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11 Interesting Facts About Broom

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Brooms are one of the most ubiquitous household cleaning tools, used for centuries to sweep up dirt and debris in homes around the world. But beyond just being handy implements for tidying up, brooms actually have a fascinating history and cultural significance that many people are unaware of.

Here are 11 intriguing facts about the humble broom that just might surprise you:

1. Brooms date back to ancient times

The earliest known brooms were bundles of twigs or reeds tied together to sweep up ashes from fires. Versions of besom brooms made from birch and willow have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 3000 BC! Archaeological evidence shows brooms were also used by ancient Romans and Greeks for household cleaning tasks.

2. Brooms were once believed to have magical powers

In many ancient cultures, brooms were thought to have supernatural abilities. For example, witches were believed to fly on broomsticks to commune with spirits and demons. Celtic Druids used broom branches in purification rituals. In India, brooms decorated with flowers were placed outside homes to ward off evil. Even today, brooms still hold symbolic meaning in Wicca and modern witchcraft.

3. America dominated broom-making by the mid-1800s

While household broom-making was historically a small cottage industry, America became a hotbed of commercial broom manufacturers starting in the early 1800s. New England Shakers are credited with inventing the flat broom style still in use today. By the mid 19th century, there were over 1,000 broom factories in the US producing millions of brooms.

4. Broomcorn is not actually a variety of corn

The primary plant material used to make most brooms today is something called broomcorn, which despite its name is not genetically related to maize. Broomcorn (Sorghum bicolor) is a tall, grassy sorghum that was originally cultivated in Europe and Africa. Its long, strong fibers make ideal broom bristles.

5. Brooms were once taxed by the British

Boy and Brooms #2
Boy and Brooms #2

When the British levied new taxes on the American colonies in 1767, brooms were among the goods that were taxed. Resentment over the taxes later contributed to the American Revolution. To protest British taxes on household goods, American women began making their own homespun cloth and brooms.

6. “Jumping the broom” has roots in slavery

The tradition of newlyweds literally jumping over a broomstick originated with African American slaves in the antebellum Southern United States. Because slaves could not legally marry, they would conduct informal ceremonies jumping over a broomstick to symbolize starting a new household together.

7. Brooms can be works of art

While most brooms are purely functional, broom-making has also evolved into an artistic craft. Contemporary broommakers create elaborate, decorative brooms that double as art pieces. There is even a Museum of Brooms and Broomcrafts in Kentucky filled with over 200 ornate broom styles!

8. Harry Potter made broomsticks cool again

The Harry Potter franchise introduced the idea of flying broomsticks to a new generation. Toy versions of Harry Potter’s Nimbus 2000 broomstick remain popular over 20 years later. Quidditch leagues, where players run around with broomsticks between their legs, have also gained popularity around the world.

9. Brooms are eco-friendly cleaning tools

With growing environmental awareness, brooms are regaining favor as green cleaning options that don’t require batteries or electricity. Using a broom is also a form of light exercise! New broom innovations include models made from recycled plastic bristles or bamboo handles.

10. Brooms are easy to make at home

If you’d like to try your hand at making a broom, it’s relatively simple to DIY using materials like tree branches, corn husks, straw, or any stiff, long fibers. Homemade brooms may not look as uniform as store-bought ones, but they can make fun folk crafts.

11. NASA has used brooms in space

While less glamorous than a flying broomstick, brooms have made it into orbit during NASA missions. The agency first sent a corn broom to Skylab in 1973 to test maneuvering equipment. Astronauts later used brooms for mundane cleaning tasks like sweeping up litter on space shuttle missions and the International Space Station. Who knows, maybe space travel will require flying broomsticks someday!

So the next time you’re tidying up with a broom, remember there’s more to this cleaning tool than meets the eye. Brooms have a long and fascinating history, from their magical associations to their role in American industry. And they continue to evolve as needs and technologies change. Who knows what’s next for the humble broom?

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