If you are a regular follower of Bill On The Road, you know that I’m all too eager to pull of the highway to visit interesting or peculiar museums – even if just to say that I stopped in.
The Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, Missouri was a great find. Located along the historic Route 66 byway – it’s a perfect place to pull off the road and stretch your legs for a bit.
The museum’s director is Tom Gasko. He answered my ten questions about this quirky museum, how he gathered his massive collection and how became a vacuum cleaner enthusiast.
1. Why should someone stop into a museum about vacuums?
Thousands of people stop by the vacuum museum every year, for a number of reasons. Some, out of curiosity. Some stop because they’ve always been fascinated with vacuums. Quite a few stop because of the billboards on the highway. The way the machines developed from non-electric to the current models follows history in the design of the cleaners (for example, there were 1950’s vacuums with tail fins, like automobiles).
2. What is the oldest vacuum cleaner you have?
The oldest electric vacuum in the Museum is a 1906 Ohio TUEC central vacuum. The oldest non-electric cleaner is an 1888 Gem.
3. How did you acquire the vacuum cleaners in your collection?
The collection was, for the most part, donated over the course of almost fifty years. A very few were purchased from eBay.
4. Do all of the machines still work?
All the cleaners in the collection work. That’s what’s so fun about having them. Being able to actually see them pick up dirt.
5. How do people find out about your museum?
People find out about us from our website (www.vacuummuseum.com), our facebook page, the highway billboards, or a brochure at a travel center. Also, Trip Advisor has us listed as well as many ‘museum finders’.
6. What’s the longest a visitor has traveled to see the museum?
Being located right off historic route 66, many people stop who are on a route 66 tour. The longest anyone has traveled specifically to visit the Museum is from the UK. However, we’ve had visitors from all over the world who didn’t specifically think they were going to stop.
7. What’s a fun fact most people don’t know about vacuum cleaners?
Most people don’t know why vacuum cleaners have headlights. The vacuum cleaner was the first thing in the home with an electric cord. No one had receptacles to plug them into. You had to unscrew a light bulb and connect the cord to the light socket, darkening the room. Hence the invention of what, today, is redundant.
8. How did you wind up interested in vacuums?
I was always fascinated with how vacuums work, and how design affects efficiency.
9. How many vacuum cleaners are in the museum?
We have over 800 vacuums in the collection, about 350 are on display at any given moment, separated into decades in themed vignettes.
10. What’s your contact info for anyone interested visiting?
The Vacuum Cleaner Museum is located at: #3 Industrial Drive, St. James, MO 65559. Our telephone number is 573-265-0680
Check out Bill’s new book, 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die! It features 100 unique things to experience in America including a stop at the vacuum cleaner museum! You can order a signed copy today here at billontheroad.com!