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MARY ANDERSON ( windshield wiper)

Invention Impact
Although windshields were not yet common on automobiles, as driving became
more and more common, the windshield wiper was eventually adapted for
automotive use. In 1922, Cadillac began installing the wiper as a piece of standard
equipment on its cars.
Inventor Bio
During her lifetime, Anderson established herself as an entrepreneur. In addition to
building and managing an apartment building in Birmingham, Alabama, she
operated a cattle ranch and vineyard in Fresno, California.

Inventor Mary Anderson started her fulfilled life in Greene County Alabama in 1866

and eventually died in Tennessee at the age of 87 in 1953. She grew up in Alabama
during the start of the Reconstruction from the Civil War. And in 1889 she moved to
Birmingham, Alabama with her mom who was now a widow and her sister. While
there she built Fairmont Apartments that happened to be on Highland Avenue. And
eventually when she got older she moved to California. When Mary Anderson was in
California she was in charge of a vineyard as well as a cattle ranch until 1848.
Mary Anderson first thought of her idea when she was visiting New York during
winter in 1903 it was sleeting outside. She noticed that drivers either kept their
windows open to see the road in which they were driving on or they stopped
periodically to wipe their windows off. She wanted to stop this problem. So when
she got back to Alabama she hired someone to make the design for her windshield
wiper. She went and got a 17 year patent for her invention.
Even though the windshield wiper was already different Mary Anderson's was a lot
better. Her's was able to "wipe" through rain, sleet, and snow. It was also able to
handle the stormy weather unlike the previous windshield wipers. It also had a
rubber blade and was operated by the driver from inside the vehicle. It acted like a
swinging arm back and forth on the windshield.
Her goal with her new invention was to help drivers vision during any type of
weather. Mary Anderson's major setbacks about her new windshield wiper invention
was the fact that most people thought, before even using it, that it would be
distracting and was not a good invention because all it did was distract the driver.
Also most people didn't have cars back then because they were expensive and for
the windshield wiper people thought was too distracting and not needed. And also
the cars that was out in her time did not go fast enough to even really need a
windshield wiper so Mary Anderson was way ahead of her time.
Miss Mary Anderson's windshield wiper was not a commercial success and most
people laughed at the idea. Even when she tried to sell her product it didn't work.
Companies would not buy it as well as people. But like I said she was way ahead of

her time and even though no one used it back then it is a part of our life now. Now a
days we can't even think about not having the windshield wiper.
Anderson was born on Burton Hill Plantation in Greene County on February 19,
1866, to John C. and Rebecca Anderson. Mary's father died when she was four, but
Mary and her sister, Fannie, and mother continued to live off the proceeds from his
estate. In 1889, they moved to Birmingham and built the Fairmont Apartment
building at 1211 21st Street South on the corner of Highland Avenue.
Anderson left home in 1893 at age 27 to operate a cattle ranch and vineyard in
Fresno, California. By 1900, she had returned to Birmingham to help care for her
ailing aunt; she once again lived in the Fairmont Apartments with her mother, her
sister, and also now her brother-in-law, G. P. Thornton. Anderson's aunt brought to
the apartment house with her a number of large trunks that no one was allowed to
examine. After her death, the trunks revealed a collection of gold and jewelry, the
sale of which allowed the family to live in considerable financial comfort.
Early in the twentieth century, Anderson traveled to New York City. While riding in a
trolley there, she noticed that the motorman had to remove snow and sleet from the
front window by stopping the trolley, getting out, and cleaning the windows by
Back in Birmingham, Anderson began creating a design for a device very similar to
a modern windshield wiper that operated via a lever from inside the vehicle.
Anderson had a model of her design manufactured and patented her design
(number 743,801) on November 10, 1903. She then tried to sell her design to a
production company. In 1905, she wrote a Canadian firm about purchasing the
patent, but the company saw no commercial value in the device and declined to
produce it. This attempt was apparently the only one Anderson made to market her
By the 1920s, the three Anderson women were living independently again on the
inheritance from Mary's aunt after the death of her brother-in-law. Mary Anderson
was managing the apartment building at the time of her death.
Anderson died on June 27, 1953 while at her summer home in Monteagle,
Tennessee. She was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham. The New York
Times and Time magazine carried her obituary for the sole reason that she invented
the window cleaning device for cars and other vehicles.
In 1903 Mary Anderson was granted her first patent for an automatic windshield
cleaning device, known as a windshield wiper blade. The wiper blade was operated
from inside the car. The driver or passenger would work a crank in order to make
the windshield wipers move.
She was born in Burton Hill Plantation, in Greene County, in 1866. In 1889 she
moved along with her mother and sister to Birmingham. Mary moved on to Fresno
California in 1883 where she operated a cattle ranch and vineyard until 1898. She
heard that an elderly aunt needed help in 1902, and that is when she returned to
Birmingham. The aunt had 15 large trunks in her bedroom. Upon the aunt's death, it

was discovered there was a large amount of gold and jewelry within the trunks.
Mary, and the rest of her family gained a substantial amount of money from the
newly found treasures. Mary Anderson used some of the money to take a trip to
New York City, in 1902. She took a ride on a trolley car, and noticed the driver
struggling to keep his windshield clear. The driver would make constant stops in
order to clean the messy grime from the windshield.
She returned to Birmingham with an idea for a device that would clean a windshield.
She drew the design, and had a local company build a model of her idea. She was
granted a 17 year patent for her windshield cleaning device in 1903. She attempted
to sell the rights of her wiper blade invention to a well known Canadian company, in
1905. However, the Canadian company did not think it was a marketable product at
the time. After the patent expired car manufacturers had windshield wipers on the
cars as standard procedure. They used Mary Anderson's basic design for the
manufacturing of wipers. It was not until the year 1921 when the electric windshield
wiper was invented. They were introduced by Fred and William Folberth. The wiper
blades were powered by an "air engine," a device connected by a tube to the inlet
pipe of the car's motor. There was an electric version that was attached to the top
of the windshield developed by Bosch in 1926. In 1967 intermittent powered wipers
were patented by Robert Kearns. He demonstrated his idea to the Ford motor
company, but they didn't start using intermittent wiper blades until 1978. Robert
Kearns battled for years in legal courts to sue Ford and Chrysler for the use of his
idea. He eventually won the lawsuit winning a multi-million dollar pay out.
Mary managed the Fairmont Apartments, which her family had constructed, until
her death, in 1953. At 86 she had been the oldest member of South Highland
Presbyterian Church.