The Evolution of Windshield Wipers: From Manual to Automatic

The Evolution of Windshield Wipers: From Manual to Automatic

1. Mary Anderson’s Ingenious Invention (1903)

The story begins with Mary Anderson, a real estate developer, cattle rancher, and winemaker. In 1902, while riding a streetcar in New York City during a rainstorm, Anderson noticed the operator struggling with poor visibility. The operator had to open the window and stick his head out to see better. Inspired by this, Anderson patented the first-ever windshield wiper in 1903. Her manual mechanism consisted of wood and rubber arms operated by the driver to clear away snow, rain, and debris. Unfortunately, her invention didn’t gain widespread adoption, perhaps due to its less catchy name: “window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice, or sleet from the window” 1.

2. The Automatic Windshield Wiper (1919)

Fast forward to 1919, when inventor William M. Folberth patented the first automatic, non-hand-driven windshield wipers. These wipers used a vacuum-powered system to clear the windshield and became standard equipment on most vehicles. This vacuum-powered system remained in use until the 1960s, when intermittent wipers gained popularity 1.

3. Robert Kearns and the Intermittent Wiper (1969)

The idea of intermittent wipers had been around for decades, but it was Robert Kearns, an engineering professor at Wayne State University, who brought it to the forefront. Kearns proposed manufacturing his design to the Ford Motor Company, leading to a patent dispute. Despite the legal battles, Kearns’ invention paved the way for the windshield wipers we know today 1.

4. Windshield Wipers Today

Nowadays, windshield wipers are commonplace on vehicles, and a variety of options are available. From rain-sensing wipers that start automatically to improved blade materials, like Premium+ which is designed with an advanced silicone wiping element.  We’ve come a long way from Mary Anderson’s wooden and rubber contraption. So next time you’re driving in the rain, take a moment to appreciate the ingenuity behind those trusty wipers that keep your view clear 1.

Remember, whether it’s a gentle drizzle or a torrential downpour, those windshield wipers are there to make your journey safer and more comfortable. 🚗💨


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