MADE IN WNY: CARRIER’S AIR CONDITIONER

One hundred ten years ago, a man named Willis Carrier, then an employee at the Buffalo Forge Company, which heated metals for blacksmiths, invented a device that would change the way engineers thought about heating and cooling. Carrier, an Angola native and recent graduate of Buffalo’s Hutchinson-Central High School (now “Hutch Tech”) and Cornell, had taken a job at Buffalo Forge after deciding to stay in Buffalo for work.

When working at Buffalo Forge, formerly located on Broadway, Carrier invented a process for cooling air passing it over coils of water; the process had already been in place for heat, over hot coils. Carrier turned the temperature down and invented what became known as the air conditioner. His innovation came while brainstorming a solution for a local printing company which had had difficulty with ink adhering to form-shifting paper (a result of the change in humidity levels).  Carrier’s innovative solution led to both the creation of Carrier Corporation, the largest air conditioning producer in the world, based in Syracuse, NY, and also to the population explosion in the American Southwest enabled by air conditioning.

And it happened right here, in Buffalo, N.Y.

For more about Willis Carrier and the Buffalo Forge Company, read John Cramer’s insightful blog about architecture and preservation.

Image courtesy Vintage Machinery.

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