Life Before Air Conditioning

For those of us blessed with air conditioning, life without it can be pretty hard to imagine. Even that quick walk from the comfortable coolness of our car, across the sweltering asphalt to the sweet relief of a store’s AC can leave you wondering, how did people survive without air conditioning? Prior to its invention in 1902 people did manage to survive summers even in the hottest of cities. Here’s how they managed the heat.

As odd as it may sound, the invention of the air conditioner radically changed the way we built buildings. Prior to AC structures were built with much higher ceilings, allowing the heat to rise. You’ll still notice this in older buildings, especially in the south. Long covered porches and shade trees planted on west and east sides of the house were more often utilized for additional shade as well. Architects also planned according to air flow, making sure there was plenty of cross ventilation by placing windows opposite each other in a room.

A porch may seem like a quaint if not a bit vestigial architectural feature, however in the past they were actually incredibly important. Not only did they shade the home but inhabitants would spend hours relaxing on their porches. They were both protected from the sun while able to catch some fresh air and a breeze. Some porches were even screened in so people could actually sleep outside without being bothered by bugs.

People found many other creative ways to beat the heat without AC. It was once common practice to nap during the hottest hours of the day, getting some rest in and continuing their day later into the evening. Even though the AC was invented in 1902, it was much too inexpensive for most people. The one place in town that could be counted on for air conditioning was the movie theater. During the heat of summer people would flock to the movies to escape into the cool air. People would even hang wet laundry around their house or put their undergarments in the icebox.

Next time your AC goes out just remember you can survive and get a little inventive while waiting for that repairman. Or finally start making use of that porch