The Hoover brand got its start when Murry Spangler created a suction-sweeper to help clean dusty areas that he cleaned. He worked as a janitor at night and also had asthma problems, which is what spurred him to create such a device.
Spangler started a company to manufacture and sell the devices but eventually failed. He had sold the first one to Susan Hoover, who was the wife of W.H. Hoover. This eventually led to W.H. Hoover being the financial backer and businessman that helped get the product off the ground.
Hoover bought the patent from Spangler, kept him on as a partner, and started manufacturing the device in one of the manufacturing shops Hoover already owned. The rest is history.
There is a great write-up about the history and demise of the Hoover family vacuum business at CantonRep.com, which goes into some pretty deep, narrative details.
In 1910, Hoover vacuums were sold by placing ads offering free 10-day trials. Customers were directed to nearby stores who were payed a commission to stock the vacuums. This is when the sales started to really take off, leading to the building of a factory to manufacture the vacuums.
1958 was when Hoover vacuums were first sold in department stores, and Hoover moved to manufacture and sell as many vacuums as they could.
Since then, Hoover has gone through some ups and downs, and was bought by Chigaco Pacific in 1985. In 1989, Chicago Pacific was then bought by Maytag.
In 1993, Hoover European Alliances Group formed when the Hoover Trading Company and Hoover UK merged. This made Hoover Alliances Group the exclusive rights holder for European, North African and Middle Eastern markets. Hoover Alliances Group was acquired by Candy Group. In those markets, Hoover is known as an appliance maker and not just for its vacuums.
In North American markets, Hoover was still owned by Maytag. In 2006, Maytag was acquired by Whirlpool who then sold Hoover to Techtronic Industries in Hong Kong.
Some of the firsts that Hoover can claim are the disposable vacuum bag, vacuum headlights, self-propelling and side-mounted hoses.
Currently, Hoover is owned by Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd. They purchased Hoover from Whirlpool in 2007. TTI owns several other popular floor care brands including Dirt Devil, Royal and Oreck.