Carl Benz patented the first ever motor car back in 1879, and that one-cylinder two-stroke unit looked like a tricycle with nearly no protection whatsoever. Since then, the cars have evolved to become extreme racing cars with immense protection, and the tiniest of the parts aided in this mega evolution. If you are out in the open, driving that tricycle car should not be a problem, unless it’s raining! An entirely closed car would be no help either when it starts to drizzle, and your only savior could be the windshield wiper, a part that we usually do not give much credit to.
Bless Mary Anderson who lived on face of this planet and introduced us to the windshield wipers that are crucial life element to this day. The rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, Sara-Scott Wingo who was the great-great niece of Anderson, narrates the story. It all happened when Anderson was visiting New York City in 1902.
“She was riding a streetcar, and it was snowing. She observed that the streetcar driver had to get out and continually clean off the windshield.”
The delays due to periodic cleaning got Anderson wondering if there were some sort of a blade that could clean the windshield, without making the driver get out. Once the lady got back to Birmingham, she transferred her ideas to paper. She made a sketch and added a description of the device, its operation using a handle inside the car, the fact that it was removable, and applied for a patent. The patent read:
“thus leaving nothing to mar the usual appearance of the car during fair weather.”
The application filed for the patent on June 18, 1903, was finally approved on November 10, 1903. United States Patent Office awarded it the patent number 743,801 for the Window Cleaning Device.
According to Wingo, Anderson tried to attract car manufacturers into buying her patent repeatedly, all to no avail. Wingo keeps the prized letter from Dinning and Eckenstein that reads,
“Dear madam. We beg to acknowledge receipt of your recent favor with reference to the sale of your patent. In reply, we regret to state we do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale.”
Thus Anderson ended up on the vast list of great inventors who did not make even a single penny for their genius.
Wingo thinks that the manufacturers missed out on the opportunity and we agree. However, we do not understand why no one would pay no heed to an object of such importance. Wingo suspects that the reason might have been Anderson’s independence. “She didn’t have a father, she didn’t have a husband, and she didn’t have a son. And the world was kind of run by men back then.”
The woman was crushed by none and continued to live another 50 years where she saw the windshield wipers permeate through the car manufacturing industry. Her genius was finally applauded and recognized about a century later when she was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011.