Question: Which car manufacturer invented the first windshield wiper? Answer: There wasn't one. Believe it or not, the first windshield wiper was invented by a real estate developer by the name of Mary Anderson, and she never made a penny from her invention. It's a true story.
As the story goes, on a freezing, wet winter day in the early 1900s, real estate developer Mary Anderson was riding on a streetcar in New York City when she noticed the driver could barely see the street through his sleet-drenched front windshield. This is because the motor vehicle technology at that time was surprisingly crude to deal with this problem. What the manufacturers did back then was simply split the front windshield of
vehicles into 2 sections that could be swung open. This allowed the driver to easily open the windshield to see the road ahead of them when the weather was bad. The problem, of course, was that rain and sleet would immediately blow into the streetcar. This was a marginal solution at best.
On that fateful day, Mary Anderson sketched her wiper device. The solution seemed simple enough. One simply needed a mechanical arm operated by the driver that could sweep the rain and snow off the windshield. With that basic understanding, she went to work on a solution. Her first prototype was a set of spring-loaded wiper blades made of wood and rubber that were attached to a lever near the driver's steering wheel. When the driver pulled the lever, he/she dragged the spring-loaded arm across the window and back again, clearing away sleet, snow or other debris. It was simple, and it worked.
Realizing that she had a potentially valuable idea on her hands, Anderson contacted a patent lawyer. After several months of work, her patent application was filed. On November 10th, 1903 she was awarded U.S. Patent No. 743,801 for her "window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice or sleet from the window." It was the first patent to be filed that addressed this problem.
Being a sharp investor, Anderson then attempted to license her invention. The problem was that she was ahead of her time. Trolleys and motorcars were low speed vehicles at that time and opening up front window, or sticking one's head out a side window, was a perfectly acceptable way to see the road ahead when the weather was bad. Because this was how it was done at the time, Ms. Anderson had many skeptics. Not only was it not entirely necessary, many said, they also insisted that the wipers' movement would distract the driver and cause accidents. Undeterred, she approached several manufacturing firms with licensing deals, but the companies refused: The device had no practical value, they said, and so was not worth licensing.
Unfortunately, after years of pitching, Anderson ran out of time and her patent expired. Though mechanical windshield wipers were standard equipment in passenger cars by around 1916, Anderson never received any money for an invention that today is on virtually every motor vehicle that is made today.
Article Courtesy of: Urse Dodge Chrysler Ram
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