George Washington, HVAC Specialist?

America’s Founding Fathers Were Also The Nation’s First Official Climate Observers.

HVAC, air conditioning

Whether you’re walking in a parade, going to a family barbecue or just chilling indoors today and relaxing, we here at Air-Tro hope you’re enjoying this special day. In honor of this momentous occasion in our nation’s history, we want to tip our hats to the country’s first meteorologists, our founding fathers.

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was an avid weather observer? He even packed a thermometer for his famous trip to Philadelphia to draft the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, he was able to document four separate weather observations the day it was signed. At his home in Monticello, which was built to maximize indoor air ventilation to combat the steamy Virginia summers, he carefully recorded his climate observations. Ultimately he published his findings in his book Notes on the State of Virginia, and in a famous paean to his state, written in 1791:

“On the whole I find nothing any where else in point of climate which Virginia need envy to any part of the world. Here they are locked up in ice and snow for six months. Spring and autumn, which make a paradise of our country, are rigorous winter with them, and a Tropical summer breaks on them all at once. When we consider how much climate contributes to the happiness of our condition, by the fine sensations it excites, and the productions it is the parent of, we have reason to value highly the accident of birth in such an one as that of Virginia.”

In contrast to Jefferson, George Washington did not see himself as a scientist, nor was he interested in a larger agenda for collection of climate data. However, he was a farmer, and as such, possessed a beloved weather vane, made for him in the summer of 1787 by one John Rakestraw. In the shape of a dove to signify peace, it carries an olive branch in its bill as it resides to this day in Mt. Vernon’s cupola.

Washington also made many temperature readings from inside his home, making him in our eyes the first true HVAC consultant. On December 7, 1785, he wrote: “Thermometer at 52 in the Morning & 59 at Noon, but removing it afterwards out of the room where the fire was, into the East Entry leading in to my Study, this circumstance with the encrease of the cold fell the Mercury to 42.” 

While Mount Vernon or Monticello may not have had air conditioning or central heat, nevertheless Washington, Jefferson and their colleagues demonstrated significant interest in weather patterns, data collection and variations in outdoor and indoor temperature. No doubt they would have been tickled by the idea of a “smart thermostat” or today’s modern solar HVAC technology. Of course, these discoveries pale in the face of their biggest contribution to humanity: the creation of a lasting political document that has seen us through more than 200 years of peacetime and war with its enduring message that all men are created equal.

Happy Fourth of July to you and yours. Let Freedom Ring!

Does your home or office feel like it’s summer of 1776 all over again? Get the HVAC specialists you can count on. Call Air-Tro at (626)357-3535 today.