Mary Anderson (inventor) : biography
__NOTOC__ Mary Anderson (1866–1953, Birmingham Post-Herald, June 29, 1953) was an American real estate developer, rancher, viticulturist and inventor of the windshield wiper blade. In November 1903 Anderson was granted her first patentUnited States Patent 743,801, Issue Date: November 10, 1903 for an automatic car window cleaning device controlled inside the car, called the windshield wiper., United States Patent and Trademark Office press release #02-16, March 1, 2002, accessed March 3, 2009
Invention of the windshield wiper
In a visit to New York City in the winter of 1903, in a trolley car on a frosty day, she observed that the motorman drove with the front window open because of difficulty keeping the windshield clear of falling sleet. When she returned to Alabama she hired a designer for a hand-operated device to keep a windshield clear and had a local company produce a working model. She applied for, and in 1903 was granted, a 17-year patent for a windshield wiper. Her device consisted of a lever inside the vehicle that controlled a rubber blade on the outside of the windshield. The lever could be operated to cause the spring-loaded arm to move back and forth across the windshield. A counterweight was used to ensure contact between the wiper and the window. Similar devices had been made earlier, but Anderson's was the first to be effective., September 2001, Inventor of the Week Archive, Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering website, accessed March 3, 2009
In 1905 she tried to sell the rights through a noted Canadian firm, but they rejected her application, saying "we do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale." After the patent expired in 1920 and the automobile manufacturing business grew exponentially, windshield wipers using Anderson's basic design became standard equipment. In 1922, Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to adopt them as standard equipment.
In popular culture
Anderson's invention of the windshield wiper is mentioned in Season 7, Episode 19: "Girls Just Want to Have Sums," of the cartoon The Simpsons, during a debate between Marge Simpson and her husband and son, Homer and Bart, about gender equality:
- Marge: "Well, a woman also invented the windshield wiper!"
- Homer: "Which goes great with another male invention, the car!" [high-fives Bart]
Mary Anderson was born in Greene County, Alabama, at the start of Reconstruction in 1866. In 1889 she moved with her widowed mother and sister to the booming town of Birmingham, Alabama. She built the Fairmont Apartments on Highland Avenue soon after settling in. By 1893, Mary Anderson had moved west to Fresno, California where until 1898 she operated a cattle ranch and vineyard.
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