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Can you imagine living in the Colorado River Valley during the months of summer without air conditioning? Can you imagine operating a grocery store or office in Bullhead City, Arizona with nothing more than a fan to circulate the hot air?

Because the professionals at AIRzona Comfort Solutions are just a phone call away, we are assured of having a cool oasis at the home and office during the months of summer. But a few short years ago this luxury was unimaginable.

The visionaries that transformed the world with air conditioning faced an array of challenges. One was technology. The other was public perception.

John Gorrie, a doctor living in Florida, received a patent for a machine that made ice in 1851. The discovery was accidental. He had been experimenting with the development of various devices that could alleviate the suffering of malaria patients with cooled air.

Using a burner, ammonia gas, and a labyrinth of tubing he devised a unit that pulled in air, compressed it and pushed it through pipes where the air cooled as it expanded. With the exception of a few local medical professionals, there was little interest in his “contraption.” This is rather surprising as as a byproduct his device produced ice.

As odd it may seem today while sitting in air conditioned comfort, attempts to alleviate summer suffering was generally viewed as an assault on creation. An article in The New York Globe noted that: “There is Dr. Gorrie, a crank, in Florida that thinks he can make ice by his machine as good as God Almighty.”

Public interest in cooling the summer air was piqued when doctors devised a system to cool the air in President James A. Garfield’s room. On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau had fired two shots into Garfield’s back. To alleviate his suffering naval engineers working with astronomer Simon Newcomb developed a device that lowered the room’s temperature from 95 to 75 degrees, and curbed the humidity. It also went through hundreds of pounds of ice an hour.

Still, even in the first decades of the 20th century attempts to beat the heat were suspect. In these years the U.S. Congress adamantly opposed attempts to cool the Capitol with “manufactured air.” There was serious concern that they would be viewed as weak and unable to endure the heat. An even graver concern was that constituents would view elected representatives as not being of the people.

By the late 1930s air conditioning had become an important marketing opportunity for theaters, hotels and other venues. But is was still a novelty.

At the 1939 New York World’s Fair promoted as the “World of Tomorrow” the Carrier Corporation pavilion had been built to give the appearance that it was a giant igloo. With “snow” encrusted walls and the “Northern Lights” glowing from its ceiling the pavilion was a popular attraction. Of course the popularity of the exhibit mirrored the climbing summer temperatures.

Times have changed. Challenges were met. And so we can enjoy the blazing summer temperatures of the Colorado River Valley in the air conditioned comfort of our home, our office, or favorite restaurant.

Written by Jim Hinckley and Jim Hinckley’s America


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