The History of Air Conditioning and the Textile Industry
It’s finally getting to the part of summer where even I am grateful for air conditioning. I can usually be seen bundled up in a blanket at my desk when everyone else is sweating, and the major source of conflict in my life is over the thermostat controls in my apartment. But I have to say, as the temperatures have spiked to over 90 degrees here in Colorado, I’m currently a fan of the AC. And today, I learned that I have the textile industry to thank for my cool comfort!
The History of Air Conditioning
“Yarn-conditioning” was a process of humidifying textiles with moist air so that the fibers can stretch. The high-speed looms invented at the turn of the 20th century spewed out a lot of hot, dry air that actually made the threads brittle and prone to snapping. To prevent this, air conditioning was invented to control the humidity in the air as well as temperature. The invention then spread to the factories of other industries where high humidity could wreak havoc.
But when people began looking into the possibility of installing AC in homes, offices, and schools, they encountered some pushback.
Today, the benefits of AC are so obvious that it’s hard to imagine anyone fighting its implementation during the history of air conditioning. But it came under fire from a major health movement of 20th century America: the open air movement. Open air advocates believed that the air in confined rooms was detrimental to the health, because it was contaminated by CO2. Schools in particular were increasingly “open-air,” even in the dead of winter and the peak of summer. Because air conditioning is really inefficient if your windows are all open, you can see why the two might be incompatible.
It wasn’t until the cinema industry proved that air conditioning was safe (and attracted droves of patrons seeking relief from summer’s heat) that air conditioning technology spread from factories to homes, offices, and schools.
So, not only can we thank the textile industry for helping us stay warm when the air conditioning gets a little overzealous, but we can also thank it for the fact that we have AC at all!
P.S. Looking for a lightweight blanket to weave this summer? I keep a blanket in both my work and home office at all times in case of that overzealous A/C I mentioned earlier. Check out the Cozy Throws for Two Kit, and weave one blanket for home and one for work!