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Fascinating facts about the invention of
carpet sweeper
by Melville Bissell in 1876.


In 1876, Melville Bissell began marketing his invention, a carpet sweeper with revolving brushes which picked up the dust and dirt and deposited it inside the sweeper housing. It depended on the rotation of the wheels to drive the sweeping mechanism and only removed debris from the uppermost regions of the carpet nap.
Invention: carpet sweeper in 1876
Carpet Sweeper ©Vaunt Design Group.
Function: noun / to remove from a surface with a brush
Definition: A device used to clean rugs and floors, consisting of a metal or plastic box equipped with rotating brushes and pushed by means of a long handle.
Patent: 182,346 (US) issued September 19,1876
Inventor: Melville Reuben Bissell
Melville and Anna Bissell ©Bissell Inc.
Criteria: First practical.. Entrepreneur.
Birth: September 25, 1843, in Hartwick, New York.
Death: March 15, 1889, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Nationality: American
1811 first floor-sweeping machine patented by James Hume in England
1858 Lucius Bigelow in England and Hiram Herrick in Massachusetts invent improved version
1876 Melville Bissell receives patent for his carpet sweeper invention
1883 The first BISSELL manufacturing plant is built in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
1889 Anna Bissell becomes America's first female corporate CEO, after Melville's untimely death
CAPs: Bisell, Melville Bissell, Anna Bissell, James Hume, Lucius Bigelow, Hiram Herrick, SIPs: bissell, carpet sweeper, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
Prior to the introduction of "electric suction cleaners", most housewives used brooms and dust pans. Many of the mid-Victorian homes had large "Axminster" or "Turkish" carpets on the floors of principal rooms. In order to remove dirt, dust and animal dander from the nap of these floor coverings, the carpets were removed from the home and beaten with a device similar to an oversized fly swatter called a rug beater. Beginning in 1811 and again in 1858 many mechanical sweepers were invented. None of the machines worked very well and in some cases actually stirred up more dust then they picked up.

That was about to change thanks to an American couple living in Michigan. Anna and Melville Bissell owned a small crockery shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While cleaning up after the day's work, Anna often became frustrated with the sawdust that was embedded in the carpet. The tiny, stubborn particles clung to the carpet, and trying to sweep them up was becoming a time-consuming nuisance.

Anna presented the problem to Melville, her mechanically inclined husband. Melville designed and constructed a carpet sweeper machine that he hoped would solve the problem once and for all. His ingenious design was a success, and word of Melville Bissell's carpet sweeper spread quickly. People soon began asking where they could purchase a sweeper for themselves.Although other companies made sweepers, those didn’t work very well. Melville’s sweeper was lighter, worked on uneven floors and picked up dirt without creating a cloud of dust. When people saw this, they wanted one, too.

As word of the Bissell sweeper got around, Melville and Anna loaded their buggy with carpet sweepers and sold them door-to-door, each taking opposite sides of the street. The brushes were made by local women in their homes, then assembled in a room above the store.The BISSELL Carpet Sweeper was patented in 1876, and in 1883 the first BISSELL manufacturing plant was built in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Following Melville untimely death in 1889, Anna Bissell stepped in and confidently took control of the company, becoming America's first female corporate CEO. Under Anna's aggressive and innovative management, The cpmpany soon began to look in new directions in product development and to expand their business to include all the continents of the world. Anna ran the company until her death in 1934, at age 87.

Today Bissell Inc. is an industry leader, with products sold in more than 60 countries. Still privately owned and still managed by the Bissell family, Bissell Inc. merits its own chapter in the history of American housekeeping.


Invention of the Vacuum Clearer   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder

Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs
World of Inventions
by Bridget Travers, Jeffrey Muhr, Sarah S. Evans / Hardcover 1043 pages (1998) / GALE Group
A one-volume reference covering both well-known and lesser-known inventions and inventors, this fairly comprehensive work includes information on noteworthy contributions of inventors from groups that may have been overlooked in the past, namely, women and minorities. More than 1100 alphabetically arranged entries describe significant developments from the Industrial Revolution to the present, focusing not on how things work but on how they came to be.
Never Done: A History of American Housework
by Susan Strasser / Paperback: 361 pages / Owl Books (NY) (November 1, 2000)
It is truly an eye-opening perspective on housework, not to mention a history of the tools of the trade.
How to Avoid Housework
by Paula Jhung / Paperback: 224 pages / Fireside (May 5, 1995)
Tips, Hints and Secrets to Show You How to Have a Spotless Home Without Lifting. She wants to develop a self-cleaning house, and although that remains only a dream, the wisdom amassed in pursuit of it, if heeded, can help make cleaning much easier.
The Almanac of Fascinating Beginnings: (This title is out of print.)
by Norman King / Paperback - 130 pages (1994) / Citadel Press /
ISBN: 080651549X
From the Academy Awards to the Xerox Machine

Household Wonders  
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
HOUSEHOLD WONDERS tells the story of seven taken-for-granted inventions that make modern life comfy, fast and clean: the stove, sewing machine, refrigerator, air conditioner, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, toaster and mixer.


Since 1876, we've spent years developing cleaning tools and formulas designed to keep your living environment up to the highest standards. Even though the dust is now somewhat settled, BISSELL remains focused on the future.

The Carpet Sweeper History
Melville Bissell didn’t start out intending to make carpet sweepers. After all, he and his wife Anna had a successful Grand Rapids crockery shop.
As word of the Bissell sweeper got around, Melville and Anna loaded their buggy with carpet sweepers and sold them door-to-door, each taking opposite sides of the street. In 1883 Melville and Anna incorporated Bissell.
Canada Science and Technology Museum
The largest of its kind in Canada devoted to Science and Technology education.


The Public Museum of Grand Rapids
The largest collection of carpet sweepers in the world: approximately 1,500 of them.The collection was given to the Public Museum by Bissell Inc. a few years ago and includes virtually every model they made, plus many made by competitors.
First Female CEO
After Melville died of pneumonia in 1889, Anna Bissell became one of America’s first female CEOs and ran the company until her death in 1934, at age 87.
US Patent No. 182,346
The brushes were made by local women in their homes, then assembled in a room above the store.

Bissell Carpet Sweeper
Home & Garden / by BISSELL INC /
ASIN: B0007ZKHF6 / model 2101Z / Less than $23.00
Convenient and Lightweight - less than 12 pounds. Stores ready to use. Powerful Cross Action Brush loosens embedded dirt. Cleans as well as a full size upright deep cleaner.
Versatile - quickly converts from a deep cleaner to a bare floor cleaner.


  • Bissell soon became a household word: Queen Victoria once demanded that Buckingham Palace carpets be "Bisselled."
  • Anna Bissell was also one of the first employers in America to provide employee health benefits.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised April, 2005.

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