The Weird History of Air Conditioners

The eccentric past of the humble air conditioner

J.J. Pryor
3 min readMay 31


A beautiful air conditioner in front of a beautiful window
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Picture yourself lounging on a sun-kissed afternoon in July, without the comforting hum of your air conditioner in the background.

Sounds like a nightmare, right?

As we fend off sweltering summer days with our trusty cooling units, it’s intriguing to delve into the quirky timeline of how we arrived at these climate-controlled havens. Let’s begin our fascinating journey through the evolution of air conditioning.

Aqueducts and Snow Mountains: Ancient Innovations

In the balmy realms of ancient Rome, the first wave of cooling innovation rippled through society.

Affluent Romans used their ingenious aqueduct system to circulate cold water within their home walls! Things went a step further when Emperor Elagabalus decided to import mountains of snow via hardworking donkey trains, building huge piles of snow right outside his doorstep.

However, not everyone was on board with this chilly innovation. Stoic philosopher Seneca scoffed at those who used such means to keep cool instead of enduring the heat like a true Roman.

American Pioneers and the Art of Cooling

Fast forward through a bit of a cooling dark age, and we reach the late 19th century in America.

Here, ambitious engineers reignited the cooling crusade, introducing a novel device involving air blown through ice-water-soaked cotton sheets to offer respite to a suffering President James Garfield.

This device, despite its hefty ice requirements, marked an important milestone in the journey towards modern air conditioning.

Willis Carrier and the Birth of Modern Air Conditioning

The dawn of the 20th century saw another major breakthrough in the evolution of air conditioning…



J.J. Pryor

Ex-Traveler | Ex-pat | Ex-Head Product | Ex-Polymath | Ex-Cuses | PB&T creator | Top 100 Writer |