My 1955 vintage Hoover constellation vacuum cleaner


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.

  1. 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

  2. Norman Bates says:

    I own a third-hand Constellation 456 made in Canada in 1964 (the equivalent of the U.S. model 867A) and it still works well.

    One day the plastic handle cracked so I had to tape it up in order to carry it, but later when I discovered a worn-out Constellation tossed into a city trash can with its handle in perfect condition, I retrieved it and replaced my broken one with it.

    Many years later, the on-of switch stopped working and, because it is sealed and irreparable, rather than pay the high price for the original replacement part, I simply installed a simple spst toggle switch in its place.

    Over the years the plastic hose kept tearing close to each end, and after taping the holes many many times, I finally cut off the ends and re-installed the remaining sections so that now it has been essentially restored. Only when the motor burns out will I scrap my Constellation as by that point it won’t be worth the cost of repair.

    I am seeking the service manual.

  3. Kathleen Walton says:

    I have a 1973 Hoover upright that still works better than anything else. The problem is all of the attachment tools, wands and “corrugated “ tubing disappeared in a move over 40 years ago. I have not been able to find the entire attachment set. Is there any way you can help me? The model number is 1178.

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