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Rain, rain, go away

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 5/13/21

The nursery rhyme that most of us remember pleads for the rain that ruins outdoor playtime to go away. As a compromise, knowing that even a five-year-old knew that precipitation was inevitable, we …

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Rain, rain, go away

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The nursery rhyme that most of us remember pleads for the rain that ruins outdoor playtime to go away. As a compromise, knowing that even a five-year-old knew that precipitation was inevitable, we bargained with “come again some other day.” When those kindergarten children grow up and get driver's licenses rain poses another problem. All drivers eventually must deal with windshield wipers.

But before we delve into those wiper devices that remove rain, we should discuss the actual windshield. Cars were first introduced in the 1890's. Although they were a big leap forward in transportation none of them had windshields.

Drivers and their passengers would be at the mercy of the wind as they sped down dirt roads at the top speed of 10 mph avoiding a horse and buggy. Insects of all sorts and the occasional clump of muddy road splattered on their faces. That began to change in 1905 when Oldsmobile introduced the first windshield.

Comprised of two pieces of plate glass they shattered easily frequently injuring car passengers. Eventually a laminated windshield was developed that solved the shattering and insect splattering problem. All was good until it started to rain. Then drivers had the pull over, step in the muddy road and use a cloth to wipe away the rain so they could see ahead.

Around 1902 as nattily dressed Ed Wardian pulled his car to the side of the road in the rain, his wife Hortense asked him what he was doing. An angry and rain-soaked Ed replied, “What am I doing? I paid a thousand dollars for this vehicle and I'm a darn window wiper.” As he wiped the rain away, his passenger in the backseat, Mary Anderson, made a mental note that turned into the invention of the windshield wiper that changed driving in the rain on most cars by 1904. Her patent was simply called the “Windshield Cleaning Device.”

For years, the windshield wiper was operated by levers controlled by the driver. Having to manually control the wiper began to change in 1917 when Charlotte Bridgewood invented the “Electric Storm Window Cleaner.” It was the first automated windshield wiper that operated with the flick of a switch. However, it never became popular because it relied on rollers, not blades, to wipe away the rain.

The Folberth brothers of Ohio received a patent in 1922 for the first automatic wiper system that used blades. Known simply as “Windshield Cleaner” it directed exhaust air from the manifold to an actuator causing the wiper blades to move back and forth.

The problem with their system was that the exhaust air was not produced in a controllable fashion so the speed of the wipers could not be regulated. The other problem was that most people never heard of car parts like a manifold or actuator let alone a frammis or gazinkazoid.

Robert Kearns solved the wiper speed problem when he received a patent for his “Windshield Wiper System for Intermittent Operation” in 1964. His system, with variations used to this day, allows for the blade movements to be adjusted depending on the amount of rain hitting the windshield but only if you remember which way to adjust the wiper control to change the speed.

But when it rains, I notice another innovation that should be incorporated with windshield wipers. How many times do you see a car using its wipers without the car's headlights on as required by law? In some cars it is automatic.

I propose that all cars should have such an automated response when the windshield wipers are engaged. Surely if car manufacturers can turn the former cigarette lighter slot into a cell phone charger portal, they can produce a headlight response when the windshield wipers are activated.

Maybe I will apply for a patent for my “Windshield Wiper Automatic Headlight Engagement Operating System For Visibility Improvement In Inclement Weather.”

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