Origins of ordinary things: Brooms

Brooms are an essential hygiene component of every home. It makes sense then that they have been in use since time immemorial. In ancient times, according to Who Invented, a website that provides information on inventions, early humans used brooms made of animal fur, dried grass, and hair tied together with a piece of fabric.

It was in 1797 that the first version of a modern broom was made. According to enotes, an online knowledge resource, Levi Dickenson an American farmer was the man behind the modern invention of a broom. He made a broom for his wife by fastening tassels of sorghum grass on a handle and binding them together with a piece of cloth.

Dickenson’s wife showed her broom to neighbouring women and it became an instant hit. Due to high demand, Dickenson started growing more sorghum. However, much like the brooms of the past, the sorghum broom always fell apart quickly and Dickenson thought hard to invent a machine that would make better brooms at a fast rate.

To this end, in 1810 Dickenson invented the foot-treadle broom machine. This is according to Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia.

In the 1820s, due to industrial revolution, brooms were given more inventive designs. For instance, instead of woven stems, wire was used to bind brooms to handles. During this time, people started to grown broomcorn on a large scale in order to join in on the promising trade of brooms.

Up to this point, brooms were round in nature. The Shakers, a Christian religious sect whose forte was handicrafts are given credit for the first flat broom. According to When Was It Invented, a knowledge dissemination website, the flat broom was made by securing corn with wire, flattening it with vice and sewing it tight.

In 1940s, due to the introduction of synthetic fibers, companies started making threads and plastic handles for brooms. This is according to Slate, an online publication. Much as modern brooms became popular, they did not completely phase out the need for organic brooms.

In many modern homes, one is likely to find two types of brooms; a synthentic broom and an organic one. This is because organic brooms are said to be more effective when one is sweeping hard exterior surfaces.

The popularity of synthetic brooms in rural homes is still a long way off because of their unaffordability and because in most rural African homes, people still improvise with the organic products available to make material for sweeping.