Very little is known of Florence Parpart, other than census records and United States Government patent applications. Born in the Hoboken, New Jersey, Parpart was listed as a housewife in the United States Census for the majority of her life. As is the case with many early female inventors, local sources paint an entirely different picture.
Although the first street sweeper patent was awarded to Eureka Frazer Brown in 1879, Parpart improved the street sweeper and its manufacturing process for widespread use. Parpart spent the majority of her life in New York City and Philadelphia, and both cities needed additional street sweepers to keep residential and commercial areas clean. Parpart won her patent in 1900.
Martha Rayne, a female author, wrote in 1893, “A Hoboken lady, after having her dress splattered with mud by a clumsy street sweeping machine, invented a new street sweeping machine.” Although her name is not mentioned or known by Rayne, many historians believe she was referring to the innovative Parpart. By 1902, Parpart had contracts with cities as far away as San Francisco to manufacture and deploy her street sweeper design.
In 1914, Parpart won a second patent for the modern refrigerator, rendering the icebox obsolete for those with access to electricity. Many believe that Parpart’s then fiancée was highly skilled in electrical circuitry and assisted in the design of the first prototype. Already an experienced entrepreneur, Parpart was highly successful in marketing and selling her refrigerators. She attended multiple trade shows, developed her own advertising campaigns and managed the production operations, alongside her husband, of additional refrigerators. Parpart was a true female entrepreneur and gifted inventor.(1)