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The History of the Sweeping Industry

C.S. Bishop Credited With First Patent of a Street Sweeping Machine

The first mechanical street sweeper in the U.S. is credited as having been invented by C.S. Bishop, and patented on September 4, 1849 (U.S. Patent 6,699.)

The cleanliness of roads has been a concern since their invention because they quickly became dumping grounds for all types of waste, resulting in numerous health concerns. These concerns were not only prevalent in Europe, but in North America as well. Starting during the Industrial Revolution, especially, coal dust proved very problematic. Dust would eventually settle on the streets and then rainfall would wash it into adjacent streams. Many of these streams were used as drinking water, making many people very sick.

Early streets were also constructed of cobblestone and brick because of their ability to withstand great weight. As a result, they contained many hiding spots for sediment and refuse. These cracks and crevices also made cleaning very difficult.

Historically, streets were commonly cleaned by walking workers. They would pick up debris by hand or via the use of a broom. We have also seen photos of a few horse-drawn machines. If you could imagine the days where a man would manually have to sweep the streets with a long broom, a shovel and a dustpan, you can see where the idea of having a machine do the work would be an attractive one.

Bishop's Sweeper

As can be seen in the photo, Bishop's mechanical street-sweeper was quite a departure from sweeping by hand. The machine had a broom that looked much like the push brooms still sold today. In addition, it offered twin conveyor belts for depositing the collected material into a container, today called a 'hopper.' Bishop's design called for the sweeper to be a towed attachment that had a built-in rotating brush wheel.

We have been unable to find even an anecdotal evidence of Bishop's tow-behind sweeper having been built and used.

It was forty-seven years later when Charles Brooks patented the first self-propelled street sweeper, which he thought was an improvement over Bishop's idea. Brooks patented his self-propelled machine on March 17, 1896. Brooks apparently decided that the regular way of cleaning the streets was too daunting and not very cost-effective. So, he decided to create a sort of broom or sweeper and attach this device to a truck. Brooks' street sweeper was the first design to look somewhat like the machines we're used to seeing today.

Also, we're always on the lookout for more sweeper-oriented information we can add to the website, so keep us in mind if you find interesting information about sweeping.

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