Monday, May 2, 2022

A History of the Kitchen Broom

Blogger: Amber Schamel

Some of the most ordinary things can actually have an interesting history. Today we are exploring the history behind the kitchen broom.

Did you know that our flat kitchen brooms are actually an invention of a husband who was trying to find ways to save his wife some time? (Thanks to my husband for discovering this fun fact and setting me on the research.)

Ancient Chinese carving depicting
a man with a broom.
Public Domain

Before we get to that, let's back up to the actual invention of the broom.The broom is so ancient, that we have no idea when it was invented, or who was responsible. Texts as ancient as the Bible mention the use of brooms, such as Jesus' parable of the woman who lost a coin and swept the house in an effort to find it. However, at this point in history, the broom was not commercially made. It wasn't a tool that you purchased in the market, it was one that you fashioned yourself out of materials you had available. So, in addition to the chore of sweeping, you had to first gather weeds, straw, twigs, or some material and bind it together to make a broom. The tool had a short life span and wore out quickly, so you would have to make a new one fairly often. In our modern world, we often forget and take for granted the fact that we don't have to create everything we use on a daily basis.

The first record that we have of commercial broom making is in Anglo-Saxon England where folks known as "besom squires" in the Southeast region began creating brooms that were sturdy and well-crafted. From here comes a rather risque English folk song which sings the song of a lass who roams the hills to gather "green broom". She declares:

Round Besom Broom
Public Domain

O, come buy my besoms, besoms fine and new,
Bonny green broom besoms, better never grew.

Gathering green broom for her craft was not her main interest however, and she soon sells out her business in exchange for mothering a babe, singing:

I'll bundle up my besoms and take them to the fair,
And sell them all by wholesale, nursing's now my care.

The British broom trade in this region went on for centuries, and some artisans still craft them there today.

According to historian Gregory Nobles, modern broom-making really took off around 1797 when a farmer by the name of Levi Dickinson began using a type of corn that had previously been used only for animal feed to create a broom. He bundled what has come to be known as "broomcorn" grass into a circular shape, lashed it to a stick, and did some weaving at the top to make it hold together better. His wife loved it. So did his neighbors. And word spread. Soon his design was in high demand. Less than three years later, Dickinson had enlisted his sons into the business and was selling several hundred brooms per year. In order to keep up with the demand, Dickinson needed to improve his production abilities. So he invented a machine to help make the brooms.

The industry took off from there. However, it was yet another helpful husband who further honed the broom's design.

The Shakers were a sect of Christianity that organized in the United States around 1780 and had a strong presence in the Northeast region. One of the main tenets of their religion was to do everyday things as quickly as possible so they could have the most amount of time possible to devote to prayer. One husband noticed how much time it took for his wife to sweep the house, and wanted to help her by making a better tool. He altered the broom's circular design and flattened it out so it would more easily reach into corners and cover more surface area.
Shaker Style Brooms in process
Photo Credit: Flickr - David CC 2.0

Some things are just simple genius.

The Shaker-style broom further accelerated the broom-making industry, and by 1850, over one million brooms per year were made in Massachusetts alone, being exported as far as South America.

Natural fiber brooms continued to require skilled, hands-on labor up until 1994.

Today we have many synthetic fiber brooms that make housekeeping even easier, but we must never forget the innovation of those two helpful husbands who gave us the efficient tool we now take for granted.

Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".

She lives near the Ozarks in her "casita" with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a new mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


  1. Thanks for posting today, and along with these women in the article I'm thankful for a capable fix-it-himself husband!!

  2. wow thanks for sharing this interesting information. again a husband comes through for his wife I love it.

  3. I wonder if the husbands starting doing the sweeping to try out the brooms.
    I have a broom made in the Philippines. It is made of natural fibers too. But there is no stick handle instead the broom handle is made by weaving the fibers. It is very short and one has to lean over to sweep. I am tall and found myself almost bending double to use it. Many women make them as a home business to help support their families.

    1. Haha, I bet they least a little bit. Which would have been nice also.

      It's neat that you have a broom from the Philippines. It makes a great souvenir even if it isn't the best one to use on a daily basis.