Dustette handheld vacuum cleaner

Selected as an object made by Streetly Manufacturing Company: we have 21 other objects by the same manufacturer and information about one may help to unearth information about the others.

Dustette handheld vacuum cleaner
Case number - PHSL : 315
A CWS (Co-operative Wholesale Society) Dustette hand-held vacuum cleaner with fishtail attachment, made of phenol formaldehyde by Streetly in the 1930s.
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DesignerUnknown - Wanted
ManufacturerStreetly Manufacturing Company
Manufactured forCWS
Date1937 (circa) - Wanted
Dimensionsheight 180 mm, diameter 120 mm
Materialsplastic, PF, phenol formaldehyde, bakelite - generic term
Methodcompression moulded
Coloursblack, brown
Images on this site are for non-commercial, educational use only. MoDiP has included images of this object with permission from BIP.
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PHSL : 315 A rather funky handheld vacuum cleaner. Find out more on the Ten Most Wanted site http://10most.org.uk/artefact/dustette-handheld-vacuum-cleaner


We know it's made by Streetly Manufacturing Company - We've learnt that Woody, John Vale and David Harman Powell collaborated on the design of products made in this factory. Surely there is someone out there who can tell us who designed this intriguing and elegant hand held vacuum cleaner?


Streetly Mf. ( BIP ) generated an enormous quantity of general mouldings, much of which were redesigned by A H Woodfull in order to make moulding feasible. Woody became a staff designer at Streetly in 1931. He trained at Birmingham College of Art and Crafts and practised as a silversmith before joining Streetly. he ranks as one of the UK's first modern industrial designers…..so maybe there's a clue to as to who had a hand in the vacuum cleaner design ?


Thank you so much. I wonder who the people were who generated 'an enormous quantity of general mouldings' and how they felt when Woodie arrived? Have you any insights into that?


Susan….. Streetly was a major plastics moulding company in the 1930's producing tens of 1000's of plastics components for industry. The failure of the industry to live up to its promises was rife then as it was post-war…… mainly due to the copying of existing traditional forms … i.e… wood ,glass, metal. without a complete understanding of the complexities of the moulding process. In 1952 Charles Glassey MD of BIP set at Oldbury the Product Design Advisory service


under Jim Butler & A H Woodfull . Glassey had a belief that it would serve not only BIP's interests, but the interests of the plastics industry as a whole, this was a free service offering technical knowledge on product & mould design to ensure that potential customers got the best designed goods from the most suitable plastics materials. Streetly made products , BIP Chemicals made a range of raw materials. Woody's work in the 1930's would be to ensure that customers designs were workable…..Motto... design out product failure !


Fascinating stuff - David. I think from your point of view my questions seem irrelevant but I am trying to get at the names of people who designed things for Streetly Moulding Company / BIP before Woodie, John Vale and you came along. Or would you document such artefacts simply as designed by Streetly/BIP?


It was usual for a component like a door handle , light switch, that were made in brass or steel / aluminium, ceramic ,etc would be passed from sales into the drawing office with the request to copy it in the most suitable plastic, often with very little innovation . I know that happened at Streetly & Ekco .


that makes the question of product authorship some 60 years later very difficult. It was mainly consultant designers or architects, that were given design credit for the work they did.


I do appreciate and understand what you are saying. We are so lucky to be being told these things by someone in at the beginning. It is wonderful material for all writers on design - for me it is additionally exciting that this game/project is making us able to find all this out. I wonder if you can remember who was in the drawing office? It would be great to find them. Might there be one of them interested in telling us their memories of the plastics industry at this pivotal time?


When won my Design Centre Award in 1970 ,Ekco Plastics was the largest converter of moulding material in Europe, today along with BIP, ICI ,Lin-Pac, Thermo Plastics. National Plastics they have all gone to the wall . I was 18 when I joined Ekco , most of the people I worked with are now dead or in their late 80's , & in three weeks I shall be 82 . There are only 3 designers that I worked with alive , & they are in their late 80's , I'm thankful that I can recollect so far back. Susan , I think your best bet is contact Steve Akhurst, who may be in touch with his old chums at BIP, or PHS members who can recollect drawing office life back in the 50's -70's ? another lead could be the BPF , or back issues of the Plastics Society……… somewhere I may have a copy of Woody's lecture he gave in 1950's. Best. David Harman Powell


Oh - it would be wonderful to have a copy of Woody's lecture. Thank you again for all this input. It will be retained for scholars to access in perpetuity. Also we will be making an exhibition about the project and you will be featured.


