A broom is a cleaning tool consisting of stiff fibers (often made of materials such as plastic, hair, or corn husks) attached to, and roughly parallel to, a cylindrical handle, the broomstick. It is thus a variety of brush with a long handle. It is commonly used in combination with a dustpan.
The word "broom" derives from the name of certain thorny shrubs (Genista and others) used for sweeping. The name of the shrubs began to be used for the household implement in Late Middle English and gradually replaced the earlier besom during the Early Modern English period. The song Buy Broom Buzzems (by William Purvis 1752 - 1832) still refers to the "broom besom" as one type of besom (i.e. "a besom made from broom") Flat brooms, made of broom corn, were invented by Shakers in the 19th century. A smaller whisk broom or brush is sometimes called a duster.
One source states that the United States had 303 broom factories by 1839 and that the number peaked at 1,039 in 1919. Most of these were in the Eastern U. S. During the Great Depression, the number of factories declined to 320 in 1939. Oklahoma became a major center for broom production because broom corn grew especially well there. The Oklahoma Broom Corn Company opened a factory in El Reno, Oklahoma in 1906, a year before statehood. Faced with competition from imported brooms and synthetic bristles, most of the factories closed by the 1960s. Today, brooms are also commonly made with synthetic bristles. Another common type is the push/pull broom, consisting of a wide brush with short bristles, to which a broomstick is attached at an angle in the center of the brush.
Brooms in wider culture
- In the Gospel of Luke 15:8 "The Parable of the Lost Coin", the broom is mentioned: "Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?"
- The first known reference to witches flying on broomsticks dates to 1453, confessed by the male witch Guillaume Edelin. The concept of a flying ointment used by witches appears at about the same time, recorded in 1456.
- Poets use the broom in metaphor making. In one of Emily Dickinson's poems Mother Nature, Nature ". . .sweeps with many colored brooms, and leaves the shreds behind. . ."
- The Métis people of Canada have a broom dancing tradition. There are broom dancing exhibitions where people show off their broom dancing skills. The lively broom dance involves fast footwork and jumping.
- In Jainism, monks and nuns have a little broom with them, in order to gently brush aside ants and small animals, to avoid crushing them. This is an act of non-violence to the small animals.
- An African American wedding tradition incorporates the use of the broom. The custom is called "jumping the broom". The custom originates in marriages of slaves in the United States in the 19th century, but its revived popularity among African Americans is due to the 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
- During World War II, American submarine crews would hoist a broom onto their boat's fore-truck when returning to port to indicate that they had "swept" the seas clean of enemy shipping. The tradition has been devalued in recent years by submarine crews who fly a broom simply when returning from their boat's shake-down cruise. This tradition no doubt stems from the action of the Dutch admiral Maarten Tromp who tied a broom to his main mast after defeating the British admiral Robert Blake at the Battle of Dungeness in 1652. This has often been interpreted as a message that he would "sweep the British from the seas". This story remains unsubstantiated, but may have its origin in the tradition of hoisting a broom as a sign that a ship was for sale, which seems more likely as Tromp had captured two of Blake's ships in the battle.
- in sports
- Curling broom
- In baseball, when the home team is close to accomplishing a sweep (having won the first two games of a three-game series or first three games of a four-game series), some fans will bring brooms to the ballpark and brandish them as a way of taunting the visiting team. (Examples: Arkansas vs LSU- 2011; Red Sox v. Yankees—May 13–15, 2011 and June 7–9, 2011)
- In broomball, broomsticks have their heads removed and are used to push a ball into a goal, on an ice surface. The game is similar to hockey, except players do not wear skates.
In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West used a broomstick to fly over Oz. She also used it to skywrite "Surrender Dorothy" above the Emerald City. The Wizard commands Dorothy and her three traveling companions to bring the Wicked Witch's broomstick to him in order to grant their wishes. Dorothy carries it to the Wizard with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion after the Wicked Witch's death.
In the movie Fantasia, Mickey Mouse, playing The Sorcerer's Apprentice, brings a broom to life to do his chore of filling a well full of water. The boom overdoes its job and when chopped into pieces, each splinter becomes a new broom that flood the room until Yen Sid stops them. This story comes from a poem by Goethe called "Der Zauberlehrling" ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice"). The Disney brooms have had recurring cameos in Disney media, mostly portrayed as janitors, albeit not out of control or causing chaos such as in the original appearance.
In the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (film), There is a Wizarding Game called Quidditch where players use their broomsticks to fly around a field and shoot goals. Harry Potter (character) plays the game also. Broomsticks are also a form of transport which wizards and witches use.
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- Shorter Oxford English dictionary, 6th ed. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. 2007. p. 3804. ISBN 0199206872.
- "How to make a broom". Ogden Publications, Inc. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
- "Broom". Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- Fugate, Tally D. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. "Broom Factories." Retrieved August 13, 2w012..
- Man, Myth and Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural. 1970, edited by Richard Cavendish.
- from The Virtual Museum of Metis History and Culture Broom Dance, Metisfest 2001. Retrieved on May 18, 2007.
- Dundes, A. (1996) "Jumping the Broom": On the origin and meaning of an African American Wedding Custom. The Journal of American Folklore. 109 (433) p. 324-329. Retrieved on May 19, 2007 from the Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Library at http://www.jstor.org/stable/541535
- Broom Lore - Victoria Trading Company - Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. 1988, edited by Peter Kemp
- Rickard, J (18 August 2009), Battle of Dungeness, 30 November 1652, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_dungeness.html
- Spooner, Samantha (15 October 2014). "From hippie bans to broomstick flying limits, here are Africa's most absurd laws". Mail & Guardian Africa.