Trico is an American company that specializes in windshield wipers. Trico, then Tri-Continental Corporation, invented the windshield wiper blade in 1917. Its original Trico Plant No. 1 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When a bicyclist and a National Roadster collided on a Buffalo, New York, street one rainy night in 1917, it was an impact felt around the world. Although the cyclist was not seriously injured, the accident was enough to profoundly shake the driver of the car, Buffalo theatre owner J.R. Oishei. Vowing that such an accident should never happen again, Oishei was determined to improve the ability of drivers to see during bad weather. He said that hitting the bicyclist was “a harrowing experience which imprinted on my mind the definite need for maintaining vision while driving in the rain.”
The company Oishei formed, the Tri-Continental Corporation, introduced the first windshield wiper, Rain Rubber, for the slotted, two-piece windshields found on many of the automobiles of the time.
Well known for their vacuum-powered wiper systems, Trico was involved in a patent dispute with William M. Folberth who, with his brother Fred, invented a vacuum-powered wiper motor in 1919. The patent was granted in 1922, and Trico later purchased the Folberth company to settle the dispute.
As Trico Folberth Ltd, in 1928 Trico opened a UK plant on the Great West Road in Brentford, Middlesex, that was situated on the so-called Golden Mile. The site closed in the late 1990s and the company relocated its UK operations to Pontypool, South Wales.
Vacuum wiper motors produced by Trico carry an earliest patent number that dates back to 1928.
Trico also produced an air-pressure powered system for heavy-duty trucks and large military vehicles, as well as marine applications such as Chris-Craft and others where diesel engines were used. The air-pressure system uses a Trico-Folberth wiper motor that has patent dates cast into it that go as far back as 1922. Later versions of these motors carry patent numbers that show an earliest patent date of around 1936.
Trico moved their head office from Buffalo to Rochester Hills in 1998.
In 2002, Trico closed its “Plant #1” in Buffalo, New York. This ended a nearly 20 year process of shifting its production to Mexico. The building is currently being redeveloped as part of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Today Trico Products is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of windshield wiping systems, windshield wiper blades and refills, with wiper plants on five continents.
Link to the National Register Nomination text – http://www.oprhp.state.ny.us/hpimaging/hp_view.asp?GroupView=2153
Link to the National Register Nomination photos – http://www.oprhp.state.ny.us/hpimaging/hp_view.asp?GroupView=2152
Link to ‘Buffalo, Architecture & History – Trico Plant #1