Air conditioners are possibly one of the most fascinating inventions of the human race. Many of us may think that we all have Willis Carrier to thank for this technology – but there’s actually more to its history and evolution than meets the eye.
1) So, who really started it all?
While the air conditioner that we know today was invented in 1902 by none other than Willis Carrier, evidence on the existence of a related technology can be traced back to as early as the Ancient Roman civilization, during the time of Emperor Nero.
2) Who came up with “summer blockbuster” anyway?
Summer blockbusters were what they called films that appeared in movie houses during summer. In 1917 began major advancements in AC technology, and among those that we have to thank for this are the movie theaters that used air conditioners to attract customers on hot summer days. During this period, advertisements were even printed in fonts with dripping icicles, and because air conditioners were not common in homes then, the feature basically pulled patrons into the theaters.
3) What caused the delay in the development of the technology?
Do you ever wonder why advances for the air conditioner technology surfaced no sooner than the latter years of 19th century? Well, as a matter of fact, as early as 1851, a patent was already filed for an ice-machine, which would have played an integral role in the development of the technology.
Unfortunately, during the period, companies involved in the transportation of lake ice from arctic regions did everything in their power to squash the invention’s popularity – probably fearing that the latter would steal their market.
Afterwards, other cooling machines were also developed, such as that in St. Louis in 1891 where a beer hall and restaurant was chilled by refrigeration and transformed into an “Ice Palace”.
4) Who were the first to have ACs in their homes?
In 1892, an unnamed California millionaire had a six-foot-by-nine-foot machinery installed in his home to try and mechanically cool a single room. The machine was concealed behind a false wall and reached up to the roof.
However, it was Charles “Spend-a-Million” Gates who owned the very first fully air-conditioned residence in 1931. Sadly for him, he died in a hunting trip before his Minneapolis house was finished, and he never got to experience living in a fully air-conditioned home.
5) What or who was the first ventilator?
Believe it or not, the very first “ventilator” was a human being. In 1736, the English House of Commons had a 7-food hand cranked “blowing wheel”, which was operated by man called the Ventilator.
6) Who enjoyed the first ventilators?
In 1899, Cornell had installed one of the earliest successful ventilation systems. However, this development was not for the enjoyment of students or the faculty – it was installed in the dissecting rooms for cadavers.
In fact, the invention of the modern AC was not aimed for human comfort either. Willis Carrier, who was an engineer at New York, invented the air conditioner and designed to control humidity in the printing plant where he worked in order to keep the paper and ink in good condition.
7) Who would spend $30,000 on an air conditioning system?
Herbert Hoover was the very U.S. first president to enjoy an air-conditioned Oval Room. He had a $30,000 AC installed in the official office of the president of the United States of America only months after the Great Depression of 1929.
However, this was not the first attempt to improve the air condition and quality in the White House. During William H. Taft’s administration, an air-conditioning system, which involved electric fans and great bins of ice, was also installed. Unfortunately, it never worked.
8) Maybe a hanky was all he needed.
The then 25-year-old Willis Haviland Carrier, whose patent and ideas it were that led to the development of factory-scale coolers, was said to be extremely absorbed in working on his invention that he once went on a business trip bringing a large suitcase that had nothing inside but a handkerchief.
9) It hasn’t always been “air conditioning”
As the technology evolved, it also went through various name changes – ventilator, cooler, and so many others. The term “air conditioning”, however, was not coined until 1906, four years after the machine was invented. A textile manufacturer from North Carolina came up with the phrase as the technology increased the condition and quality of cloth produced in his plant.
10) How much did people value air conditioning then?
Back in the 1940s, having an in-window air conditioning unit installed cost homeowners $350. The U.S. dollar has increased by almost ten times its value since that period, so $350 would be equivalent to today’s $3,500. That meant that having that kind of luxury at home was very expensive.
11) AC on population boom and economic development
Back then, the most developed states were those situated within the colder regions of the United States. Through the invention of the air conditioning system, hotter states like Nevada, Texas and Florida got to turn things around, experiencing an increase in their populations and improvement in their economies.
12) The role of the modern AC in the field of medicine
The invention of the AC gave way to numerous advances in medical technology, which consequently led to longer life expectancy. It also aided in the reduction of the spread of diseases, which used to be quite common during the summer season, increasing employee productivity as the previously implemented summer breaks for workers were finally demolished.