In our most recent interview we speak with John Long of Pittston, Pennsylvania. John is an avid collector of all things Hoover, especially vacuum cleaners, and has traveled across the country in his pursuit of elusive vintage machines. John is also the Vice President of the Vacuum Cleaner Collectors Club and he makes annual pilgrimages to North Canton, the birthplace of Hoover.
We took the opportunity to ask John some questions about vacuum cleaner collecting and Hoover...
What started your interest in collecting vacuum cleaners?
My family always had Hoover cleaners. I was fascinated by the red Hoover logo, the bag inflating, the light going on, etc. When I was younger I had to clean part of our church, the convent, and later, part of the seminary. They all had Hoover cleaners. I saw it as a sign, lol.
My interest in Hoover vacuums started me collecting. One by one I'd collect models I always liked, hard to find ones, anniversary year models, etc. I became so immersed in these machines that at some point I'd be able to tell which vacuum my neighbors had by the sound of the motor.
I know people have lots of hobbies and collect lots of different things. Some collect cars, others stamps, coins, dolls, etc. I'm now past the jokes. I collect Hoover Vacuum Cleaners.
What can you tell us about your collection?
I have every type of Hoover made:
- Convertibles (called a convertible because when you 'click' the attachments into the cleaner it "converts" to an above the floor vacuum),
- Slimlines (a very slim canister vacuum that Hoover referred to as a “discount priced vacuum, but all Hoover”),
- Constellations (the motor exhaust is on the bottom allowing the cleaner to 'follow you on a cushion of air'),
- Portables (look like a suitcase because everything is packed inside). The portable Hoover was on display at The Louvre Museum in France.....'function meets art'.,
- Pixies (a little handheld or shoulder strap cleaner used for car interiors, stairs, etc),
- Portapowers (a tiny canister vacuum affectionately referred to as a “great little sucker”),
- Handivacs (Hoover's version of a stickvac),
- Polishers, shampooers, etc.
The following image shows some of John’s Hoover Convertibles.
And a few of the space-age looking Constellations (below).
What is it about Hoover that fascinates you?
I like the design of the machines, the family that built the empire, the sound of the machines, and the way they clean.
It's also fascinating to look at these vacuums and realize that they all came from the same place, although decades apart. I look at some of them and wonder how many were wedding gifts, Christmas presents, etc. There's tremendous history among them all. I appreciate the men and women who designed them, marketed them, manufactured them, etc. They are a great piece of American history.
How did Hoover become so well known?
It all began on 08-08-08 in New Berlin, (now North Canton), Ohio. "Boss" Hoover owned a tannery and began making a suction sweeper with the help of janitor, Murray Spangler, an asthmatic, who actually made the contraption using a handle, fan, and a pillowcase.
It kicked off with a brilliant sales approach: "Try before you buy". The idea was to get the lady of the house to try the cleaner in her own home. They were also provided with convenient payment plans, usually as low as $1.00 monthly. This approach was the beginning of their success.
Are parts still available for the old machines?
Some are. Hoover used to keep all parts for machines for 25 years but then Tech Tronic Industries took over Hoover, and that all stopped. However, the "Convertible" is still made in a commercial capacity and parts are still available for this machine. If you have a convertible vacuum you can buy and use the "commercial" parts in it.
People can find parts on Ebay, etc, or through ‘bojack’ parts stores (bojack referring to parts such as bags, belts, etc. NOT made by the company).
Who is TTI?
Tech Tronic Industries (TTI) is a Hong Kong based company that bought a LOT of American vacuum cleaner companies such as "Hoover", Dirt Devil, "Royal", "Oreck", "Black & Decker, etc. They bought the logos, patents, designs, etc.
How do you track down a new acquisition?
The best place is Ebay. Sometimes, one can also find excellent machines that were thrown away, curb finds, trades, private sales, etc. Some people host mini-meets where vacuums, etc. may be purchased or traded.
What is your prize vacuum?
Mine is the Convertible, model 1076, which I bought new in 1975 with my paper route money (see left). It was my first vacuum purchase. It was my 'daily driver' in my 12-room home for many years. It still looks and runs like the day I bought it new.
Why is it special?
I was impressed with the color, (wild for the 70s). It was top of the line at the time. I've also collected all of the models that all of my relatives have/had. I can show you each one and tell you which relative it’s associated to.
What vacuum do you use around the house for typical cleaning?
I use Convertibles and Constellations to name a few. I have vacuums all over the house, on both floors. I reach for several different models as the mood strikes.
If you could have any vacuum regardless of rarity or price, what vacuum would it be and why?
There are very few models that are on my "must have" list, as I own over 450 Hoover appliances at the moment. But if I could have any vacuum it would be the Hoover Model "0", the FIRST one that started it all.
This was a very heavy, expensive machine, and was all the rage for homes “with electricity”. Murray Spangler constructed the vacuum out of a box fan, a pillowcase, and a handle. People first laughed at them but Boss Hoover said, "If we can get them to try it in their homes, we'll sell them". And they did. Expansion of the facilities allowed them to make more, and ultimately refine them.
Are you a member of any clubs or associations related to vacuums?
I joined The Vacuum Cleaner Collector’s Club (VCCC) in 2008. This allowed me to visit the Hoover Company grounds when the town of North Canton was celebrating Hoover's 100th birthday. Tech Tronic Industries had bought Hoover and closed the buildings but we were able to be there, tour the recently vacant buildings, meet past and present employees, etc. It was a wonderful weekend just to be able to stand there and be in the midst of it all.
Every year, I return to North Canton. I've made wonderful friends there, and it's always great to see them again. I've been in all of the buildings, including the Hoover Historical Center and the birthplace of Boss Hoover, now a museum on the campus of Walsh University. In the museum Museum Studies Students learn about a company that changed the world.
I'm now the Vice President of The VCCC and we gather once a year in a different city to meet, socialize, etc. It's wonderful. We've had members from the U.S., Canada, England, Italy, Australia, Africa. We're truly a 'global' club.
What are the best events for a collector to attend?
Many people host mini meets in their homes. I've done so for about 7 years now, at various times throughout the year. Collectors bring machines to use, repair, sell, trade, etc. Even though I'm all "Hoover", I DO allow other 'species' into my home. It has become a running joke to always have “rubber gloves for John”, in case he has to touch another make.
We also host an annual convention for members and friends of The VCCC. Convention cities have included (Cleveland, Ohio - for Kirby's 100th birthday), (Austin Texas), (Chicago, Illinois), (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), (Portland, Oregon), (St. Louis, Missouri), and (North Canton, Ohio - for Hoover's 100th birthday). Next year we meet in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
What advice would you give to those new to vacuum collecting?
Get to know other collectors who can help you repair/restore vacuums, locate machines, parts, memorabilia, etc. You won't feel like you're "the only one".
Also, find what you like: it might be one vacuum manufacturer, or one type of machine, etc. And find others who share your passion. I'm proud to know so much about an important American family and an iconic product that changed the world.