FamilyFamily HistoryHistory How Did Our Ancestors Beat the Heat? By Esther July 24, 2016 Share Share Copy Link While cooling off in my comfortable air-conditioned home, I wonder what summer was like for my ancestors. How did they attempt to keep cool during intense heat waves without the modern advancements we enjoy? How did they make the most of their summers? Farm boys eating ice-cream cones, July 1941 (Credit: Library of Congress) The first modern electrical air conditioning unit was invented in 1902 by Willis Carrier in Buffalo, New York. Air conditioning for residential homes was introduced in the 1920s. It wasn’t until the post-World War II economic boom that air conditioners became commonplace in homes. In 1953, over 1 million units were sold. So how did our ancestors, who lived before air conditioning, survive the heat? In many different ways! Licking blocks of ice on a hot day, c1910 (Credit: Library of Congress) Many community buildings in hot areas were built on hilltops or rises to catch more breeze during the summer. Houses were built with breezes in mind. Each window had another on the opposite side of the house with a doorway between to catch the maximum breeze. People would bathe at night and go to bed damp. They would blow air over sheets soaked in ice water. Attic fans were installed. People would sleep out under the stars on their porches. Although these solutions sound much less effective than air conditioning, our ancestors didn’t know any better, and they were used to dealing with the heat. When I look back at photos of my ancestors enjoying long summer days, I realize they weren’t really missing anything at all. I see the kids splashing in the water, and the adults looking on, everyone enjoying each other’s company. Life may have been different back then, but people still knew how to make the most of it and have a good time. How did your ancestors beat the summer heat?