Air conditioning 110 years ago
Although various forms of air conditioning date back to the late 1800s, history credits today’s air conditioning to Willis Carrier, who developed the luxury in 1902, and the Carrier Company is celebrating 110 years of air conditioning this month.
Air conditioning has developed in Orange County from a luxury to a necessity. When it’s summer in Southeast Texas, people sitting on a covered back porch listening to the sounds of mosquitoes buzzing their way through the stultifying air and almost able to chew the humidity are doing just what their ancestors did a couple of generations ago. In order to get relief from the omnipresent, cloying heat, they sweat.
If they are lucky, there are plantings of shade trees to lower the temperatures a few degrees around the house.
When the heat becomes intolerable and when person can’t stand it, they can walk back into the house to the luxurious, electronic comfort of air conditioning.
Nearly 3,000 years ago, the Greek poet, Hesirad, wrote “when it gets too hot, people should sit in the shade and drink.”
But, the heat was still a huge problem sapping strength, producing lethargy and causing heatstroke.
Al Madhi of Baghdad, in ancient times had lines of slaves going back and forth to the mountains bringing chunks and slabs of ice to pack between the double walls to cool palaces and the houses of the wealthy. Only the richest people could afford the rapidly melting treasure which brought a little relief from the sun’s heat.
Leonardo Da Vinci invented a foot-powered fan which blew over containers of ice to cool the bedroom of a duchess in Milan.
The wealthy went to the sea to plunge into the cold, soothing water or traveled to colder climates until the weather became bearable. The poor used thatched roofs to keep the air circulating in their houses.
People regardless of their station, status or origin have always looked for comfort and a better way to beat the hot or cold.
In the mid 1700s, European inventors began experimenting with cooling systems.
In the United States in 1833, John Gorrie, a doctor of medicine, invented a form of mechanical refrigeration. He patented the device in 1844. It was used in 1851 for cooling hospitals. However, the device was only useful for small rooms.
In 1906, Stuart W. Cramer, of Charlotte, North Carolina, used the term air conditioning for the first time in a patent. But, Carrier is still referred as the “father of air conditioning.”
Carrier’s patent was for the “apparatus for treating air” and was granted in 1906 although he is credited with actually inventing the device in 1902.
Carrier’s air conditioning patent would be the first of many to bear his name.
In 1911, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad sent out the first trains which included air conditioning. By 1931, Packard Motors included air conditioning for their vehicles.
Greyhound Company got on track in 1940 and boasts the first air-conditioned bus.
Today in most houses and in hot, humid climates air conditioning is standard.