History of Wiper Blades Part 2
In Part I we learned about Mary Anderson, who invented the windshield wiper. Referenced there was the fact that Mary never made any money off of the idea despite the patent she received in 1903. So, how did the wiper evolve after Mary’s initial drawings?
AN IDEA BEFORE ITS TIME
Mary’s wiper blade design – which is essentially the same thing we have today, only manual – didn’t catch on and eventually her patent expired. Perhaps if she had had her idea after the popularity boom of the Model T – but she came up with it before, when cars weren’t something most people owned or thought about. But that wasn’t the end of the gadget. Here are the high points of the history of the wiper blade.
EARLY DEVELOPMENTS (1900-1920’S)
While Mary is working on her idea and patent Irish inventor, J.H. Apjohn, receives a similar
patent in the United Kingdom.
Manual wipers operated from inside the vehicle replace squeegees.
Charlotte Bridgewood develops the automatic “Storm Windshield Cleaner”. This didn’t stop the issue of having to use one hand to operate the crank, distracting the driver from steering and shifting and forcing one thing to lapse.
After hitting a cyclist in Buffalo, New York during nasty weather, J.R. Oishei was a man on a mission to improve wiper blades. He sought out “Rain Rubber” inventor John Jepson, an electrical engineer. This simple device was kept in the vehicle and slid through the top and bottom windshield where moving it back and forth cleared the rain.
IT’S TOTALLY AUTOMATIC (WIPER BLADES OF THE 1920’S)
Most wipers developed in the 20’s were attached to the top of the windshield.
Oishei patents the device he and Jepson designed and Trico manufactures it.
Folberths, automatic wipers invented by Fred and William Folberth, get their power from the motor via a tube. Air is diverted from the motor to make them work using the vacuum principle.
Trico buys the Folberth company for a million dollars and makes few changes to the Folberth model of windshield wiper blades.
Bosch patents the first electric windshield wiper system and moves it to the bottom of the windshield.
JUST ADD WATER (THE 1930’S)
Trico develops the first windshield washing system. Later systems would be incorporated into the wiping mechanism rather than two separate controls.
AND THE REST WAS HISTORY (1940’S AND BEYOND)
For the first time a button is added to get a few continuous swipes of the blades. A cylinder using released vacuum suction makes the swipes possible.
Kearns creates the first intermittent wiper and various speed settings for it.
Saab introduces headlight wipers.
Citroen develops automatic (rain sensing) windshield wipers.
Cadillac improves upon automatic windshield wipers.
The windshield wiper, the often overlooked piece of your driving experience, has quite the history and continues to develop.