You Wouldn’t Think Air Conditioning Could Be Controversial, But at the Beginning, It Was
In today’s dog days of early fall, it’s hard to imagine living in the San Gabriel Valley without air conditioning. And yet, up until about a hundred years ago, people did exactly that here and everywhere else in the United States.
Still, that didn’t stop creative thinkers, inventors, and ultimately the smart folks at the Carrier Company from attempting to make a machine to cool people quickly and easily, in their homes and as they shopped.
Nevertheless, their attempts were often met with derision.
For example, in 1840s Apalachicola, Florida, Dr. John Gorrie recognized his patients, suffering from the elevated temperatures and severe discomfort of summertime yellow fever epidemics, could benefit from a cool, comfortable infirmary. He ultimately developed a refrigeration machine that provided both ice and cold air, and applied for a patent.
Rather than being declared a warm weather hero, however, he was excoriated in the press for the first public demonstration of his invention. According to Tom Schachtman in his book, Absolute Zero and the Conquest for Cold, one of the New York newspapers described Gorrie as “a crank down in Apalachicola that thinks he can make ice by his machine as good as God Almighty. “
So much for that. After the death of his primary investor, Gorrie’s machine was officially defunct.
The World Meets HVAC in 1922
Because air conditioning was too expensive for realistic installation in most homes, William Haviland Carrier decided to expose people to this new technology instead by installing his new device in movie theaters around the country. People loved it. In fact, according to the Heritage Group, a conclave devoted to the history of engineering services, one Houston movie theater owner named Will Horwitz described air conditioning systems as nothing short of a revolution for the movie theater industry. “Each patron exclaims with delight when he gets inside the doorway,” Horwitz wrote to Carrier.
Another reporter from the New York Times described their first experience with air conditioning this way: “When we entered … the other afternoon, we noticed, as we did at other theaters, the change in temperature, which was an actual relief. It was so comfortable that one dreaded going on into the hot sun.”
Not Everyone Likes Air Conditioning
Naturally, there were some who didn’t enjoy the emphasis on cooler indoor comfort introduced by this new technology. As Marsha Ackermann describes in her book about HVAC, Cool Comfort: America’s Romance with Air Conditioning, one U.S. Senator from Mississippi went so far as to register an official complaint, declaring,” the atmosphere is too cool in this room. On yesterday it was 75 by thermometer … and 91 degrees on the outside. Fifteen or twenty degrees difference is too much … This is regular Republican atmosphere, and it is enough to kill anybody if it continues.”
Today, air conditioning is seen as a “must have” by most Southern California residents, even those who might have forgone this technology in past decades. With regular heat waves becoming standard for the San Gabriel Valley, a great HVAC system is an essential part of any comfortable home. Call Air-Tro today to make sure you have the most cost effective and energy saving system possible for your home.
Who doesn’t want to be cool? Get in touch with Air-Tro today to schedule your appointment with an HVAC specialist. We’ve been keeping California comfortable since 1969. (626) 357-3535.