Hi David Harman PowellPlease go to our Ten Most Wanted website http://10most.org.uk/ and set up an account for yourself, the login link is at the top of the page. You can make an account using your Facebook login. Don't forget to click on the map and move the pin to your loaction. Your account is really useful to us: we can acknowledge the people who contribute; reward those who contribute most; and see the geographical spread of the participants. One more thing: please let me know if you have any problems when setting up the account - this part is still under development. Many thanks. Phil


Good stuff here from Ian15.mdx: 'Your Bakelite Dustette vacuum cleaner is a mystery object. Normally Streetly Manufacturing, on producing a new product, would put a photograph and short description into the Moulded Plastics Trader magazine for publicity purposes – especially with such a major moulding as this. Pretty much every plastics product produced in the 1930s eventually turns up in the Moulded Plastics Trader – but this vacuum cleaner does not. I have been through all the magazines from 1930 to 1940 and there is no mention of it. Neither is there any trace of it to be found on the Internet on vacuum cleaner collection sites. In an effort to find out something about it I thought I would try a strategy that could be called ‘targeted crowd sourcing using expert subject groups’. To this end I registered with vacuumland.org – which seems to be the planet’s repository of knowledge about vintage vacuum cleaners. I put up a post on their forum for information. I had two replies. One from a vacuum cleaner expert saying that he had never seen such a cleaner (but very much desired to own one). The other from a Russian vacuum cleaner expert who suggested, that because of certain design features, it might be Russian. Having read the Russian section of the vacuumland site I can see where he is coming from. The other mystery is the name ‘Dustette’. This trade name was used by Hoover in the mid 1930s for one of their machines. '


Ian15.mdx continues: 'The cleaner is catalogued by the Museum of Science and Industry as being made by Hoover in c1935. It seems unlikely/odd that two rival manufacturers would use the same trade name at the same time for two different machines. I have just had a third reply to my post, this is real time research. The post says;


Ian15.mdx finishes this message as follows: 'So it’s not a Dustette - it’s a Dudley. When you have a moment could you let me know what evidence you have that it was made by Streetly Manufacturing.'


Well I guess finding we have wrong information is as useful as finding new information. There is nothing on this moulding to confirm that it was manufactured by Streetly. Indeed there is no lettering at all.


To remind users that interesting material posted here may be copied to www.10most.org.uk or www.modip.ac.uk for posterity.


The vacuum cleaner has been taken apart and inspected for lettering inside. Sadly there isn't any.


More brilliant discoveries by Ian15.mdx: Found this on the Co-Operative Society web site - In 1908, CWS purchased a producer co-operative in Dudley, which made buckets, fire grates and other hardware items. In 1934 the Dudley works expanded into a larger premises, originally built by a private firm as a shell factory during the First World War. By the 1930s many manufacturers were refusing to supply co-operative societies with electrical goods if they paid dividend on these items – so CWS began to produce more ‘own-brand’ electrical goods. Dudley became a major centre for producing new electrical goods, such as vacuum cleaners, irons, hairdryers, and washing machines. The Dudley works also made specialist items for co-operative societies, including colourful electric signs. Does this imply that the Co-Op owned the Dudley vacuum cleaner company ?? Found this on the Black Country Bugle web site. A lengthy article about the Dudley Bean Works, where, at the turn of the century George Bean made Bean cars. An extract states - However, in 1920 the post-war bubble burst, combined with a sharp increase in the costs of production, and with the sudden recession the making of Bean Cars in Dudley ceased. But by the end of the year the enterprising George Bean had secured the finance to continue production, and manufacturing proceeded. Sadly, Bean were unable to compete with the mass production lines of other car makers such as Ford, Austin and Morris, and the last car to visit the body shop in Hall Street was driven away in 1929. After just ten years the Bean car was no more. While the Bean continued to produce commercial vehicles and automotive components at the sister site in Hurst Lane in Tipton - now being demolished for housing - the body shop in Hall Street became redundant. In 1934, an offer was made for the works by the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Co-op products such as electric fires, irons and vacuum cleaners were all made in the factory. Which seems to imply that the Co-Op did own the Dudley factory. So the Dudley hand held vac was made for the CWS by a company called Dudley which the CWS owned.

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Case notes

Susan Lambert's picture

Handheld vaccum cleaner, Case PHSL : 315

Streetly's first named designer was A H Woodfull


 David Harman Powell says that Streetly generated an enormous quantity of general mouldings adapting designs from other materials. Many were then redesigned to make moulding more feasible by A H Woodfull (Woodie), who became staff designer at Streetly in 1931.

Could Woodie be the designer?


Not a Dustette and probably not manufactured by Streetly Manufacturing Company


 Ian15.mdx tells us that Streetly usually published their mouldings in the Moulded Plastics Trader. He has looked through all relevant issues and not found this one. He has also been in touch with a website, www.vacuumland.org, and found a collector called A1 who has one. He says it is not a 'Dustette' but a 'Dudley'. We are awaiting an image of his which still has its navy blue dust bag lettered 'Dudley' attached.

So the question now is who designed this Dudley and when?


Dudley hand held vac made for the CWS by a company called Dudley which the CWS owned


 Ian15.mdx has found that the CWS purchased a prouducer co-operative in 1908 and that by the 1930s many manufacturers were refusing to supply co-operative societies with electrical goods if they paid dividends on the items. Therefore, CWS began to produce more 'own-brand' electrical goods, moving into larger premises in 1934.

Source: http://150.co-operative.coop/150-to-150/electrical-goods

This is corroborated by a history of Dudley Bean that states that an offer was made for its bodyshop works in 1934 by the CWS and that co-operative products such as electric fires, irons, and vacuum cleaners were made in the factory.

Source: http://www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk/shells-shelves-decades-manufacturing-...

Valuable info but we still need to know who designed our Dudley and when.