Melville Reuben Bissell
Life and career
Bissell was born in Hartwick, New York, and grew up in Berlin, Wisconsin. As a young adult, he opened a grocery store in 1862 with his father, Alpheus, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, selling it in 1869 and opening a crockery and glassware store in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1870. He made money manufacturing crockery and investing in real estate.
Following the Panic of 1873, Bissell began working on a carpet sweeper. In 1876 Bissell patented a sweeper with a central brush, rubber wheels, and other improvements on vacuum technology. A fire in 1884 destroyed his first factory, but he was able to overcome the loss and expand his business.
Following his death from pneumonia in 1889 (at the tragically young age of only 45) in Grand Rapids, his wife, Anna Bissell, took control of the company, becoming America's first female corporate Chief Executive Officer.
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