(Photo: Tina Franklin)
In 1903, Mary Franklin of Birmingham, Alabama was riding on a streetcar during a winter rainstorm. She noticed that the driver could barely see out the windshield because the rainwater adhered to the glass. That gave her an idea. The History channel tells the story:
Anderson began to sketch her wiper device right there on the streetcar. After a number of false starts, she came up with a prototype that worked: a set of wiper arms that were made of wood and rubber and attached to a lever near the steering wheel of the drivers’ side. When the driver pulled the lever, she dragged the spring-loaded arm across the window and back again, clearing away raindrops, snowflakes or other debris. When winter was over, Anderson’s wipers could be removed and stored until the next year. (This feature was presumably designed to appeal to people who lived in places where it did not rain in the summertime.)
Anderson tried to sell her invention, but no one bought it and her patent expired. But other inventors followed with other designs that were put to good use. You can read more about the history of their windshield wipers at Jalopnik.