Rusty cylinder object found at garage sale leaves online users confused

Recently, a woman found a peculiar object while rummaging through old items at a garage sale.

Not sure what it was, and hoping to solve the mystery, she shared a post on Facebook, which left some users scratching their heads.

Take a look and see if you can figure it out. We’ll give you one hint: The 100-year-old household tool has experienced many transformations over the years but its purpose has never changed.

In the 1890’s, British engineer Hubert Cecil Booth (1871 to 1955) was rolling through the streets with a horse-drawn object trailing behind.

While buggies, piloted by a horse, was common in those days, Booth – who was earlier known for designing Ferris wheels and suspension bridges – raised a few eyebrows with what he had in tow.

The man had invented the first vacuum cleaner and because of its mammoth size, it had to be drawn by a horse.


The vacuum machine, called “Puffing Billy,” was powered by an internal combustion engine and used a piston pump to draw air through flexible pipes and a filter made of cloth.

Cumbersome, the fire engine red machine stayed outdoors and used long hoses to enter homes and clean the floors.

Booth was the talk of the town and was called upon many times to assist with domestic chores.

“A visit wasn’t cheap,” writes the Science Museum in a story called The Invention of the Vacuum Cleaner. “To conduct the miraculous cleaning, long hoses were fed through windows, the petrol-powered motor (and later electric engine) was started, and air was drawn by suction from the hose and nozzles through a filter.”

Revolutionizing domestic chores
The massive machine was not very practical so over the years, the vacuum cleaner, which revolutionized everyday household chores, adapted new technologies and evolved.

While the basic technology and the suction principle remained, vacuum cleaners became electric-powered, smaller, more portable and – most importantly – affordable.

Brands like Hoover and Electrolux, which still exist today, started to appear on the market before 1915.

Mystery object
In December 2023, a woman, who goes by the handle Kelly’s Treehouse, posted on Facebook a photo of rusty cannister object she came across at a garage sale.

She writes, “I found this at a yard sale, but I have no idea what it is.” Challenging users, she continues, “I’m almost certain you won’t know what this strange object is either… Try to prove me wrong (if you can)!”

If you haven’t already guessed, it’s an old Electrolux vacuum cleaner, likely from the early 1920s. Though it’s hard to tell from the one photo, it appears to be people-powered, which means the user has to pump a handle to create the suction, allowing it to clean floors and carpets.

Sounds like quite the workout!

The majority of Kelly’s Facebook fans quickly guessed what it was and were left feeling nostalgic after seeing her post.

“It is a vacuum cleaner, sold by a door-to-door salesman years ago. Even if you didn’t buy it, you got a room vacuumed for nothing,” one user shares.

A second eagerly adds, “Oh, I know very well what this is. It was the top of the line in the day!!!! Electrolux. When I went to work, my boss had brought her old one for us to vacuum our office.”

“It’s that dastardly thing I had to use every Sat. morning, the Electrolux vacuum!” writes a third, who’s referring to its bulky size and weight. The 1921 model, that looks similar to the photo, weighed 30 pounds.

Meanwhile, one online user seems to be as familiar with vacuums as she is with cars. “I don’t know much about cars, but I think that’s a muffler,” she writes.

It’s hard to imagine having a horse-drawn vacuum cleaner! Thankfully advancements in technology, providing us cordless, sticks or robotic vacuums, have made cleaning a cinch.

Were you able to figure out what the vintage was? Let us know in the comments and please share the story so we can hear what others have to say about this 100-year-old domestic tool!