Street sweeper design drawings, 1913

Houston woman invents a vacuum based street sweeper

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Houstonian Mary Ellen Ewing designed and patented a vacuum street sweeper and burner in 1913. Ewing developed the concept of cleaning the streets with a vacuum after viewing how much dust the current street sweepers stirred up, most of which fell back to the street. She worked with C. B. Glover and Clarence Caywood to design a set of blueprints, and Ewing and Glover were granted a patent in 1913.

Mary Ellen Ewing (1862–1919) epitomized the early 20th century progressive society woman. As the wife of a prominent judge in Houston, Ewing used her social position to champion causes she believed were vital to the betterment of Houston’s women and youth. She served as the Chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Harris County Equal Suffrage Association and Honorary President of the Child Welfare League. In her role as the first Vice President of the State Congress of Mothers, the precursor to the modern PTA, she advocated for women’s inclusion on school boards across the state.

She also promoted cleaner, healthier schools made sanitary by modern vacuum cleaners, drinking fountains, gymnasiums, ventilation, shaded windows, and new heating systems. Fascinated by the modern vacuum cleaner, she worked to have one available in every school in Houston.

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Street sweeper design drawings, 1913 Artifact from Houston
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