The Windscreen Wiper: A Clear View Into A Fascinating History
4 November 2022
Picture this: you’re driving along and drops start pattering on your windscreen. It begins to rain.
So, you instinctively flick the windscreen wipers on – it only seems natural, right? Then, you just keep driving, with a clear view ahead of you.
If you own a car, you probably already know how important windscreen wipers are in improving your visibility, but have you ever wondered just how this fascinating device came to be?
Let’s explore the history of the humble windscreen wiper and the long and winding road it took before wipers became the crucial driving tool that they are today.
The windscreen wipers of today
Windscreen wipers play a crucial role in road safety, as the blades are designed to clear the windscreen by keeping water, snow and debris from blocking your view of the road ahead.
Considering 2021 research by AAMI reports that 34% (or 1 in 3) Australian drivers confess to having had a car accident in the rain, wiper blades play an important role in providing greater visibility while driving.
Can you imagine driving without windscreen wipers? We couldn’t as well – so we looked back to a time when they didn’t exist – and, spoiler alert, it was 1902!
The invention of windscreen wipers
The idea of the windscreen wiper first sparked on a snowy day in New York in 1902. Stuck in traffic while visiting the city, Mary Anderson watched her streetcar driver frantically remove snow from the vehicle’s windscreen – sticking his head out through the window or stopping the vehicle entirely to remove the snow that was obstructing his view.
Upon seeing this, Mary sketched the very first windscreen wiper, returned home to Alabama, hired an industrial designer and worked on her idea. The idea was simple but innovative: a lever with a rubber blade that moves back and forth across the windscreen controlled from within the vehicle.
In November of 1903, the patent for what Mary called the ‘Window Cleaning Device’ was granted, but it was only valid for 17 years.
An invention way ahead of its time
While we can’t imagine a vehicle without windscreen wipers today, manufacturers in 1903 thought they may be distracting for drivers. This, in addition to the fact that cars were not as popular then as they are today, kept Mary’s invention from finding support until the patent eventually expired in 1920.
By then, cars had gained more popularity and so did windscreen wipers. In 1922, Cadillac began installing wipers as a standard feature, with the rest of the automotive industry following suit – but neither the credit nor the profits were given to Mary Anderson.
Over the years, there have been numerous contributions and advances in windscreen wiper technology by other people. However, Mary remains the most recognised for the original idea and concept. She still lived to see the popularity of her invention, but it was only in 2011 when she posthumously received the formal acknowledgement she deserved for the invention by being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
O'Brien® AutoGlass also recognises the valuable contributions of Mary Anderson – a woman who didn’t drive but still invented a device that was way ahead of its time; one that has been making driving easier and safer in the rain (and snow) worldwide since 1903.
Just remember to never neglect your own wiper blades!
Now that we all have a clearer view of the history of windscreen wipers, it’s time to get a clearer view of the road with new, top-quality windscreen wipers.
Here at O'Brien® AutoGlass, we chose to partner with the worldwide leader in wiper blades, Bosch, and offer a wide range of wipers to suit most car models. We offer a complimentary wiper blade check with all windscreen repairs and replacements, so you can be sure of getting the best visibility at all times while driving. Chat to our Technicians about Bosch wipers when you visit our branch.
There’s never been a better time to replace your wipers. Ask our team for details when booking your repair or replacement or at any of our O'Brien® AutoGlass branches.
Click here for more information about our chip repairs and windscreen replacement services.