5 Amazing Facts From the History of Staying Cool


Air conditioning is such an integral part of modern life, especially here in Northern Georgia, that we rarely think much about it. But history reveals that humanity’s attempts to stay cool weren’t always as effortless as turning down the thermostat.

Author Salvatore Basile has captured the history of the long, and generally unsuccessful, battle against the heat in his new book, Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything. Here are five fascinating air conditioning facts from his book that you probably didn’t know:

  1. We owe summer blockbusters to air conditioning.  Theaters were some of the earliest adopters of modern air conditioning, which was developed by Willis Carrier in 1906. As early as 1917, movie theaters boasted themselves as a place to cool off from the summer heat that plagued homes and businesses.  Theaters’ advertisements featured letters that dripped with icicles, surely tantalizing to those suffering from the outdoor heat.

  2. Homes in the US didn’t really begin to incorporate air conditioning until after World War II. Before that, price was a big issue. In the 1940’s, an in-window air-conditioning unit cost about $350, which when adjusted for inflation, would cost about $3,500 by today’s standards.

  3. Charles Gates, an heir to barbed-wire fortune, built the first fully air-conditioned home in America in 1913. Gates unfortunately died before he was able to enjoy his expansive and luxurious mansion, which was demolished just twenty years after it was built.

  4. By 1930, the White House was officially air conditioned—at a luxurious price tag of $30,000. Herbert Hoover had the costly system installed right after the stock market crash of 1929.  Yikes!

  5. Until Willis Carrier invented air conditioning, people had tried for centuries to find ways to stay cool. A Roman Emperor supposedly kept a pile of snow in his garden during the summer to help him cool off. A Chinese engineer developed a manual rotary fan as early as the second century. Even the great Leonardo DaVinci was commissioned to try his hand at creating a cooling machine for the bedchamber of Duchess Beatrice d’Este.  Needless to say, most of these contraptions and coping mechanisms were inefficient and not adaptable for the general public! Read more about ways people stayed cool before AC.

Basile notes that not only did humanity have a hard time figuring out how to cool off buildings, but they also didn’t always dress well for the weather.  In the 1860’s, for example, women still wore up to 12 petticoats even if it was sweltering outside. And if you had a case of heat stroke while wearing all that stuffy clothing, your treatment might have involved leeches, a turpentine enema, or even an injection of brandy!

We undoubtedly have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to the game-changing invention of air conditioning.  Not only are today’s air conditioners reliable, they’re also much more efficient than the air conditioners of yesterday. In fact, today’s air conditioners are up to 50% more efficient than ones manufactured in the 1970’s!

At metro-Atlanta’s Gagne A/C, we’re here to help you navigate the modern world of air conditioning technology, from expert repairs and service to helping you choose your next central air system. Contact our professional technicians today if we can help you with sales, service, or repairs.