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Today in History: Michigan couple gets patent for the famous Bissell

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On this date in 1876, one Michigan couple changed the way we clean forever.

Back then, Anna and Melville Bissell owned a small ceramic shop in Grand Rapids. Cleaning up after a day’s work was no easy feat. Anna often grew frustrated with dust and clay stuck in the carpet. At that time, the only way to get the clay out was to beat the rug, or try to lift the clumps out with a broom. When Anna brought the problem to Melville, he had an idea.

Melville designed and constructed the first carpet sweeper machine, hoping to solve the problem. His innovative design worked! Soon enough, word spread around town. and patrons showed up at the shop looking to purchase a mechanical sweeper of their own. At the time, other companies were making sweepers, but Melville’s version was lighter, worked on uneven surfaces and didn’t create clouds of dust.

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When the Bissells realized what they had, they decided to start selling them door-to-door. They employed local women to build the brushes for the sweeper in their home. Then they would assemble the mechanical sweeper in a room above their store. The Bissell carpet sweeper was patented on Sept. 19,1876. In 1883, the first manufacturing plant was built in Grand Rapids.

When Melville passed away in 1889, Anna took over the carpet sweeper company, making her the first female CEO in America. Anna continually defended the company’s patents and marketed sweepers across North America and Europe. Queen Victorian even purchased a Bissell and insisted the palace be “bushelled” weekly.

Over time, Bissell created a carpet shampooer, deep-cleaning machine, portable deep cleaner, modern vacuum and more.

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