Evolution of Street Sweeping

The evolution of street sweeping has seen giant leaps over the past 150 years. Ranging from the mid 1800’s to the 21st century, major advancements in technology have continued to propel street sweepers into the future. Read on to take a look at the progressive advancement of street sweepers from the past to today.

Early 1800’s

For over one hundred years from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s, the manual way of sweeping was still the main method of choice. Young boys or middle aged men, known as “crossing sweepers”, were assigned street corners and tasked with sweeping a path for those crossing the dirty streets. This meant removing debris, litter, animal waste, and digging trenches during muddy seasons.


With the Industrial Revolution in the 1840’s, Manchester, England became known as one of the most developed industrial cities. In the year 1843, Englishman Joseph Whitworth patented the first horse-drawn machine to pick up debris. His simple design featured a cylinder with attached brushes that spun by means of a bicycle chain. Whitworth’s design gained quick attention, and was brought to the United States in 1854 to first be put into operation in Philadelphia, PA.


It wasn’t until 1911 when John M. Murphy from Elgin, Illinois pitched his idea for a motorized street sweeper to Charles Whiting and James Todd. In 1913, after two years of prototyping, they formed the Elgin Sweeper Company and sold their first machine to the city of Boise, Idaho. An early study revealed that the Elgin sweeper saved over $2,716 compared to Whitworth’s horse-drawn sweeper. For decades, Elgin Sweepers dominated the industry, while they continued to perfect their designs.


Fast forward to the 1970’s when street standards and policies became much more important. Cities began to tighten regulations for cleanliness and focus on environmental health. During this time, street sweepers were upgraded to include water tanks and sprayers which reduced dust and loosened particles. Automotive and technology advancements during this time led to larger and more mobile sweepers.


As technology continued to evolve, so did sweepers of the 21st century. Sweeper manufacturers started noticing and capitalizing on new trends in the industry. Along with that, customers began seeking versatile units that can handle numerous tasks. Nowadays, fleet units are being kept longer and the focus is more on maintenance so sweepers will perform at the highest quality. In addition, waterless models and larger water tanks are both high priorities, along with alternate fuel units that will run on cheaper, more efficient fuel.

Today, popular sweeper models consist of mechanical broom sweepers, regenerative air sweepers, and pure vacuum sweepers. Street sweepers are absolutely necessary for maintaining a clean environment by reducing heavy metal pollutants that enter our waterways and removing harmful ground and air pollutants. As a homeowner or business, sweeping is imperative to creating a healthy community and making a great first impression.

The evolution in technology and sweeper options means units today produce higher quality performance and cleanliness. At Central Valley Sweeping, we carry the latest sweepers on the market and do all of our maintenance in house to ensure our sweepers perform diligently on every assignment. We sweep all kinds of surfaces including but not limited to:

  • Shipping/loading docks
  • Warehouses
  • Building and housing development sites
  • Industrial parks
  • Dairy farms
  • Construction sites

Visit our services page here to learn more about how we’re doing our part in advancing and providing sweeping services to all in the Central Valley.