History Timeline 1900's

Photo above: Wright Brothers airplane 1903. Right: Mesa Verde Cliff Dwelling. Photos courtesy Library of Congress.

Mesa Verde

U.S. Timeline - The 1900s

The World Takes Flight

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  • Timeline

  • 1902 Detail

    July 17, 1902 - Willis Haviland Carrier, a native of Angola, New York, invents the air conditioner. He would patent the device on January 2, 1906 and his company would air condition such buildings as Madison Square Garden, The U.S. Senate, and House of Representatives.

    Willis Haviland Carrier

    Yes, it's something we take for granted every summer day, whether that's in our homes, cars, plants, sports arenas, or offices. Inside air temperature used to fluctuate with the heat of the summer day or the manufacturing process engaged, but now, for most, the invention of the air conditioner in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier, has made that situation tenable. An American engineer, Carrier created the first electric air conditioning unit in an attempt to solve the air quality of the Brooklyn firm, Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company. His drawings on July 17, 1902, would lead to installation of the first system at that plant. Field testing to perfect the idea continued through 1906, and on January 2, 1906, he was granted his first patent on the device, which he called, the "Apparatus for Treating Air." An additional patent was filed in 1907 for the "Method of humidifying air and controlling the humidity and temperature thereof." It was granted seven years later on February 3, 1914.

    With that grant, Carrier, who had been working for the Buffalo Forge Company throughout its development, implementing his idea for them at various companies, joined with other engineers (J. Irvine Lyle, Edward T. Murphy, L. Logan Lewis, Ernest T. Lyle, Frank Sanna, Alfred E. Stacey, Jr., and Edmund P. Heckel) to form the Carrier Engineering Company, funded with $32,600, after Buffalo Forge had decided to move in other areas.

    Willis Haviland Carrier

    Willis Carrier was born in Angola, New York, studied at Cornell University, graduating with an engineering degree in 1901, and began working for the Buffalo Forge Company in 1902. They had specialized, since 1878, in the manufacture of blacksmith forges, drilling machines, steam engines, and pumps. During Carrier's first year at Buffalo Forge, he had developed plans for various machines; a heating plant, lumber dry kiln, and coffee dryer. By 1905, he was head engineer of the firm. By 1914, Buffalo Forge had become the leading supplier of air washers and humidifiers in the world. However, when World War I began to play havoc on industry in the United States with the additional need for war materials and not domestic consumption, Buffalo Forge suddenly decided to close their Air Conditioning Company.

    After twelve years at Buffalo Forge, and with the decision by Buffalo Forge to focus in other areas, Carrier formed the Carrier Engineering Corporation with his fellow engineers on June 26, 1915. Through the 1920's, Carrier developed commercial systems for businesses with good success, but with the Wall Street Crash of 1929, they, like many other firms, struggled. In 1930, Carrier merged with the Brunswick-Kroeschell Company and York Heating & Ventilating Corporation to form the Carrier Corporation. Willis Haviland Carrier was still in charge, however, as Chairman of the Board. That same year, 1930, Carrier expanded into southeast Asia, starting Toyo Carrier and Samsung Applications, today the largest manufacturers of air conditioning equipment in the world.

    Willis Haviland Carrier is a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, inducted in 1985.

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    Tidbits About Air Conditioning and its History

    How did Willis Haviland Carrier come up with his idea to dry air by producing artificial fog? He was standing on a train platform in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during a foggy day. His thought, "If I can saturate air and control its temperature at saturation, I can get air with any amount of moisture I want in it. I can do it, too, by drawing the air through a fine spray of water to create actual fog."

    On July 1, 1915, the new Carrier Engineering Company opened for business with its first contract signed eighteen days later with the American Ammunition Company in Paulsboro, New Jersey.

    First female engineer at the company was hired in 1917, Margaret Ingels.

    In 1921, Carrier moved into its new plant in Newark, New Jersey; within six years of opening business, they had serviced over two hundred industries.

    Photo above: Willis Carrier, 1915, Carrier Corporation. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Below: Drawing of the first air-conditioning system at the Sackett and Wilhelms Printing Plant in 1902, 1954, Courtesy Steelways Magazine, August 1954 via Pinterest. Source: "100th Anniversary Press Kit," Carrier Corporation; williscarrier.com; Wikipedia Commons; Steelways Magazine, August 1954.

    Drawing of first Air Conditioning Unit in 1902

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