Household Appliance Invention Timeline

The invention timeline for household appliances stretches back to the early part of the 19th century. Prior to that date, things like central heating, hot water, garbage disposals, dishwashers, vacuums and lightbulbs simply didn't exist. Cleaning had to be done by hand. Average homes were much smaller, and usually built around a fireplace that provided warmth in winter, hot water for baths and a place to cook. The inventors who created our modern conveniences transformed our way of life, making larger homes possible and freeing people from the daily chores that consumed large amounts of time.

Timeline of Modern Household Appliances

  • 1806: Humphrey Davey, an English inventor, creates an electric lamp that forms the prelude to the light bulb.
  • 1850s: A prelude to the modern hot water heater uses gas jets to heat a bath.
  • 1860: Daniel Hess patents the first carpet sweeper; a precursor to the vacuum cleaner.
  • 1868: The Geyser water heating system is first used in Europe; although dangerous, this gas-powered device is the first to heat water as it enters a tub.
  • 1869: Ives McGaffey creates the Whirlwind vacuum cleaner, the first vacuum cleaner in commercial production. Completely manual, it required constant hand cranking to operate.
  • 1876: Melville Bissell creates another carpet sweeper. He founds the Bissell Company, which becomes a leading vacuum manufacturer.
  • 1880: A team led by Thomas Edison develops a general-use lightbulb, using carbonized filaments to increase the usable lifespan. Edison would be the first to experiment with tungsten filaments, but found the material impractical to use.
  • 1889: Norwegian engineer Edwin Rudd creates the first electric water heater.
  • 1893: The first toaster is invented by Rookes Crompton in England. This early toaster had exposed heating elements and could only brown one side of the bread at a time.
  • 1901: The first powered vacuum cleaner is invented by H. Cecil Booth. Powered by an oil engine, it was large and unwieldy, and ultimately lost out to more compact devices.
  • 1905: Albert Marsh creates Nichrome wire, which paves the path for toasters.
  • 1907: A janitor, James Murray Spangler, creates a vacuum cleaner that uses bags to capture dust and debris. He sells his patent to the Hoover company, which becomes a household name in vacuum cleaners.
  • 1909: General Electric sells the first commercially marketed toaster, invented by Frank Shailor.
  • 1919: Charles Strite develops the first pop-up toaster.
  • 1925: Toastmaster, the first fully automatic, pop-up toaster, is developed by The Waters Gentry Company.
  • 1926: Hoover introduces the agitator, which drastically improves the efficiency of vacuum cleaners.
  • 1927: John Hammes invents the garbage disposal.
  • 1938: Hammes founds In-Sink-Erator, the first manufacturer of residential garbage disposals.
  • 1941: M.S. Wells files a patent for a device used to crush oil cans, the prelude to the residential trash compactor.
  • 1960s: John A. Boyd and a Stephen Hopkins both file patents for their inventions of different types of residential trash compactors.
  • 1978: James Dyson begins a series of 5,000 vacuum prototypes that lead to the development of the bagless Dual-Cyclone vacuum.
  • 1991: John Bauer patents an updated trash compactor with multiple bail options and efficient operation.
  • 1997: New York City lifts its ban on garbage disposals following a two-year study of the impact of food waste on the city's sewer system.


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