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There are so many amazingly clever inventions around us that we often fail to appreciate, or even notice them. Especially if it’s something basic and workmanlike.

The Phillips screw is one of those inventions.

Three cheers to the Phillips screw – simple, elegant, effective.
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Patented by Henry F. Phillips on this day in 1936, the Phillips screw and screwdriver had a fundamental impact on the manufacturing and production industries. The Phillips screw facilitated greater automation in production lines that use powered screwdrivers, through the introduction of a clever tapered crosshead screw design that ensures the screwdriver centres itself in the screw head.

Based on his screw and screwdriver patents, Phillips founded the Phillips Screw Company, and after some initial rejections, managed to persuade the American Screw Company to invest half a million dollars in the manufacture of the screws.

The first major application of the Phillips screw was in the manufacture of the 1936 Cadillac, and within 4 years most manufacturers had switched to the new screws. Worldwide, the Phillips screw and screwdriver quickly became the most popular design – a position that it still occupies to this day, despite numerous attempts at an improved design.

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