Victorian Inventions We Couldn’t Live Without Today | Meredith Sweetpea


A fine Victorian invention

We see lines at the electronics store when the new smartphone comes out, and frenzies at the toy store when a popular doll is sold out.  Miss Meredith Sweetpea was wondering what inventions Victorians made that we couldn’t live without today.


The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell and patented in 1876. He just barely beat out another inventor, Elisha Gray, who had also been working on a similar invention–but who got to the patent office two hours later.

Vacuum Cleaner

The vacuum cleaner was invented by Hubert Cecil Booth of England. He saw an American inventor showing off a new cleaning machine to clean railway carriages, using a blowing method. Booth pondered his idea of using suction and tested it out by placing a handkerchief over an upholstered chair in a London restaurant and putting his mouth to it, sucking hard. He started choking on the dust he drew in and upon examination of the handkerchief, found it filthy. He asked a friend to create a motor that could duplicate the sucking action and created the British Vacuum Company in 1901.

Sewing Machine

The sewing machine was invented by Elias Howe and patented in 1846. It was a lock-stitch machine that was five times faster than anything else at the time. Nobody in America would lend him the money to build a factory to make his machines, so he went to London and was making improvements to the idea. While he was gone, Americans stole and copied his idea, even though it was patented, and when Howe returned from England, he went to court to sue these others for theft…including the Singer factory. He won and in 1865 established the Howe Machine Company.


The master toilet maker among the English was Thomas Twyford who, in 1885, built the first modern-looking toilet in a one-piece, all-china design. He was a potter rather than a plumber and had competition from businesses like Wedgwood and Moulton (who still make china dishes today). Twyford’s design was unique in that it was made of china rather than the more common metal and wood versions. The internal workings of his “water closet” were the work of one of the first pioneers of the “sanitary science.”

–excerpted from Innovations Learning


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