Throughout the course of history changes have come about slowly. But there are exceptions. There are periods where the transition was dramtic and fast, and most every aspect of life was forever altered. Examples would be the period between 1490 to 1525, 1700 and 1776, and 1914 to 1919.
But few periods in history witnessed a more dramatic transition than the period between 1939 and 1945, and the immediate post WWII decade. The air conditioning industry was just one expample.
In 1944, as it became evident that the war would be winding down soon, the revolutionary GI Bill was introduced. It was a means to avoid the historical post war issues of returning vets trying to find work. The bill provided veterans and qualifying family members money for school or training.
Radio repair was a popular career choice for veterans in the 1940s. Others chose college. But by 1950, when some air conditioning companies began establishing vocational classes, the number of applying veterans became a tsunami.
In 1951, a mere fifty years after Willis Carrier introduced an invention that moved people indoors during the months of summer, air conditioning became a billion-dollar industry. Even though competition increased exponentially, Carrier’s company remained an industry leader, and experienced its first year with revenue exceeding $100 million.
Air conditioning was the future made manifest. And companies that wanted to present themselves as relevant embraced the technology as never before. Air conditioning contractors pushed technological advancement with each major project.
In 1952, at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Carrier created a custom air conditioning system. It was just in time for the Republican and Democratic conventions, and American politics were forever changed. The multi million dollar air conditioning system for the historic Lever Brothers Company on Park Avenue in New York City was deemed a technological masterpiece.
One year later it was eclipsed by the air conditioning project for the Gateway Center in the Golden Triangle, Pittsburgh’s modern post war business center. When completed the custom system kept sweltering summer temperatures at bay on the sixty eight floors of the three building complex.
The next milestone came in 1958. The twelve story Fidelity Building became the first fully air conditioned office building in the city of Los Angeles. Shortly afterwards Carrier developed a system for the Lincoln Center in New York City. Indicative of how air conditioning was transforming society, with completion of that system the traditional performing arts season was abandoned, and it was extended to fifty two weeks per year.
With the establishment of international divisions Carrier remained an industry leader. In 1951 the company built a system to cool the five buildings in the Toyo Carrier Engineering Company companies in Japan. The following year they built a larger system for a textile plant. A cooling system developed for the Laboratori Palma in Rome allowed for the company to dramatically increase production of penicillin. The company then devised the air conditioning system for the Norwegian Parliament Building in Oslo. They also built the first fully air-conditioned textile mill in the Phillipines.
But the biggest challenges came with projects in the Middle East. They built systems for the Conference Palace at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. And in the process developed systems designed specifcally for use in the extreme heat of the desert. That worked well in the late 1950s as suburbia began spreading in American southwest cities. And it made possible unprecedented growth in new communities such as Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and set the stage for the modern miracle of Dubai.
AIRzona Heating & Cooling in Bullhead City has built on this legacy. Ii the Colorado River Valley they are the leaders in air conditioning system installation, maintenance and repair.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America