Buffalo Innovation: The Air Conditioner

Does the word “cool” come to mind when you think about Buffalo? It should. Did you know that you have Buffalo to thank for keeping your home cool during the dog days of summer? That ‘s right, Willis Carrier was inspired to invent the air conditioner for a Buffalo company.

Willis Haviland Carrier was born on November 26, 1876, in Angola, New York-a suburb located about 20 miles south of Buffalo-and brought to the world the first modern air conditioner in 1902. Initially, Carrier was hired to the Buffalo Forge Company to help solve the paper expansion problem the company was facing upon the heating of the paper. Despite the failed primary unit, which involved burlap soaked in a brine solution, Carrier used reverse engineering from steam heating units to develop a model to cool air.

The new model forced air along pipes lined with cold water to chill the air. Imagine a much colder version of your old middle school hot water heater. Once Carrier realized what he had created, he promptly went to the United States Patent Office for his “Apparatus for Treating Air.”

The invention was a hit and was first used in 1924 at the J.L. Hudson department store. The wintry air drew in hot, summer customers into the store to feel the cool difference. In 1928, the first home air conditioner, dubbed a “Weathermaker“, was sold across the country. The rest is history.

Carrier passed away at the age of 73 on October 7, 1950, and was laid to rest at Buffalo’s historic Forest Lawn Cemetery.

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