Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything

By Salvatore Basile | Go to book overview

5 Big Ideas. Bold Concepts. Bad Timing.

Most movie houses. Some Broadway theaters. Luxury hotels. A big handful of department stores. High-visibility tie-ins with the new entertainment media. Even a bank here and there. It seemed that air conditioning had finally won some broad-based public acceptance. Even better, it had expanded into a few areas of daily life as an absolute necessity. Now it was gearing up to ride the crest of 1920s consumerism.

The attempt couldn’t have come at a better time: A boom economy, with extra fuel from the income provided by fat stock dividends. Mechanized production that lowered prices and made even big-ticket items readily available. The example of radio, which had proven to manufacturers that a completely unfamiliar gadget, if it was promoted in the right way, could instantly become a fixture in the American home. A slick new advertising style dedicated to selling not only goods but also the virtues of conspicuous consumption and snob appeal, and selling them with the crafty assistance of never-before venues such as the airwaves and the silver screen. And to make it all available to every level of the public, that wildly popular new form of consumer credit, Easy Little Payments.… It was no coincidence that the phrase “super-salesmanship” had been popularized during this time. As well as the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

Therefore it was only logical, as the technology of air conditioning was finally beginning to catch up with the public’s fantasy, that the makers of cooling machinery would try to produce the next big-ticket status symbol for home use. At the same time, still other businesses saw the exciting, and very profitable, potential of bringing air conditioning to the public in a variety of different places—railroads, office buildings, even automobiles. There were fascinating vistas ahead.

And most of those plans were blown sky-high by the Great Depression.

-143-

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Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Ice, Air, and Crowd Poison 5
  • 2- The Wondrous Comfort of Ammonia 41
  • 3- For Paper, Not People 88
  • 4- Coolth- Everybody’s Doing It 104
  • 5- Big Ideas. Bold Concepts. Bad Timing 143
  • 6- From Home Front to Each Home 181
  • 7- The Unnecessary, Unhealthy Luxury (That No One Would Give Up) 222
  • Conclusion 251
  • Notes 257
  • Bibliography 259
  • Index 267
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