In 1928, Frank and Martin Callahan along with Ray Owen founded Sanitation Systems, Inc., a small direct sales distributorship that was trying to turn around a failing business. As the distributorship became profitable, the ambitious team sought to develop their own product.
In 1929, they approached manufacturer P.A. Geier to build a vacuum cleaner under the Health-Mor name. Their first product was the Health-Mor Sanitation System upright vacuum. In May 1930, Sanitation Systems, Inc. changed its name to Health-Mor Sanitation Systems, Inc.
By 1930, Health-Mor had become the largest direct selling organization in Chicago. However, they had a more ambitious dream. They met with a man named Ed Yonkers, who was working on a patent for a new kind of home cleaning system. On a business trip, Ed was introduced to a new kind of porous paper. On his train ride home, that very paper sparked his great idea for filtration.
Ed visualized an inverted cone with incoming air hitting it on an tangential angle. This air movement knocked dirt off the filter cone and sent it to the vacuum’s pan below. Ed’s cyclonic action and use of filter cones were just the breakthrough in filtration that Health-Mor was looking for.
Starting in 1951, FilterQueen played a role in the pre-race cleanup of the brick straightway for the Indianapolis 500. In 1958, Distributor E.L. Baker Jr. gained national attention with his team when they took to the Indianapolis Speedway track for their the annual clean-up event. His team cleaned dust, dirt and tiny pebbles between the bricks of the famous raceway to ensure the safety of the 33 drivers who drove over 100 mph in the 500 mile race.
Famous race car driver Wilbur Shaw thought so highly of FilterQueen’s role in protecting the lives of the 500 track drivers that he wrote a letter stating that the use of the FilterQueen Sanitation System was one of the most important safety measures ever introduced to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Paul Kolenda was the head of what is probably the nation’s largest father-and-son business partnership of all time. Kolenda got his sales start as a way to supplement his income in the depression era of the early 1930s.
After World War II, six of his ten sons returned from the armed services and the family decided to pool their money and open a FilterQueen Distributorship. He is pictured here inspecting his ten sons and partners in front of their FilterQueen office in Detroit. The family’s partnership paid no salaries or commissions, but divided the year’s profits equally.
In the early 1950s, FilterQueen made its debut cleaning the luxury ocean liners, SS Constitution and SS Independence. The SS Constitution was featured in several episodes of the 1950s TV show I Love Lucy, starting with episode 140, “Bon Voyage,” which aired on December 1, 1955.
When the ship’s superintendent was asked what he thought about America’s first bagless cleaning system, he stated, “Based on the fine performance and low upkeep we experienced with FilterQueen on our luxury liners SS Independence and SS Constitution, we recommend them highly.”
This photo from 1967 shows employees Bill and Millie working at the Paint Station and inspecting dirt canisters, making sure they look perfect before being sold. The employees are wiring canisters for the pre-painting process. Next, they would completely submerge the canisters in paint.
Today, the canisters are no longer painted. They are made out of durable ABS plastic, which is a high impact material that is scratch-resistant and is long lasting.
Recently, we set up a head-to-head challenge between a 1940s FilterQueen model and one of today’s most popular vacuum brands; old school technology vs. new school plastic. We put them to our filtration test to see which cleaner would capture the most dirt, dust and debris.
They each took ten passes over our dirt covered carpet area. The 1940s FilterQueen performed far better than the modern vacuum model. Today, FilterQueen is built with the same amazing filtration technology that was developed in the 1940s.