“If it weren’t for trucks, we wouldn’t have tailgates,” says country singer Joe Diffie in his chart-topping 1994 song “Pickup Man.” He is, of course, correct; and tailgates aren’t the only thing we would be lacking without the invention of automobiles. Consider the following American inventions:
With the help of Ray Harroun's 1911 invention, it's possible to apply makeup, check on the kids in the backseat and watch for other cars as you travel down the road. The winner of the first Indy 500 is credited with inventing the rearview mirror. In his streamlined one-person car, the Marmon Wasp, Harroun didn’t have a mechanic riding with him to warn of overtaking vehicles, so he built a bracket to hold a rearview mirror.
In 1903, Mary Anderson, a young woman from Alabama, was touring New York City on a streetcar whose driver had to keep stopping to wipe snow and ice off the windshield. She made a quick drawing in her sketchbook, and later patented a device which is now standard on vehicles -- the windshield wiper. In 1967, Robert Kearns, of Gary, Ind., patented his update -- the intermittent windshield wiper, which pauses between swipes. An eye injury from a flying champagne cork inspired his idea that wipers, like eye blinks, could be occasional.
Oklahoma may be best known for tornadoes and tumbleweeds, but nearly every city in America features an invention first installed in Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935. Carl C. Magee, who filed for a patent on May 13, 1935, for a “coin-controlled parking meter,” is generally credited with inventing it.
The jerky driving habits of his lawyer inspired automotive pioneer Ralph Teetor of Hagerstown, Ind. to invent cruise control, a device he patented in 1945. Teetor was blind and especially sensitive to the stop-and-go motion of cars.
We've all heard the saying, "express yourself." You can do that right on the bumper or window of your car, thanks to Forest P. Gill, a Kansas City, Mo. printer, who in the late 1940s, combined two recently developed products—-fluorescent ink and self-sticking adhesive—-and invented the self-sticking bumper sticker. Gill-line in Lenexa, Kansas, continues to manufacture bumper stickers.
"Strings of street lights, even stop lights, blink a bright red and green," in the classic Christmas carol "Silver Bells." Songwriter Jay Livingston wouldn't have felt quite as inspired without the invention of the electric traffic signal, created by Lester Wire, head of the first traffic squad in Salt Lake City. Wire came up with a wooden box with lights that shone red and green in 1912, but businessman Garrett Augustus Morgan invented the nation’s first patented traffic signal in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1920s. His was the basis for modern traffic signals.
Sylvanus Bowser of Fort Wayne invented the first gasoline pump in 1885, using marble valves and wooden plungers. Three years later he established a factory in the city to produce his invention.
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