Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A Chimney sweep is a person who cleans chimneys for a living. They are also commonly referred to as chimney service technicians.
Although the need to clean chimneys has existed ever since the structure was created, the chimney sweeps that often come to mind are those of the Industrial Revolution. With the increased urban population, the resulting rise of housing with chimneys grew in pace and the dedicated profession of cleaning them arose.
In Victorian Age Britain, the business became notorious for employing young boys who were small enough to enter the chimneys themselves and clean them from inside. The work was dirty and dangerous to the children and their employers were notorious for being abusive and exploitive of them.
Eventually, the public outcry led to a search for a technological substitute for children and the solution was found in the form of special brushes with a collapsable handle structure. This allowed a sweep to reach into a chimney to an extended distance without the need to enter it.
Eventually, with the rise of alternative heating systems with the resulting decline of the use of chimneys, the sweep profession became less prevalent although the service still in most communities on a much smaller scale to this day. Many American homeowners think their chimneys only need to be cleaned and inspected if they burn wood in their fireplaces or wood stoves. But almost all heating appliances, whether they burn gas, oil, wood or coal, rely on the chimney to safely carry toxic gases produced by the heating system of the house.
In the arts, chimney sweeps were often depicted in Victorian literature as heartless, abusive scoundrels typified in the book, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. However, with the development of the newer brush equipment and phasing out of the child labor, the profession changed its image as one of agile and good natured adult men with the chief example being in the book series Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film adaptation. Today's chimney professional is as more likely to wear a baseball cap than the traditional top hat.
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