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Who Invented Windshield Wipers? The Surprising History of This Invention

Imagine the modern vehicle without windshield wipers for a moment. During heavy rain or fast-falling snow, it’d be nearly impossible to drive. If you chanced it, the trip certainly wouldn’t be a safe one.

Most people living today can’t imagine a world with windshield wipers. There was a time where these useful inventions didn’t exist, however.

So, who invented windshield wipers? Continue reading to learn about an imaginative young woman and a fateful trip to New York City.

Who Invented Windshield Wipers?

A woman named Mary Anderson is credited with inventing the first windshield wipers. The story about how she designed her invention is an interesting one.

The story proves what a resourceful woman Miss Anderson was. Drivers around the world can thank her for that specific trait.

A Fateful Trip to New York City

It was a cold, snowy day in New York City in 1902. Mary Anderson was a native of Birmingham, Alabama, who happened to be riding on a streetcar.

The snow was coming down pretty hard. It kept obstructing the view of the street through the windshield.

Miss Anderson saw how the driver had to keep getting out of the streetcar to clear the window. Not only were there a lot of delays on the route, but it was downright inconvenient.

Miss Anderson began idly wondering if there might be a solution to that particular issue. She imagined a type of blade that would clean the outside of the windshield. But, obviously, the blade would need to be operated from the inside.

Home to Get to Work

Thankfully, Mary Anderson didn’t forget her imaginings once she returned home to Birmingham. Once back, she got to work sketching a device you’d recognize as windshield wipers.

Of course, the first wipers weren’t the same as we use today. Miss Anderson’s idea had a crank handle inside the car that would allow the driver to operate it.

The first windshield wipers were removable. They could be taken off the vehicle in clear weather, so it didn’t alter the look of the car.

The First Windshield Wiper Patent Is Approved

The sketches done, Mary Anderson filed a patent on her new invention on June 18, 1903. It was on November 10, 1903, that the United States Patent office approved her application. Thus, the very first windshield wipers were officially invented.

Unfortunately for Miss Anderson, the vehicle companies she tried to sell her invention to didn’t bite. She never saw any real profit from the windshield wipers. Her patent had run out by the time they became a mainstay on vehicles.

She didn’t get rich off her invention. But, Mary Anderson did have the distinct satisfaction of seeing her design widely implemented. She was still alive when windshield wipers became a mainstay on modern vehicles.

Do You Want to Learn More About Windshields?

Windshield wipers are an ingenious invention. They added more convenience and improved security to the modern vehicle. Today’s windshields wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Mary Anderson’s 1902 New York City visit.

Do you want to learn more about who invented windshield wipers? Or, about windshields in general?

Check out our other blog posts. You’ll find a wealth of useful information.