Then and Now: 100+ Year Old Inventions Still Used in the Modern World

August 27, 2021

We are certainly living in modern times, with our smartphones, laptops, and internet. It may surprise you to know that some of the items we use every day that may look modern on the surface are actually inventions that date back a century or so. 

Colorized photo of a woman using a modern toaster in 1910. (Photo by Schenectady Museum; Hall of Electrical History Foundation/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Here are just a few of these common items as they looked when they first came out, albeit colorized from the original black and white, alongside their modern-day equivalent. 

Vacuum Cleaner

Vacuuming, then and now (,

As far back as 1860, inventors were toying with ways to efficiently clean carpets and rugs. These early devices, however, were bulky and expensive. Czar Nicholas of Russia and Queen Victoria had them in their palaces, but us common folk could never afford them. In the early 1900s, an American inventor named James Spangler, who suffered from asthma, created an electric vacuum cleaner with a broom-like cleaning head and a bag for collecting the dirt and dust. It even had a cloth filter so that the air circulating back into the room would be dust free … an important quality for an asthma sufferer. In 1908, Spangler sold his invention to William Hoover who reduced the size of the device and further improved its efficiency. Electric vacuum became a mainstay of households across the country. Today, we don’t have to lift a finger to get our carpets vacuumed, thanks to robotic vacuums.