Gladstone Adams


Captain Gladstone Adams (16 May 1880 – 26 July 1966) was a professional photographer and chairman of Whitley Bay Urban District Council, and is one of several people claimed to have invented the windscreen wiper (known in the United States as the windshield wiper).

Early life and careerEdit

He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne[1] and attended Gosforth Academy. Adams served an apprenticeship in Tynemouth with photographer William Auty. He opened his own studio in 1904.[2]

Windscreen wiperEdit

In April 1908, Adams drove to Crystal Palace Park in a 1904 Darracq-Charron motorcar to see Newcastle United play against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup final. It was such a novelty to see a car in those days that it was put into a car showroom window while he was there, because so many people wanted to see it. On the way back from the cup final, snow kept getting on the windscreen and Gladstone had to keep getting out of the car to clear it. This experience led to his invention of a windscreen wiper. In April 1911, Gladstone patented his design for a windscreen wiper with Sloan & Lloyd Barnes, patent agents of Liverpool. Gladstone's version of the windscreen wiper was never manufactured, however. His original prototype can be seen in Newcastle's Discovery Museum.[3]

Military careerEdit

In World War I, Adams served in the Royal Flying Corps, the forerunner of the RAF, as a photograph reconnaissance officer. One of his duties was to prove the death and then arrange the burial of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the 'Red Baron', after he had been shot down and killed.[4] When World War II broke out, Adams was sixty years of age, too old for active service. However, he joined the Whitley Bay Air Training Corps, and a trophy given by him to the cadets is still awarded each year and bears his name, the Gladstone Adams Cup.

Photography businessEdit

Gladstone was a professional photographer and he owned two studios, one in Barras Bridge in Newcastle and the other at 18 Station Road, Whitley Bay, which is still standing and is now a visualisation studio called PB Imaging.[5] He was the first official photographer of Newcastle United.[6] As well as running a business, Adams was also a local Councillor, becoming Chairman of Whitley Bay Urban District Council. One of his official duties at that time was to attend the Duke of Northumberland's wedding in St. Margaret's, Westminster.

Other inventionsEdit

Gladstone and his brother, the MP David Adams, also invented the sliding rowing seat[citation needed] and the trafficator,[citation needed] the forerunner of the indicator.


  1. ^ "Gladstone Adams black plaque".
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Inside Out – North East – Windscreen Wipers". BBC. 11 April 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  4. ^ Heritage Snippets: important bitesize bits of Newcastle's heritage Archived 20 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "PB Imaging moves to former studio of legendary photographer".
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 August 2021. Retrieved 7 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit

  • Newcastle Government Bio
  • British Library Bio