Mary Elizabeth Anderson was best known as the inventor of the first effective windshield wiper. She was an American rancher, real estate developer, and viticulturist and she lived from February 19, 1866, to June 27, 1953. Anderson got her initial invention for a windscreen wiper, an automatic car window washing system operated from within the car, on November 10, 1903.
5 Facts about Mary Anderson
Until her death, Anderson had no children.
She was also never married and was very independent despite living at a time when men run the world.
In 1893, Mary Anderson had to relocate to Fresno, California, to manage a vineyard and a cattle ranch.
She created a windscreen blade that could be controlled from inside the car.
Historians assume that Mary Anderson's creation was just ahead of its time, but that getting rejected also influenced her choices. As an outcome, Mary Anderson became a chapter in the automobile's past.
A Quote about Mary Anderson
"We are all quite pleased with her accomplishments. I am the mother of 3 daughters. We speak a lot of Mary Anderson and we all feel compelled to be open and attentive through our own Mary Anderson experiences." -
Sarah-Scott Wingo (Anderson's great-great-niece)
Mary Anderson Biography
At the outset of Restructuring in 1866, Mary Anderson was born in Burton Hill Plantation in Alabama to John C. and Rebecca Anderson. Fannie, her sister, remained close to her throughout her life. When their father passed away in 1870, their family was able to make ends meet from the property’s proceeds.
After several years had passed, she relocated to Birmingham, with her mom and sister. Shortly after relocating to Birmingham, Anderson become a land developer and developed the Fairmont Apartments. She moved to California in 1893 to run a cattle farm and vineyards. Anderson returned to Birmingham in 1898 to assist with the care of a sick auntie.
Anderson and her sister, brother-in-law, aunt, and mother, all settled into a Fairmont apartment. Anderson's ill aunt arrived with luggage containing jewelry and gold collections which helped the household live well.
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The Windshield Wipers Creation
The inspiration for creating a windshield began in the 20th century during her trip to New York. While riding a streetcar, she couldn’t help but notice that the car driver struggled to see outside the windows due to the pouring snow. To restore his vision, the driver had to bend out from the car or pull over to the roadside and wipe the windshield with his hands.
This sparked Anderson’s imagination and she started to work on a design once she returned to Birmingham. She imagined a windscreen wiper that the driver could activate from within the car.
She hired a designer to come up with a windshield mechanism that could be operated by hand to keep the windscreen clean. She developed a window cleaning device that had a lever to help the arm move back and forth. This then controlled the rubber blade on the car’s exterior. Besides, the device could easily be removed after winter.
In June 1903, Anderson filed for a patent application for 17 years for her designed window cleaning device. Although there were other inventions at the time, Anderson's simple model was the first operational windshield. When Anderson submitted for the copyright in 1903, automobiles were not very famous.
The Model A vehicle, designed by Henry Ford, was not yet produced. As a result, when she attempted to sell the copyright to her creation in 1905 through a well-known Canadian business, they turned her down.
They did not think it had a commercial value that they would undertake its selling. Many others also didn't understand the benefit of her idea and emphasized the danger of the driver becoming distracted while controlling the equipment and operating wipers.
Windscreen wipers based on Anderson's core idea became standard equipment. She stopped pursuing to the product in the market and the copyright ended in 1920. At the same time, the automotive manufacturing industry flourished dramatically and Anderson allowed interested corporations to access her concept. Cadillac was the first automobile company to include these as standard features in 1922.
Driving grew more widespread in 1922, but there was no way to clear the glass on private vehicles at the time. Cadillac believed it would be a good idea to adopt Anderson's concept for road cars to their motorized vehicles. As a result, Cadillac started to include windscreen wipers as a common part of their automobiles.
Anderson’s Death and Legacy
Mary Anderson’s windshield wiper was greatly adopted in the automotive industry and it became standard equipment. However, Anderson was not compensated for her invention. Fortunately, she got the credit that she deserved when was included in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the year 2011.
She continued to manage and run the Fairmont Apartments until when she died at 87 years in her Monteagle, Tennessee home. She was then buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
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