Three cheers for Maria and Charlotte, inventors extraordinaire!
Next time you turn on your windscreen wipers, pause and mentally thank Mary Anderson and Charlotte Bridgwood, the two brilliant ladies who invented them.
It all started in New York city, with Mary, a lady from the deep South, on a bitterly cold and snowy winter day of 1903. While riding a streetcar, she observed that the driver could hardly see through the snow-covered windscreen and had to get out and continually clean it off. Mary felt sorry for the poor guy and wondered what could be done to stop him freeze this way. She grabbed a pencil and started sketching immediately.
As soon as she returned to Alabama, she got to work and created a prototype of a “window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles”. It was a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle, using a lever fixed on the outside of the car. Mary patented her design in 1905 and tried to sell her invention to various car manufacturers. Nobody wanted to buy what they saw as a useless gadget, doomed to failure and potentially dangerously distracting for the drivers. Mary and her fantastic device fell into oblivion.
A few years later, in 1917, Charlotte invented and patented the first automatic windscreen wiper. As from 1923, it was fitted on all vehicles, but Charlotte got little credit or wealth from it.
- If your wipers fail to clean your windscreen properly, the blades are probably dirty. Shame on you! Immediately erase this disgrace with a cute little white cloth dipped in white vinegar. Rub it on the blades a couple of times to restore their former spotless beauty.
- If they are extremely dirty, simply wipe them with a clean rag dipped in hot, soapy water. Rinse and wipe the edge of the blade with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol.
- If your windscreen wipers are performing below par and you don’t have time to go and get them changed immediately, gently rub the rubber with fine sand paper to give it a bit more life.