The Philips Screwdriver, a Short History


When you look at the various achievements and discoveries that mankind has made over the centuries, it’s fair to say that many of them truly are incredible. Whether big or small, the various innovations and discoveries the great minds of the world have championed all have one core purpose: to make life easier. One such innovation is the humble Philips screwdriver, not something you’ve probably even stopped to think about! It’s hard to really comprehend how valuable the screw driver has been in the field of construction for the past 500 years. The earliest recorded use of the screwdriver was during the middle ages, and from then until now, we have an awful lot to thank it for.

Whenever we talk about the Phillips screwdriver, nine times out of ten we automatically assume that the creator must have been named Phillips, and this is quite correct. Henry F. Phillips, is by no means a household name, but most people on the planet regularly use inventions that bear his name. Phillips rather than invesnting the design of the Philips screw, actually bought the screw design from John P. Thompson in 1935. Thompson sold the design since he was not able to get much success from it, but this was were Phillips’ strength lay. After buying the design, Henry immediately founded a screw company, which he named after himself, and during this time he also began patenting the new and improved design of the self-centering screw. Sure enough this proved to be a very smart move since it vast improvement on the traditional flat head screw design, and was quickly adopted by many industries.

The screw quickly became a standardized component in many industrial and manufacturing operations. General motors were one of the firms to use the Philips screw and screwdriver on its Cadillac assembly lines, taking full advantage of the self centering nature of the design.

The sad part about the story is that Henry F. Phillips did live to see his creation reach its full potential. Forced to retire in 1945 due to health issues, Philips sadly died just ten years later. Yet, the design of the four-edged screwdriver continued to thrive, as indeed it continues to do so today. Countless products  today owe much to the humble Philips screwdriver and screw combination.

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