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Mary Anderson, the inventor of the windshield wiper on whom Henry Ford opted

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Mary Anderson was born on the Burton Hill plantation in Greene County, Alabama, at the beginning of Reconstruction after the Civil War. After her father’s death in 1870, she and her sister Fannie continued to live on the family ranch with her mother. Years later, in 1889, they moved to Birmingham, Alabama. Over there became a real estate developer after building the Fairmont Apartments. Already then, the initiative of Anderson and his family could be seen in planning a building with housing for rent, in addition to housing the family residence.

In 1898 they moved again, this time to Fresno. There he bought a ranch that he used for cattle ranching and the wine business. The Californian adventure lasted only three years. In 1902 she had to return to Birmingham to care for her aunt.who lived in such an eccentric way that others attributed it to dementia: he locked himself in his room with 17 enormous tree trunks.

When she died they discovered that the interior of the trunks was full of jewels and gold that would guarantee the financial stability of the Andersons. With this treasure they would finance a trip with their friends that would be the genesis of their great invention.

Mary Anderson’s drawing of her windshield wiper.

United States Patent and Trademark Office

Anderson was thirty-seven years old when he visited New York. On her first tram ride, she caught herself thinking about the inconvenience and waste of time that the driver had to continually stop and get out to clear ice, water, and anything that made the windshield dirty. The next day, mulling over the idea, she located a diagram of the elementary wiping device and, when she returned to Alabama, she began working on the windshield wiper idea.

He used a rubber sheet and attached it to a metal arm with a lever so that it could be activated from inside the vehicle. Designed as a single support on top of the glass. After making several prototypes, she decided to try it herself, but not in a car, but in a tram.

He continued experimenting for almost two years on different vehicles until he patented the invention in 1905. She was tenacious and creative.. She was not going to be one of many who registered her work in the name of the men in her family, but she claimed her copyright and in 1905, the patent for the windshield wiper in the United States had a woman’s name. .

There were moments when criticism from those who believe they understand everything made him consider moving forward. Especially in the moments when People close to her lurked with arguments that could imply that she felt guilty of possible accidents due to distraction..

In 1905, the inventor made the only attempt to carry out industrial exploitation of the windshield wiper, she proposed it to a Canadian company that refused as it did not find a commercial value for the product. After the refusal, she did not try again, so she never received a single dollar for property rights.

Anderson claimed his copyright and in 1905 obtained the patent for the windshield wiper.

Henry Ford was the man who believed in this woman’s idea. Innovative, intelligent and risky, he tested the invention on the Ford T and, later, all Ford vehicles would incorporate the windshield wiper. By 1916, all American automobiles were equipped with one.

Anderso’s story continues with a woman’s name, since it was Charlotte Bridgwood, the president of Bridgwood Manufacturingwho would further develop this invention, creating one of the first electrically operated wiper arms. He patented them in the United States in 1917 and, like Anderson, he did not charge anything, since they were installed in automobiles -Cadillacs included- after the patent expired.

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