The Windshield Wiper

Windshield Wiper

Who invented the Windshield Wiper? The name of the person credited with inventing the Windshield Wiper is Mary Anderson (1866 - 1953). Mary Anderson is not only famous as the American inventor of the Windshield Wiper but also as a viticulturist (cultivator of grapes) and real estate developer. When was the Windshield Wiper invented? Mary Anderson invented the Windshield Wiper in 1903, during the Second US Industrial Revolution / Victorian period of invention (1850 - 1914). The invention of the Windshield Wiper originated in America and is considered a highly important addition to the safety of cars and other vehicles.

Definition of the Windshield Wiper: The Windshield Wiper is defined as a mechanical device that continuously moves back and forth to clean the windshield of a vehicle or mechanical device. Its purpose is to keep the window clear and sweep water away.


Facts about who invented the Windshield Wiper


 Inventions and Inventors Index


Fact File about the Invention of the Windshield Wiper: Invention: Windshield Wiper *** Date of Invention: 1903 *** Name of Inventor: Mary Anderson *** Lifespan of Inventor: 1866 - 1953 *** Nationality of Inventor: American *** Historical Period: Second US Industrial Revolution / Victorian (1850 - 1914) *** Category: Transportation *** Country of Origin: America *** Facts about the Inventor, Mary Anderson, and the invention of the Windshield Wiper ***

Fact 1: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? The Windshield Wiper was invented by Mary Anderson in 1903 during the Second US Industrial Revolution era of inventions (1850 - 1914).

Fact 2: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? In 1903 very few people had automobiles. Karl Benz had invented the first true gasoline car in 1886 but it wasn't until 1909 when Henry Ford started to use assembly line techniques to produce the Ford Model T that made cars affordable and accessible to many more Americans.

Fact 3: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? In 1903 the automobile was therefore still in its infancy. Cars were a rich man's toy and horse drawn vehicles, such as the omnibus or horse car, were still popular. Trolley cars, streetcars or trams, that ran on rails were propelled by electricity instead of horses, were introduced as public transport vehicles in major cities such as New York.

Fact 4: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Prior to the invention of the Windshield Wiper in 1903, the windows or windshields of vehicles, such as trolley cars, had to be wiped down by hand in inclement weather using old rags or sponges. Many drivers simply removed the windshield on the vehicle to put his head outside to gain better visibility to view the road conditions. At this time no one had thought about designing a wiper for windshields and this is where the story of Mary Anderson began.

Fact 5: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? The inventor of the Windshield Wiper, Mary Anderson, was born on February 19, 1866 in Burton Hill Plantation, Greene County, Alabama and died on June 27, 1953.

Fact 6: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? The early years of Mary Anderson were spent on the Burton Hill Plantation, Greene County, Alabama where she was raised by her wealthy family. Her father died when she was twenty-four years old. Mary, her mother and her sister moved from the plantation to the boom town of Birmingham, Alabama in 1889 where they invested in a complex called the Fairmont Apartments that they used as their home as well as renting out other apartments.

Fact 7: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? In 1893 Mary Anderson decided to move to California where she established a vineyard and a cattle ranch. She kept control of the apartment complex whilst she was in California but in 1898 she had to return to Birmingham to care for an elderly aunt, who later died and left Mary Anderson a vast amount of money.

Fact 8: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Mary Anderson settled back to her life in Birmingham and in 1902 took a vacation in New York city with some friends. The weather in New York city was not good, it was really cold with a combination of rain, sleet and snow.

Fact 9: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? As a wealthy woman, Mary Anderson would have probably travelled in a hired carriage, however the Studebaker company had begun to experiment with to experiment with the "horseless carriage" and first produced a series of electric automobiles in 1902. It was also probable that Mary Anderson would also have ridden in the Benz or Daimler cars owned by wealthy friends who resided in New York.

Fact 10: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Whatever method of transport used by Mary Anderson in 1902 she would have been aware of all the different modes of transport on the congested city streets. The cold, inclement weather led Mary Anderson to consider the problems that drivers were experiencing as they tried to see out of their windshields.

Fact 11: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Mary Anderson, a determined woman, had the idea of designing a device that could be used to clean the windshield of rain, sleet and snow without the driver having to leave or put his head out of the vehicle.

Fact 12: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Mary Anderson returned to Alabama and began to work on her idea. She hired a designer to help her create her invention and she instructed him on her requirements. It was an exciting and novel project for a woman of her era to embark upon, although frowned upon by many men.

Fact 13: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? The efforts of Mary Anderson first produced a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver or passenger from within the vehicle using a hand lever device.

Fact 14: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? The  blade was improved further by the addition of rubber squeegees to remove water from windshields. Happy with her invention she commissioned a local company in Birmingham to produce a prototype for her.

Fact 15: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Mary Anderson's Windshield Wiper invention worked well, not only removing sleet, snow and rain from the windshield but also dust, dirt and other debris.

Fact 16: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Mary Anderson filed a patent application for her invention on June 18, 1903 and  was granted U.S. patent number 743,801 for her invention on November 10, 1903. She called her windshield wiper invention a "Window Cleaning Device" that she stated was "new and useful to motor cars" for "maintaining a uniform pressure upon the glass throughout the entire area swept by my improved window-cleaning device". 

Fact 17: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Mary Anderson's invention of the Windshield Wiper was ridiculed and automobile companies rejected her idea as having no commercial value. She was probably viewed as a nuisance by the car companies who were more concerned with the engineering aspects of the automobile which strictly the province of men. Mary Anderson gave up on trying to market her idea and allowed her patent for her Windshield Wiper to expire.

Fact 18: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? In 1909 Henry Ford began to mass-produce the Ford Model T. The Ford Model T windshield wiper was a simple, hand operated device, as were the windshield wiper on other automobiles manufactured at the time. Open cars did not come with any type of windshield wiper for years.

Fact 19: Who invented the Windshield Wiper?  Another woman, Charlotte Bridgewood, picked up where Mary Anderson left off. Charlotte Bridgewood patented the first automatic windshield wiper in 1917 she called the "Electric Storm Windshield Cleaner". Her invention was powered by the car's engine and relied on a series of rubber rollers, rather than blades. Although her idea of automating the windshield wiper was an important innovation, Charlotte Bridgewood’s design incorporated rollers instead of blades and her windshield wiper was never commercially successful.

Fact 20: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Hand cranking the windshield wiper became recognised as a dangerous driving hazard by the emerging motor industry. New York businessman John R. Oishei (1886 – 1968) realized the danger of not having a decent windshield wiper following a minor, but none the less frightening, accident in the rain. John R. Oishei founded Trico Products Corporation in 1917 to market his automobile windshield wiper blades and within three years had successfully sold them to Ford, Packard, Lincoln and Cadillac as accessory equipment for their automobiles. By 1926 windshield wipers were a standard feature on all new cars.

Fact 21: Who invented the Windshield Wiper? Mary Anderson never received a penny for her invention of the Windshield Wiper. She died on June 27, 1953 at the age of 87 and was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis Shelby County, Tennessee.

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