A Brief History of Windshields

Did you know that the concept for glass windshields originated right around 1904? We found an article which nicely outlines the history of windshields. Here it is, in part, under the title A Clear View: History of Automotive Safety Glass:

Early cars were little more than motorized buckboards but it didn’t take long for drivers to determine they’d like a little protection from road hazards like sharp flying rocks. In 1904 when the first windshields were introduced, most were a horizontally-divided piece of plate glass just like the glass used for house windows. When the top half got too dirty to see through, a driver could fold it down and keep going. Ford, in 1908, advertised its Model T for $850 — unless a driver also wanted fancy extras like a windshield, speedometer, and headlights, equipment that boosted the price another $100. Likewise, in 1913 Reo offered a windshield as optional equipment. In 1915, though, Oldsmobile was first to sell the top and windshield as standard equipment.

As more and more cars took to the roads, a rise in accidents was inevitable. When one of these early cars was involved in an accident, it was not uncommon for the driver at a minimum to be injured by flying shards of glass or, far worse, lose his life after going headfirst through the windshield. The latter event was known as wearing a glass necklace. In the teens motorists filed a number of lawsuits against car manufacturers, asserting the car makers were the cause of their windshield-related injuries.

There are also stories that Henry Ford and some of his closest friends were themselves injured by flying glass in accidents. Whatever the circumstances — whether personal experience with accidents, discussions with attorneys about liability issues, etc., Ford was finally convinced it was time to make car windshields safer. Another impetus for his decision may have been one reported on by author Ford R. Bryan in his 1993 book “Henry’s Lieutenants”: In 1918 Henry Ford saw distortion in the rear window of a Model T and decided he needed to produce improved glass. He also, however, needed less expensive glass. With more and more customers opting for enclosed vehicles, glass was harder to come by and the price of glass had risen nearly three-fold. Clarence Avery, a Ford employee, began working with Pilkington Co., a British glass manufacturer, on a new glass-making process. By the end of 1919 they had perfected a process for pouring molten glass through rollers and onto a mobile table. The table then carried the glass under several grinders and polisher until the product was finished. At Ford’s extensive River Rouge Plant there was a steel mill, glass factory, and car assembly line. At least initially Ford manufactured the glass it needed. In late 1919 Ford began using laminated glass, over the next decade directing its use in all Ford cars.

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