When a bicyclist and a National Roadster collided on a Buffalo, New York, street late 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.
The company Oishei formed, the Tri-Continental Corporation (later shortened to Tri-Co), introduced the first windshield wiper, Rain Rubber, for the slotted, two-piece windscreens found on many of the popular automobiles of the time. Today, TRICO is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of windscreen wiper systems, wiper blades and refills, with plants on five continents.
In the years after the creation of the first windshield wiper, TRICO was involved in the development of 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. Vacuum wiper motors produced by Trico carry an earliest patent number that dates back to 1928.
In 1928, as Trico Folberth Ltd, 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.
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.
In 1998, TRICO then moved their head office from Buffalo to Rochester Hills.
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.
Timeline of company innovations:
1917: Rain Rubber. The first mass-produced, commercially available wiper blade.
1921: Automatic Vacuum Wiper motor.
1923: Crescent Cleaner.
1927: Visionall® Wiper System. Two-blade wiper system (a four blade system was also offered) where the blades wiped directly sideways.
1928: Sleet Wand. Early attempts to fight windshield icing included this use of a rock salt-type product encased in fabric and mounted on a wiper arm.
1928: “Five-Ply” Blades. Multi-edge blade that used as Original Equipment on nearly every motor vehicle manufactured.
1928: TRICO UK Established. TRICO’s UK manufacturing plant in Brentford, England, opens.
1929: Dual Wipers. This innovation marked the period when wiper blades began working in unison to improve visibility.
1936: Windshield Washer Systems. TRICO’s “Two Little Squirts” pioneered the use of windshield washer fluid to keep windshields clean.
1953: “Arctic” Winter Blade. The precursor to today’s premium winter blade, it was encased in a flexible ice-repellent hood that de-iced itself as the blade wiped.
1954: Four-Bar Blades. Early heavy-duty wiper blades.
1956: Panoramic Rainbow or “P-R” Blades. The first windshield wiper blades to have an arc. A pair of spring-tensioned levers pre-flexed the blades to maintain constant pressure on the windshield. It was TRICO's most popular blade up to and through the late 1960s.
1957: TRICO Australia. TRICO opens an Australian manufacturing plant.
1959: Vacuum Rear Windshield Systems.
1971: Wet Wiper Arm.
1979: Tubular Blades. Used for the first time by Original Equipment manufacturers (introduced to the Aftermarket in 1984).
1980: Plastic-Framed Blade.
1981: Electric Rear Wiper System.
1993: Series 2000 Blades. TRICO’s latest aerodynamic Original Equipment wiper blade.
1995: TRICO Exact Fit® Blade. First replacement wiper blade to install in seconds, as the blade is pre-assembled to fit the vehicle directly.
1996: Global Technology Center Established. This 81,000-square-foot facility is the only one in the Detroit area dedicated solely to windshield wiper technology.
1998: Global 1 Blade. The next generation of Original Equipment blades.
2000: TRICO Teflon® Blade. Exclusive wiping edge with Teflon® surface protector.
2002: Beam Blade. Extremely low profile, bracket less blade consisting only of a metal tension strip, rubber element and connector.
2005: TRICO China Established. TRICO manufacturing plant in Suzhou, China, opens.
2006: Direct Drive Motor. Brushless wiper motor that drives windshield wiper arms and blades without the use of linkages.
2007: TRICO NeoForm® Blade. Aerodynamic beam blades that fits the vast majority of vehicles on the road including those with specialty wiper arms.
2009: TRICO Flex® Blade. Universal beam blades with easy connection technology. 2010: Teflon® SHIELD Blade. Hybrid dual-shieldTM technology with exclusive wiping edge with Teflon® surface protector.
2011: TRICO Force® Blade. Premium beam blade technology with advanced aerodynamics. 2012: TRICO Ice® Blade. Extreme winter weather blade.