Gladstone Adams

Gladstone Adams

Gladstone Adams (1880 - 1966) was a successful professional photographer and inventor.

Adams, was born on 16th May 1880 at 4 St Ann's Row, Ouseburn, Newcastle. Gladstone was the son of John Adams, metal merchant, and his wife, Agnes and was educated at Rutherford College, Newcastle.

After setting up in business in Whitley Bay, in 1904, he became a photographic officer in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War, and it was he who found the body of the German air ace, Baron Von Richthofen, the 'Red Baron', and helped to arrange the funeral.

He returned to civilian life as a commercial photographer. Local shipyards, industries and the public continued to demand his services and he was appointed the first official photographer to Newcastle United Football Club.

Adams captured some enduring Tyneside images of that period and in 1907 he was invited to record the departure of RMS Mauretania from the Tyne on her maiden voyage. One of his Mauretania images was acclaimed in a leading photography magazine of the day as a future Old Master.

In April 1908 he set off to London in a 1904 Darracq to photograph Newcastle United in the FA Cup final.

Adams' drive was news in itself and the Darracq was displayed in an Oxford Street shop window for some time.

Sadly, Newcastle lost 3-1 against Wolves and to add insult to injury, as Adams was driving home, it started to snow. It was after stopping a number of times that Gladstone had his "eureka" moment and realised what a good idea it would be to have a device which would wipe the windscreen clean as you drove along! 

The original prototype looks a little primitive but is still recognisable with wood, string and a piece of rubber making up the the basics. It's still on display at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. 

In April 1911, a patent for the windscreen wipers was granted to Gladstone Adams of Whitley Bay. Although he patented the idea, his version was never actually manufactured, and in the history books it's an American who is credited with the invention.

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.

There is a plaque dedicated to Adams on the former Mission House at City Road at Ouseburn in Newcastle.

Gladstone Adams was a pioneer, adventurer, a man of many passions. It’s a shame his name - unlike his famous invention - isn't better known.