...NEWCASTLE UNITED’S OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER INVENTED THE CAR WINDSCREEN WIPER AND ORGANISED THE FUNERAL OF THE ‘RED BARON’.
Gladstone Adams was born on the 16th May, 1880 in a terraced house on St Ann’s Row in Ouseburn, Newcastle Upon Tyne. The life that Adams would go on to lead might, if one was so inclined, make for an appraisal of the accomplishments of one’s own life. Such was the variety of industry and achievement of Gladstone Adams that any comparison would inevitably fall in favor of his life over one’s own. Consequently, this short blog post is written to highlight, rather than explore, a couple of interesting vignettes in the life of Newcastle’s Gladstone Adams.
Photograph taken by Gladstone Adams in his capacity as Newcastle United's official photographer
After an apprenticeship with professional photographer William Auty, Adams decided to open his own studio in Whitley Bay in 1904. He began to document local life with his camera - from the launch of RMS Mauretania into the River Tyne in 1907, to the lives of everyday Geordies. His talents led to him being appointed the official photographer of Newcastle United Football Club. In 1908 Adams drove down to London in his 1904 Darracq to cover Newcastle United’s FA Cup final against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Crystal Palace Park. Newcastle lost 3-1 that day and a dejected Gladstone Adams had to drive back home in his open-top Darracq car. To make matters more miserable, it began to snow. After several stops and attempts to clean his windscreen, he hit upon an idea: a contraption that would wipe the windscreen while driving. Thus, upon his return to Newcastle (albeit three years later) Adams filed a patent that detailed, what is recognisable as, a windscreen wiper. Unfortunately for Gladstone Adams, his version of the wiper was never manufactured - that distinction went to American inventor Mary Anderson. Nonetheless, the original prototype for his wiper is on display in Newcastle’s Discovery Museum.
The prototype of Adam's windscreen wiper being held by John Clayson of the Discovery Museum in Newcastle Upon Tyne
When the First World War erupted in Europe, Adams became a reconnaissance photographer for the Royal Flying Corps. On the 21st April, 1918 the 25 year old Manfred von Richthofen - the Red Baron - was shot down over Morlancourt Ridge near the Somme. One of the first on the scene was Gladstone Adams. Once identified as Richthofen, Adams was asked to photograph the body in order that these photographs be used as propaganda across Germany; the death of Germany’s greatest soldier would, it was hoped, shatter morale. Despite this, the Australian Imperial Force - from which the bullet that killed the Red Baron appeared to have been fired - gave the felled flying ace a celebrated funeral. Gladstone Adams helped to organise this funeral and can clearly be seen directing the pall bearers in footage from the time.
The destroyed plane of Manfred von Richthofen - the Red Baron
The body of the Red Baron was photographed by Gladstone Adams
Although there is little written about Gladstone Adams, his life was rich and full of incredible achievements - only three of which are briefly touched upon here. Perhaps, as a Geordie of historical importance, it might be time to devote some greater energies in the direction of this man.
Dr. Elliott L. Watson