History of the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Company

Kirby Vacuums are a household name synonymous with both luxury and quality. They are without a doubt, a shining example of a “successful” company. However, Kirby’s road to success was a bumpy one. Their drive to make an established name for themselves eventually paid off, making them quite the underdog story.

George Scott and Carl Fetzer, founders of Scott Fetzer Company, wanted to make more than just flare pistols. In 1914 during World War I, the partners were producing these guns for the U.S. Army. After about six years, Scott and Fetzer became bored with having only one product under their names. So in 1920, they decided to enter the household appliance business, contacting a man named Jim Kirby to help them pursue their goal. Jim Kirby, an inventor, came up with several different concepts for a vacuum. His first cleaner was based around water filtration. Kirby quickly realized that people were not going to want to deal with replacing dirty water every time they vacuumed. Back to the drawing board for a few more years, he finally came up with a product that worked well. The Vacuette Electric was introduced in 1925 under the Scott Fetzer Company. With its removable handle and floor nozzle, the vacuum was an early pioneer for multi-attachment cleaners. For the next ten years, the Vacuette Electric was one of the best selling vacuum cleaners on the market.

In 1935, Scott and Fetzer made another big move; they created a subsidiary company called Kirby Vacuum. Led by Jim Kirby’s brilliant designs, this supplementary business quickly became popular. Their next top-seller was also the first vacuum to showcase Kirby’s name; The Kirby Model C.

The company’s trademark was their sales method, employing a door-to-door sales pitch. Salesman would go from one home to the next, giving live demonstrations of the vacuum’s capabilities. Years later, Kirby Vacuum ran into some lawsuits from this due to issues with their salespeople. Scott and Fetzer handled the manner professionally by improving their screening of employees. Having lawsuits that could potentially destroy them, Kirby Vacuum remained positive and continued with their old fashioned door-to-door method, a risky move that not many companies would’ve made.

Kirby Vacuum faced another hurdle when unauthorized dealers began selling their products. For as long as they have been around, aside from their door-to-door home sales, Kirby would only sell to independent distributors. They took several of these unauthorized sellers to court for trademark infringement, false and unfair competition, and trade disparagement. Kirby Vacuum ended up losing all of their cases, a complete shock to the company. Again, Kirby put this behind them and trudged forward, becoming one of the biggest names in the vacuum cleaner business.

With high-end “luxury” vacuums, as Kirby refers to them, the brand has become quite established. People associate their products with top-of-the-line quality. Producing over fifty models, Kirby’s current vacuum is the Sentria. With its lightweight TechDrive design, HEPA filtration system, and LED headlight for cleaning darker areas, the Sentria vacuum is Kirby’s opus.

Totalvac.com is happy to be a distributor of such quality products. Our Kirby collection is vast and wallet-friendly. We carry bags, brushrolls, belts, and a wide range of attachments. For cleaning supplies or replacement parts for your vacuum, please visit TotalVac’s Kirby vacuum parts┬ástore or Kirby vacuum bag store.

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One Response to History of the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Company

  1. Paul B. says:

    Nice post! I love your blog. Very informative.

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