Air conditioning is an essential to quality of life in the hot months of summer. Most people born in the 1980s and 1990s onward cannot imagine a time when everything was not air conditioned. Today we expect cars and buildings and even subway trains to come with air conditioning systems. However, this is a fairly recent requirement.
As recently as the 1970s most cars did not automatically come with air conditioning and the feature was consider a luxury that cost additional money to be added. New York trains were not air conditioned in the 1950s into the 1960s and people could suffer heat stroke or pass out whilst traveling in them. Most notably, the vast majority of homes were not air conditioned until the 1960s—or even 1970s—so when the weather got hot the beaches got crowded. This was especially true for places like Coney Island, a Brooklyn beach which was frequented by city dwellers; many of whom lived in apartment buildings that lacked central air conditioning.
Despite the absolute necessity of air conditioning for summer comfort (even quality of life) and its now-ever-present existence in mostly all places, few people know much about the history of air conditioning. Thus, below are a few facts about this very cool invention:
• Although air conditioning is regarded as very modern practice, there were some basic air conditioning systems in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. Most of these systems involved hanging reeds in windows and moistening them with water or circling water from aqueducts through certain houses or buildings.
• Modern day air conditioning systems got their start in the 1800s due to advances in chemistry. However, the first large scale air conditioning system was not invented and used until 1902.
• The first modern-day air conditioning system was invented by an American inventor named Willis Carrier. Although his first system was used in 1902, air conditioning did not become available to private institutions and homes until the 1920s. Even then, only the super-rich could afford them.
• Most middle class and lower class homes did not get air conditioning systems until the 1960s!
• When air conditioning became available it made living in hotter climates more manageable. Hence, many states in the “Sun Belt” (like Florida) gained more residents after air conditioning became commonplace.