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Changing America's History
Automobile Inventions

Mary Anderson's window cleaning device.Prior to the manufacture of Henry Ford's Model A, Mary Anderson was granted her first patent for a window cleaning device in November 1903. Her invention could clean snow, rain, or sleet from a windshield by using a handle inside the car. Her goal was to improve driver vision during stormy weather.

The automobile gave women ample opportunity for invention. In 1923, of the 345 inventions listed under "Transportation" in the Women's Bureau Bulletin No.28, about half were related to automobiles and another 25 concerned traffic signals and turn indicators. Among these inventions were a carburetor, a clutch mechanism, an electric engine starter, and a starting mechanism. During the 1930s, Helen Blair Bartlett developed new insulations for spark plugs. A geologist by training, her knowledge of petrology and mineralogy was critical in the development of innovative uses of alumina ceramics.

Above left: Mary Anderson's window cleaning device.

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