Brooms have been used since ages to sweep caves, cabins and castles. A broom is a cleaning tool that consists of stiff fibers attached to, and roughly parallel to, a cylindrical handle. Since its origin, various different types of brooms have come up. A smaller whisk broom or brush is called a duster. Flat brooms were invented in the 19th century made of broom corn and are commonly made with synthetic bristles today. The push broom consisting of a wide brush with short bristles, to which a broomstick is attached at an angle, is another broom type. The brooms have long been associated with witchcraft and are portrayed as medieval-style round brooms. To know more interesting and amazing information on the origin of brooms, read on further.
Interesting & Amazing Information On Origin & Background Of Brooms
Prior to 1797, brooms were home and hand-made in America. Fibrous materials such as grass, straw or hay, fine twigs and corn husks were used to make a refined round broom for sweeping the floor and cleaning the ashes from the fireplaces. Cordage retted from hemp and flax was used to tie the broom. Refined fibers were used for linens. These brooms did not sweep well and also fell apart after a short time.
Cooking during this time was different as compared to what it is today. It was done over a large open fire or a huge fireplace in the kitchen. Since, wood was carried inside the home from outside; dust, debri and ashes were left behind outside. As dust and ash became a part of life, these brooms were used to clean the cabin and hearth and make the home a pleasant place to live in. these unrefined brooms were inferior and fell apart easily, they did not exist for long.
1797 saw a change in the sweeping quality of brooms when a farmer, Levi Dickenson in Hadley, Massachusetts made a broom for his wife. He used tassels from a variety of sorghum (Sorghum vulgere), a grain that he grew for the seeds to make the broom. Gradually, this broom became famous throughout the community and demand grew for these brooms. The sorghum broom was better than the previous inventions but it still fell apart after using for sometime.
In 1810, the foot-treadle broom machine was invented and it played an integral part in the Industrial Revolution. A better way was also sought out for securing the sorghum tassels to it. Two holes were drilled in the handle and split pegs were inserted into the round holes. The broom corn was then lashed into the handle and pegs, using linen twine. Customers now had a better choice to use smaller handled brooms in tight areas around the fireplace or long handled ones to sweep the open wood or dirt floors in homes and shops.
The sorghum used in making brooms gained a new name, Broom Corn, since the British called all seed bearing plants, “corn”. Also, sorghum was similar to the sweet corn plant in appearance. A number of new designs were made from this invented broom and soon, one or two broom shops were seen manufacturing thousands of round brooms each year. In mid 1820s, an industrious religious order, the Shakers changed the design of the round broom. The woven stems up the handle were eliminated and wire was introduced to bind the brooms to the handle. The broom was then sewn flat into the vise using linen twines, the style that is still prevalent today.
The United States started producing enough brooms by 1830 and started exporting to other countries such as Canada, South America and Europe. But, England’s Broom Squires obtained an embargo against Yankee made brooms and held the competition at bay for sometime. Eventually, these brooms were imported into England bringing the end to the twig broom business there. The broom industry expanded as people started moving west. The climate was favorable enough to grow broom corn exceptionally well in the mid-west.
In communities, small shops did well as they had no access to the rail road or ship transport but, people who had settled down in the west looked for well made broom. The industry grew continuously with the development of large factories. Tens of thousands of acres of broom corn was grown annually in the United States. The broom making equipment and technology that was developed in the United States can be found throughout the world now and the tassels from broom corn are still used for making quality brooms.
Mexico is the largest supplier of commercially grown broom corn to U.S. broom makers, although there are a few small broom factories that are still striving to compete with Mexican-made brooms. People who value fine hand-made workmanship in a heritage craft still look out for individual broom makers who craft a few thousand high quality brooms each year.