Scotland and Holland, the inventors of roller blinds
The first recorded mention of roller blinds was a patent filed in Scotland in the early 1700s, though in reality the product was a collaboration of not just one but two European countries. The fabric was a linen made in Holland that was originally used to make theatre curtains – Scottish inventor James Louis Robertson realised the properties that made the linen suitable for its original purpose would transfer ideally as a window covering. These early models, known as Scotch Holland roller blinds due to their origin, did not have a spring mechanism – the fabric sat in folds on the window sill and was pulled up to cover the window with a cord attached to a bar above it. This first roller blind had a wooden rod sewn into the bottom to help it hang straight, and the whole contraption was fixed to the window frame with brass fittings.
America advances the roller blind
A spring was not incorporated into the design of roller blinds until the following century and, like so many technological advances of those times, it was the Americans who came up with the idea. The Stewart Hartshorn Company had been making the cruder, spring-less models for many years when the son of the company’s founder, also called Stewart, introduced the ratchet and gravity pawl into the design. This was the first example of a roller blind as we would recognise it today. The company marketed their ‘spring roller window shades’, as they called them then, from their New York factory with a choice of three different colours, the patent for the design being lodged in 1864. After some initial scepticism about the spring-loaded mechanism – it was one of their first applications in a domestic device, and was treated with a degree of fear by many – the design gained popularity across the United States.