to the nation's war production. Once the war ended, the company returned to producing vacuum cleaners. In the 1940s, the company went from being privately owned to a publicly traded stock. In 1985, the Chicago Pacific Corporation purchased the Hoover Company. The Maytag Corporation subsequently acquired the Chicago Pacific Corporation in 1989. Today, Hoover has a total of five plants. Three are in the North Canton area, with one in El Paso, Texas, and another in Juarez, Mexico.