The Origin of the Windshield Wiper: The Mary Anderson Story

Despite having a patent in her name, Mary Anderson was a woman forgotten by history. After so many years, her name has finally resurfaced to receive the recognition it deserves, to be the creator of a necessary road safety method: the windshield wiper.


When buying a new car, most people focus on aspects such as the design of the car, the power of the engine or the space it has and, although it is an important piece, nobody stops to think if their car counts. with the best wiper .

Certainly, a windshield does not influence the performance and operation of the car under “normal” conditions, however, when the rain makes an appearance or the snow begins to accumulate on the glass, at that moment, the importance of this small thing becomes evident. artifact.

The prevention of many accidents is given by the windshield wiper, therefore, a car without it is a perfect recipe for disaster. Today, windshield wipers are known to be necessary, therefore no one notices them. However, many years ago this was not the case.

A world in which cars did not have something to clear the vision of the driver when cleaning the glass may sound crazy, but this was common until the mid-1900s. The driver of the car or any other means of transport had to stop to clean the glass before continuing, in the best of cases, because if the rain was torrential, it was necessary to wait.

The solution? Create an artifact that would automatically take care of cleaning what would stain the glass to avoid the driver having to constantly stop to do so. The mind behind this revolutionary idea? A resourceful woman who fought for recognition of her invention, Mary Anderson.




Mary’s big idea

Born in the United States, specifically in 1866 in Alabama, Mary Anderson was not a woman with the appearance of someone who would change the automotive world forever.

Before being an inventor, she was a wine grower, real estate developer and ranch owner in sunny California. Her life was busy, and between building the Fairmont apartments, being with her family, and establishing herself as a rancher and winemaker, her routine consisted of constant trips between California, Birmingham, and Alabama.

In one of her hundreds of trips, Mary noticed something that she had not taken into account until then. The winter of 1902 hit the roads that connected his city with New York hard, and what should have been a tram trip of a few hours turned into a long journey. Not because the tracks were closed or because the cold was excessive, but because the mixture of water and ice on the windshield caused the driver to stop every few meters to clean it and continue with the journey.

After this trip and lamenting the hours lost on the road, Mary Anderson arrived in Alabama with an idea: to design an automated system that was operated by hand from inside the car and cleaned the glass. Something logical, ingenious and creative, which would surely change the lives of many, but which, unfortunately, was not seen as important by the people of the time.


An unsuccessful inventor

We do not consider your invention to be of commercial value. With those words, a Canadian company turned down Mary Anderson’s offer to work together to market her newly manufactured windshield wiper. It was 1905 and the almost 40-year-old inventor, despite already having a patent, could not find someone who wanted to do business with her.

Although nowadays the use of windshield wipers is mandatory, in ancient times this was considered a simple additional accessory that had no value and that, in addition, could distract drivers.

Since 1903, his invention, a metal arm with resistant rubber and springs that allowed it to move in two directions to completely go through the windshield and leave it impeccable, had the patent number 743,801 and was valid for 17 years.

Despite the fact that no one wanted to make offers to work with it and get the product, some people who did recognize its worth tried to become more familiar with the invention, and, in that way, weigh the idea of ​​including it in cars. This was the case with Henry Ford.




The commercialization of an expired patent

The legendary car Ford T became famous in 1908 not only for its low production costs and elegant design, but also for offering among its optional accessories a small device that would keep the front windows clean despite the weather conditions: the wiper washer.

Sales began to occur with more and more frequency and, by 1913, various car companies incorporated it into their creations. The windshield wiper became everyone’s product, and by becoming everyone’s, the patent lost all its importance. Mary Anderson did not make a penny in profit, and when her patent completely expired in 1920, Cadillac took the windshield wiper and instead of offering it as an optional accessory, made it standard equipment on its cars.

From that moment, the windshield wiper began to be a part of every car that came out on the automotive market, just as it is today, finally gaining the recognition it deserved and that Mary Anderson tried to achieve between 1903 and 1905.

Mary Anderson did not attempt at any time in her life to make legal complaints about her invention, nor did she insist on making money from its success after trying to sell it the first time, so she retired to Birmingham and continued her life until she died in the year 1953.

Despite the fact that the woman did not enjoy benefits due to her wonderful invention, her story finally became known and, today, the creation of the windshield wiper is completely connected to her name. In that way, the credit for creating this product ultimately belongs to you entirely.



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