On this day in 1903, Mary Anderson was granted a patent for a WINDOW CLEANING DEVICE (U.S. Patent No. 743,801), the first windshield wiper.

Anderson got the idea for the wiper when she was riding on a streetcar in New York City. She noticed the driver was unable to see out of the window due to the amount of sleet that had hardened on it. The streetcar was designed for inclement weather but it was not an ideal situation for the driver or passengers sitting in the front. The window was split into sections so it could be opened if visibility was poor. This, unfortunately, exposed the driver and passengers to the elements.

Anderson sketched her wiper idea out right then and there. After a few unsuccessful attempts Anderson was able to successfully create a prototype that worked. The wipers were made of wooden arms and rubber that was attached to a lever near the steering wheel of the driver. When the lever was pulled a spring-loaded arm would drag across the window clearing any debris in its way.

Unfortunately, for Anderson, her patent expired before the popularity of the windshield wiper took hold. At the time she presented it people believed the wipers would be a distraction for the driver and cause accidents.

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