When I was a lad, it was not uncommon to walk to school on top of the snow banks, piled high enough so you were level with the tips of telephone poles.
People complained about the amount of snow, how dirty it got, and how messy it was when it melted. But just imagine how difficult it would be to get around if it hadn't been plowed, if all that snow had simply been left where it fell.
According to Wikipedia, snow plows were originally made of wood, wedge shaped, and drawn by a team of horses. The first patents for snow plows were issued in the 1840s, but it was several years before these designs were used on a large scale.
The first plow of this type was believed to have been used in Milwaukee in 1862. Before long similar devices were employed in many Northeastern cities, and giant plows were soon fitted to the fronts of steam trains to enable them to travel through the heaviest snow drifts.
With the rise of the motor car and the need for better roads, it became necessary to find more efficient ways to manage snow removal. The horses were gone, the streets were busier, and cities needed to ensure that customers could get to the shops. No matter how industrialized the world had become, the next snow storm could still bring things to a standstill.
And that's exactly what happened. The blizzard of 1888 brought up to four feet of snow to cities in the Northeast. Schools, offices and railroads were closed, including New York's elevated railway. A passenger train bound for New York was stranded for two days in 20-foot drifts. And more than 400 people died as a direct result of the storm.
Events like this forced cities and inventors to try and find solutions to the problem of snow removal. Motorized dump trucks with plows attached were in use by 1913. The Barber-Green snowloader was employed in Chicago in 1920, basically the equivalent of a modern (but much larger) snow blower. Snowloaders were subsequently purchased by other cities as the battle to clear snow from roads and burgeoning airstrips continued.
Patents were issued in the US for improvements to existing snow plows as early as 1920. The Norwegian brothers Hans and Even Overaasen designed a snow plow for the front of automobiles in 1923, which led to the formation of their company Overaasen Snow Removal Systems.
At the same time, Carl Frink, an American from Clayton, New York, came up with a similar design for car-mounted snow plows. Frink Snow plows, now Frink-America, was believed to have been founded sometime around 1920.
On the face of it, a snow plow might not seem to be one of the most exciting inventions. It's interesting to note that other inventions in the early 1920s included television, the polygraph, aerosol spray, the electric dry shaver, and sliced bread.
Anyone living in a region where winter brings snow on a regular basis will tell you the same thing: snow plows are worth their weight in gold. They might block up your driveway in their attempts to keep the roads free of snow, but the extra shoveling is a small price to pay. Without clear roads it's impossible for modern society to get around, to buy food and drink, to visit relatives, and so on.
So whether you think the snow plow is exciting or not, it deserves to be considered as one of the best things since before sliced bread.