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Imagine life before air conditioning. People were hot and were always looking for ways to keep cool and escape from the high temperatures that soared into the 80’s and 90’s in the Spring and Summer months. People using handheld paper fans, homes designed specifically to catch natural breezes with doors and windows wide open for cross ventilation. Escaping the heat of the afternoon one would take a nap, go for a swim and kids would run under the yard sprinklers. Air conditioning changed daily life in the United States, and worldwide and it certainly changed the way people enjoyed the heat of the hot summer sun.

Icy Cool Contraptions

Before electricity, air conditioning was enormously complex. The U.S. Navy may have invented the first air conditioner in the world. The machine was invented to ease the suffering of President James Garfield, who had been shot. The cold air machine, invented in 1881, was a large and complicated affair that used ice to keep air cool. Caretakers used half a million pounds of ice in just two months to keep the machine stocked. The machine looked something like John Gorrie’s ice machine, invented in 1851.

Fanning Off

After the use of electricity spread in the early 1900s, oscillating fans quickly proliferated. They were the air conditioning of choice in 1904, when the first mechanical oscillating fans hit the market. The motor used to power these fans would stay relatively unchanged until the 1930s.