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Fascinating facts about the invention of
Windshield Wipers
by Mary Anderson in 1903..
WINDSHIELD WIPERS
The first mechanical windshield wipers had to be operated by hand! Either the driver or a passenger had to work a crank to make the wipers go back and forth. Image courtesy www.edhelper.com
Mary Anderson, from New York City, was awarded a patent in 1903 for a window cleaning device. Once the invention was protected by patent, she tried to interest companies into producing the device. No one was interested, so Mary put the patent in a drawer and eventually it expired.

With closed bodywork generally available during the 20ís, cars were equipped with windowed doors to protect passengers from bad weather and dust. From 1916, manual windshield wipers replaced squeegees.

Automatic windshield wipers were invented in 1921. Called "Folberths," after their inventors, Fred and Willaim Folberth, they were powered by an "air engine," a device connected by a tube to the inlet pipe of the carís motor.

The electric version, attached to the top of the windshield, was created by Bosch in 1926, but was reserved only for luxury models.

Robert Kearns (1928-2005) patented intermittent powered wipers in 1967. He demonstrated the system to Ford Motor Company, which introduced automobiles with intermittent wipers in 1978. Other automakers soon followed.

Robert W. Kearns spent years in litigation against Ford Motor and Chrysler for using his idea, and eventually won multimillion-dollar judgments. Robert Kearns, 77, died February 26, 2005.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Women Inventors, A Class Act   from The Great Idea Finder
Transportation History   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages
(1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident, from animal crackers to the zipper.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
by Catherine Thimmesh, Melissa Sweet / Hardcover - 64 pages (2000) / Houghton Mifflin

A dozen women are profiled in this collection of short, anecdotal biographies demonstrating that necessity, ingenuity, and luck all play a part in successful inventions. The final section tells girls how to patent their inventions, and an informed bibliography will do just that.
Patently Female
by Ethlie Ann Vare, Greg Ptacek / Hardcover - 240 pages (November 9, 2001) / John Wiley & Sons
Patently Female will reveal the stories behind remarkable innovations, and introduce you to the even more remarkable women who made them.
Women Invent: Two Centuries of Discoveries That Have Shaped Our World
by Susan Casey /
Paperback - 144 pages (October 1997) / Chicago Review Press
These inspiring stories of women inventors take the reader on a step-by-step journey through the process of inventing.

ON THE WEB:

Mary Anderson, Inventor of the Windshield Wiper
At the turn of the century, most people didn't drive cars. In the country, people still traveled in horse-drawn vehicles. In the city, public transportation was available in the form of the streetcar. Article
by Sharon Fabian for edHelper.
Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

Mechanical Windshield Wipers
Mary never sold her invention but by 1913 mechanical windshield wipers were standard equipment on American cars.
Mary Anderson - Southern Belle with a Brain
Mary had an idea. She made a quick drawing in her sketchbook. Her device, which would be patented a year later, allowed the motorman to manipulate a lever from the inside that "activated a swinging arm that mechanically swept off the ice and snow."
Psa-Peugeot-Citroen Web Magazine
From 1916, manual windshield wipers replaced squeegees. Folberth would make them automatic five years later. The electric version, attached to the top of the windshield, was created by Bosch in 1926, but was reserved only for luxury models.
Windshield Wipers-Past Imperfect
W M Folberth introduced a wiper powered by a double-acting air engine connected to the car's engine. Article in the Irish Times from the archives of Bob Montgomery, motoring historian
Robert Kearns
February 25, 2005; The AP reported that Robert Kearns, the inventor of intermittent windshield wipers who won multimillion-dollar judgments against Ford and Chrysler for using his idea, has died. He was 77. Article from the Auto Channel site.
Mary Anderson
Many people teased her for her invention but that did not discourage her. Article at ThinkQuest.
 

Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised April, 2005.
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