A brief introduction James B. Kirby: A Pioneer in Innovation

James B. Kirby is a name that resonates with innovation and groundbreaking inventions. Countless tales surround this legendary figure, but today we will focus on his remarkable impact on the vacuum cleaner industry, aligning with the main objective of this site.

Kirby had a natural talent for mechanics and enjoyed tinkering with machines. He would often disassemble mechanical appliances to understand their inner workings and would even improve their performance.

He started his own struggling invention shop, facing the challenge of finding ways to bring his perfected creations to the market. One of his inventions was a barbershop massaging machine, but he lacked the means to market it. Eventually, the P. A. Geier Co. recognized the potential and took on his patents. P.A Geier came to be The Royal Vacuum Cleaner Co.of today.

One day, he witnessed a wagon with a long hose sucking up dirt and dust from a house. This observation inspired him to come up with a smaller version that can be used at homes everywhere effortlessly and in 1906, he completed his first vacuum cleaner. It was a tank-type cleaner operated by a pump handle, using water to separate dust from the air. Although it wasn’t initially practical, Kirby continued to refine his designs. In 1907, he created a motor-driven model, and in the same year, he designed a lightweight, portable electric cleaner with a dust bag and long handle.

The Next Phase

James B. Kirby’s  landlord, Mr. Frantz, recognized the potential of his inventions and in  1909 along with his brothers, organized the Premier Vacuum Cleaner Co.  which produced the  “The Frantz”  AKA “The broomstick” model and in between  1912-1914 the infamous Ezee none electric sweeper. The Frantz Premier co. was established at around the same time. Two of the Frantz brothers  went on to  form the Apex Electrical Manufacturing Co., while two others from the Premier organization, Milton Spielman and Walter Posse, founded Domestic Electric, which eventually grew into the Black & Decker Co. and then Lamb Electric. Kirby went on to form a lasting partnership with The Scott &Fetzer co. which established Kirby as an international brand that is still going strong.

Kirby’s early models laid the foundation for modern vacuum cleaners, with their convenient attachments. His mother’s remark about the potential of such machines as benefactors to women proved to be true. Jim Kirby’s contributions to the vacuum cleaner industry, including the development of the vacuum cleaner on a handle and the establishment of the industry in Cleveland, have left a lasting impact.