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What Did People Do Before AC?

You might think the answer is that people slowly melted due to the intense heat, but surprisingly, people were very resourceful and found ways to stay cool even without air conditioners.

In fact, the modern air conditioner has only been around for a little over 100 years. It wasn’t even widely available for homes until the 1970s! A you can imagine, the innovations that came before our wonderful cooling box had to be worthwhile.


The Start of AC

In 1902, engineer Willis Carrier sought to dehumidify the printing plant where he worked because the magazine papers kept wrinkling. In doing so, he unintentionally invented the first air conditioner. His device, which he called the "Apparatus for Treating Air," pulled the moisture out of the air using cooling coils, just like a modern AC.

So, if the air conditioner wasn’t invented until the early 1900s, how did people live without it?

The ancient Romans had some inventive ideas. For example, wealthy Romans would build an aqueduct system inside the walls of their homes that would circulate cold water and cool their homes. Rumor has it that Roman royalty would even have mountains of snow imported from the Alps to stave off the summer heat.

Yet, a much more common remedy for the heat was the hand fan. Records show that people were using fans to keep cool back in 3000 BC.


Architectural Strides

Throughout history, even the way homes and buildings were constructed allowed for the circulation of cool air in the summer.

High ceilings allowed the hot air to rise and the residents to stay in the cooler air below. Windows, which were always open in the summer, were placed directly across from one another on opposite walls so a breeze would blow in one and out the other. Yards were also planted strategically, with trees placed to provide additional shade for houses.

A popular method of staying cool inside was to blow fans across blocks of ice in hopes of getting some cool air circulating in the room as a sort of rudimentary air conditioner.


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On the hottest of days, when even these tricks didn’t stop the heat from invading homes, life would spill out onto the front porch. It wasn’t uncommon for families to enjoy entire afternoons out on the porch and sometimes even sleep there to escape the heat inside.

In the summer, people would dress in thin, loose-fitting cotton or linen clothing in light colors so their bodies didn’t absorb the heat.

As the early 1900s gave rise to air conditioned buildings, much before home systems were widely distributed, families would spend blazing summer days in movie theaters to get relief from the heat, which gave rise to the summer blockbuster trend!

Though surviving a blazing Arkansas summer without air conditioning may seem like a superhuman ability in modern times, it was just a part of everyday life before the invention of the air conditioner. But today, it doesn’t have to be. So, if you find yourself without AC, give Mohr Air Conditioning a call for a thorough solution!