The windscreen wiper – who knew?

19 February 2014

Every day is a new day and an opportunity to learn more about the world. Today, I discovered who invented the windscreen wiper! Would you Adam and Eve it (sorry, in London so cockney rhyming slang chip has been plugged in…)? It was a very clever lady – Mary Anderson (aka A. Mary Anderson) – who was born 148 years ago this very day.

Born in Burton Hill Plantation, Greene County, Alabama, she was an American real estate developer, rancher and viticulturist. In a visit to New York City in the winter of 1903, in a tram on a frosty day, she observed that the driver operated the tram with the front window open because of difficulty keeping the screen clear of falling sleet. When she returned to Alabama, Mary hired a designer to develop a hand-operated device and had a local company produce a working model.

Her invention – perhaps unsurprisingly – was the windshield wiper. Patented in 1903, her wiper operated manually and amazingly, over the lifetime of the patent, it was unused with windscreen wipers not issued as standard equipment until much later in the twentieth century. In 1917, a roller mechanism windscreen ‘cleaner’ was patented and in 1921, an electric wiper followed. However, it was not until the 1930s that windscreen wipers resembled what they do today!

Happy Birthday Mary and thanks for getting the ball rolling so we don’t have to drive along with the front window open in all weathers in order to see where the devil we are headed….

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