Charles Brooks - Inventor

Street Sweeper Truck and Ticket Punch Patents

Charles Brooks of Newark, New Jersey invented improvements to street sweeper trucks that he patented on March 17, 1896. He also patented a ticket punch that would collect the chads rather than let them litter the ground.No biographical information can be found on him other than that he was a black man.

Charles Brooks and the Self-Propelled Street Sweeper

Street sweeping was often a manual labor job in Charles Brooks' time.

Keep in mind that the horses and oxen were still the transportation engines of the day. Where there is livestock, there is manure. Rather than stray litter as you might see today in the street, there were piles of manure that needed to be frequently removed.  In addition, garbage and the contents of chamber pots might end up in the gutter.

Street sweepers were often not equipment, but rather were humans who roamed the street sweeping garbage up with a broom into a receptacle. This took a lot of labor, although it provided employment.

Mechanical street sweepers were invented by Joseph Whitworth in England C.S. Bishop in the United States. These were drawn by horses. Bishop's design was towed behind a horse. The improved design from Charles Brooks was a truck with revolving brushes that conveyed the sweepings to a hopper. Patent number 556,711 was issued on March 17, 1896.

His truck had revolving brushes attached to the front fender, and the brushes were interchangeable with scrapers that could be used in winter for snow removal.

Charles Brooks also designed an improved refuse receptacle for storing the collected garbage and litter and a wheel drive for the automatic turning of the brushes and for powering a lifting mechanism for the scrapers.

It's not known whether his design was manufactured and marketed or whether he profited from it.

The motor driven pickup street sweeper was developed by John M. Murphy for the Elgin Sweeper Company, which debuted in 1913.

Ticket Punch

Charles Brooks also patented an early paper punch, also called a ticket punch. It was a ticket punch that had a built-in receptacle on one of the jaws to collect the round pieces of waste paper and prevent littering. The design will look very familiar to anyone who has used a scissors-like single hole punch. Patent Number 507,672 was issued on October 31, 1893.

Ticket punches had existed before Brooks received his patent. As he says in the patent, "The operation and construction of this form of punch are well known and require no detailed description." His improvement was the receptacle in the jaw that would collect the punched-out chads of paper. The removable receptacle had an aperture perfectly sized so the paper chad would enter the receptacle and then it could be emptied into the trash when full.

As the patent says, "The clippings from the tickets are prevented from flying over the floor and furniture of the car." One less annoying source of litter for the sweepers to deal with. There is no record of whether his invention was manufactured or marketed, but the chad-collecting receptacle is commonly seen on ticket punches today.

View the full patents issued to Charles Brooks for his street sweeper and ticket punch.