Iconic Vacuum Cleaners: The Hoover Junior

A look at Hoover’s best-selling vacuum cleaner

Your parents might have had one in the pantry. There’s half a chance your grandparents – or even your great-grandparents had this model of vacuum cleaner. For the second model in our series of iconic vacuum cleaners, we look at the Hoover Junior.

The Hoover Junior: Number One in Britain for 53 years

Of all the vacuum cleaners in the world, the Hoover Junior put The Hoover Company on the map. Formed in Ohio, on the 2nd June 1908, they became a world power in vacuum cleaning by the 1950s. From 1932 to 1938, Wallis, Gilbert, and Partners designed the sumptuous Hoover Building at Western Avenue, Perivale, near London. Just off the A40, their Art Deco masterpiece would be where many Hoover Juniors were manufactured.

Today, the Hoover Building in the western part of Greater London is in use as a Tesco superstore (using the main part of the factory since 1992). Till the early 1980s (when production moved to Cambuslang), this was where Hoover’s best loved vacuum cleaner was made, for most of its life.

The first Hoover Junior

Hoover Junior vacuum cleaner
Path Sweeper: the Hoover Junior model 370 vacuum cleaner.
1934 saw the arrival of the Hoover Junior 370 model. From the start, it (according to its tagline) “beats, as it sweeps, as it cleans”. It had a short production run of eighteen months, before being superseded by the 375 in 1935. The 375 model was a real breakthrough for Hoover with the basic design virtually unchanged from the 370.

During the Second World War, Hoover ceased production of its vacuum cleaners to support the War Effort. Come peacetime, Perivale was producing vacuum cleaners again. The Hoover Junior model 119 was released in 1949 and enjoyed an eight-year run. Its release also heralded a new development: the arrival of the Vertiflex plastic flexible hose. Today, we take this feature for granted. In 1950, this was state-of-the-art and represented a real improvement on cloth-covered hoses, that lost suction over time.

The 119 was superseded by the 1224 and 1334 models in 1957 and 1958. On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, any Hoover vacuum cleaner was a ‘must-have’ item, alongside washing machines, televisions, and hot running water. Post-War Britain, freed from rationing, experienced a consumer boom with easy terms making the latest gadgets affordable – albeit on tick.

Come the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Hoover Junior assumed its more familiar shape: the zip-up bag; and its slightly domed hood. The genius behind the cleaner’s early development was the industrial designer, Henry Dreyfuss. The dreary black hood was replaced by a colourful hood with a less pronounced dome. Subsequent models would see the hood flattened, becoming slightly more boxy in later years.

With plastic manufacturing becoming more versatile (and households being style conscious), Hoover’s vacuums became more colourful. Well into the 1980s, the Hoover Junior was still manufactured, many of which in Perivale. Many a 1970s household either had a Junior or its feature-laden sibling vacuum, the Senior. Come the late 1970s, vacuum cleaners were changing. Cloth bags gave way to rigid plastic, a feature of Electrolux’s upright cleaners, and Hoover’s Turbopower range.

Perivale closes

Hoover Building.jpg
Hoover’s former Perivale works, designed by Wallis, Gilbert, and Partners (1932 – 38).

Hoover’s lofty position was being challenged by a new generation of industrial style vacuum cleaners. Though the Turbopower ensured its market share in the British vacuum cleaner market, there was two new rivals, set to challenge their position. Both of which, in British hands.

One was the Vax wet and dry cleaner, first made available to households in 1982. Then there’s was Numatic’s range of bowler-hatted cylinder cleaners (which we covered in our previous entry on iconic vacuum cleaners), launched in 1981. The red one, Henry, won over the hearts and minds of many householders, public sector concerns, and cleaning contractors, throughout the UK.

Sadly, the early 1980s saw the closure of Hoover’s Perivale works, which practically gave the Hoover Junior its birthright. Production moved to their Cambuslang works, with the Junior’s demise looking imminent. In 1987, its last models were manufactured, ending a 53-year association with its pioneering vacuum cleaner.

Like the Mini did to motoring, the Hoover Junior did the same for domestic vacuum cleaning. The arrival and its affordability came at the right time; an era which covered the rise of mass production, plus consumerism in the US and the UK. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Cleanhire UK, 10 May 2016.

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