My 1955 vintage Hoover constellation vacuum cleaner

1956-vintage-hoover-constellation

So what do I buy at estate sales? Things like Sexton cast metal hoot owls from 1969 in a perfect shade of avocado green to match my office ($10). And, a  Hoover Constellation vacuum cleaner, circa 1955, purchased from this wonderful time capsule house. I am not (yet) and historian on vintage appliances, but this purchase gave me the opportunity to read up on the Hoover Constellation – a very historic vacuum cleaner, initially for its atomic space age shape and then, because the design was tweaked so that the vacuum cleaner actually floated on air, buoyed from the bottom by its own exhaust. Mine is one of the earliest models – the booklet still with it indicates it was purchased in 1955. The vacuum hose attaches from the top.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the Hoover Constellation:

The Hoover Constellation, which is a canister type but lacks wheels. Instead, the vacuum cleaner floats on its exhaust, operating as a hovercraft, although this is not true of the earliest models. They had a swivel top hose with the intention being that the user would place the unit in the center of the room, and work around the cleaner.

Introduced in 1952, they are collectible, and are easily identified by the spherical shape of the canister. They tended to be loud, had poor cleaning power, and could not float over carpets. But they remain an interesting machine; restored, they work well in homes with lots of hardwood floors.

The Constellations were changed and updated over the years until discontinued in 1975. These Constellations route all of the exhaust under the vacuum using a different airfoil. The updated design is quiet even by modern standards, particularly on carpet as it muffles the sound. These models float on carpet or bare floor—although on hard flooring, the exhaust air tends to scatter any fluff or debris around.

Hoover has now re-released an updated version of this later model Constellation in the US (model # S3341 in Pearl White and # S3345 in stainless steel). Changes include a HEPA filtration bag, a 12 amp motor, a suction turbine powered rotating brush floor head, and a redesigned version of the handle, which tended to break.

This same model was marketed in the UK under the Maytag brand, with the model being the Satellite. Same machine, different badges, owing to licensing restrictions.

The 5.2 amp motor on older US units provides respectable suction but they all lack a motorized brush head. Therefore they generally work better on hard floors or short pile rugs. Old units take Hoover type J paper bags but the slightly smaller type S allergen filtration bags can be easily trimmed to fit the retaining notches on the old vacuums. Replacement motors are still available from Hoover US for some models.

Hoover made another hovering vacuum cleaner model called the Celebrity in 1973. It has a flattened “flying saucer” shape. Hoover added wheels to it make it a conventional canister model after a brief run as a hovering vacuum. It uses type H bags.

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Comments

  1. sumac sue says

    Hey, my mom got one of these round Hoovers — it was yellow — way back in the late 50s or early 60s, and it got passed to me when I got my first apartment in the late ’70s. It wasn’t one of the floating versions. I recall that it cleaned pretty well (my mom would NOT have put up with it if it didn’t do a good job). I used it until I got married in the early 80s, and my husband had a newer, upright model. I really should have kept the Hoover, because the upright was noisier and I got tangled up in the cord more often. But, I assumed newer was better. Oh well, live and learn.

  2. says

    Oooohhh! I like it! I have an Electrolux out in my pole barn somewhere, with all of the attachments. Your post here is making me want to dig it out. Still, I don’t think it could compare in coolness to a Hoover-Craft…it floats on air! Wowsers!

    A friend of mine is also a fan of the vintage Rainbow vacuums, which use water in the tank to contain the dust and debris as you clean. As I understand they are very good for folks, like myself, with allergies and asthma. She has heard that many prefer it over the newfangled HEPA filters in that regard.

    But the Constellation has to be the niftiest of them all!

  3. Joe says

    I almost got the misses a pink Constellation 2 years ago for Christmas but got outbid on FleaBay at the last minute.

    • pam kueber says

      hi joe, you have such a lucky mrs. what with you buying her vintage vacuum cleaners and all for christmas!

      • Robert says

        I agree with you. I do the same thing for my girlfriend. I bought Rachel a used washing machine last Christmas and a used dryer for her birthday three months later. : )

  4. bopkatvintage says

    I’d also like to point out that it was designed by industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss. I have a vintage turquoise Constellation that I use to vacuum my vintage store which has a painted concrete floor. It works great, is actually very quiet and people are always amazed by the “floating”. I’ve even had people volunteer to vacuum!

    • pam kueber says

      bobkavintage, Thank you for that info on Dreyfuss as designer. Mine is an early model and does not float. but it’s cool anyway. the new ones today apparently do float.

  5. sablemable says

    I’ve seen these around growing up and had forgotten them. My mother had a canister vacuum, but don’t remember the brand.

    Does yours still work, Pam?

  6. says

    I have yet to see the floating Constellation at work but hopefully some day. Does anyone remember the floating lawn mower. Seriously, there were no wheels and it floated across the grass. I have seen one operate from a distance and it was pretty cool but I don’t imagine you could adjust the height. There must have been some problem because the idea never lasted.

    • Mark says

      Yeah, it was called a Flymo. Kinda cool, it routed air pressure through a hose onto the outer edge of the mower deck to lift it off the ground and counteract the suction effect of the cutting blades. Problem with them, as with all hovering artifacts, is Newton’s First Law: a body in motion tends to stay in motion, in a straight line, unless acted upon by an outside force. And where there’s no friction (like wheels), that motion goes a long way. My brother has a Hoover Constellation that he’s given up using because whenever he’d vacuum his house, if he gave the slightest tug on the hose, the vacuum cleaner would go off on a tangent, only stopping when it crashed into a wall or furniture. Too many dents in stuff made him give it up. The Flymo was kind of the same – you’d swing it to the left and it would keep trying to go that way until you overcame the motion with your own force. Got kind of hard to control.

  7. joe matino says

    I have my moms orginal Hoover model 28 with all the attachments. The bag is a little faded and would like to replace it with a new orginal one if anyone knows of one let me know. The vacuum works great and plan on keeping it for anouther 50 years.

  8. atomicbowler-dave says

    Chris-
    That mower was called the ‘Flymo’ and it was pretty cool, worked well. I am guessing that the two things to kill it were the fact that it uses a little two-cycle engine (sorta loud, sorta stinky, people have to remember to mix the gas and oil) to save weight…and the whole safety issue of our litigation-happy society. Hard to shroud the thing well (hence the need for the operator to pay attention to where the feet were while mowing! We had a neighbor a few doors down who had one.

  9. PHIL says

    Over here in the uk we still had the constellation in the 1980s.
    A later version had wheel and did not float. There were two versions of the celebrity on sale at the same time here the celebrity air ride and the celebrity custom which had wheels,
    both there were made in the USA.

  10. Steve Beckson says

    My bride received a constilation at her bridal shower as we approach our 50th wedding aniv. I love to buy her a replacement one. yes the one we have is still working fairly well, but she would dearly love a good replacement, and I would dearly love to give her this gift. If you know where there might be one for sale please contact me

  11. David Meaden says

    I love all the old vacuum cleaners been collecting them for years now
    As for the flymo. They are still available here in the UK. Both electric and petrol versions. I’ve always had flymo mowers as they are the easiest to use

  12. Jayne Williams says

    Hi I have a consellation hoover which I love very much it broke down on me once about ten yrs ago but I got it fixed and sill works , lve just been looking under neath it where the air comes out and noticed what looks like foamy stuff around off the sides off the hole its disintegrating and was wandering if its supposed to be there as a filter or should I pick it out maybe, any ideas

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