The hot, humid, summer weather can be draining. Today, you probably have air conditioning in your home that helps your families stay cool when the weather outside is hot. Your ancestors weren’t so lucky. Here are some ways your ancestors survived hot summers.
Modern air conditioning was invented for the purpose of industrial quality control. Workers, of course, noticed that it made them more comfortable. It wasn’t until after World War II that air conditioning became widely available for homes. Members of the military came home and bought suburban tract houses that required air conditioning to keep them cool in the summer months.
How did people survive without air conditioning? The earliest method of keeping cool involved living in caves. Our “cavemen” ancestors enjoyed temperatures in the 50s year round inside the caves where they lived.
Later, some people lived in dugout houses that were partially underground. These small homes were, essentially, a pit with a small amount of structure built on top of it. The basement in your home today was influenced by this method of keeping cool.
There were other architectural techniques that helped people stay cool at home. Split level homes enabled people to move to the lowest floor on the hottest days. Heat rises, so the lower floors were cooler (and more tolerable). The upper floors were only used at night during the summer.
Large windows, on opposite sides of a room, allowed whatever breeze existed to blow through the home. High ceilings helped the hot air rise up and away from the floor where people were sitting, eating, or sleeping. A big porch that wrapped around the house gave our ancestors a shaded place to sit outside. Front porch swings helped people to create their own breeze.
When the weather was still too hot to be tolerable, our ancestors took naps. Hot weather tends to make people sleepy and unmotivated, so this makes perfect sense. It became a common way of coping with the heat in the southern United States. In Spain today, businesses close and people take naps during the hottest part of the day.
Before air conditioning was available, people made use of fans. Ceiling fans helped circulate air inside people’s homes. Some creative people soaked sheets in ice water, hung them up, and aimed fan to blow air over the cold sheets. People took baths at night and would go to bed while still damp. If all else failed, people slept outdoors on their porches.
Image by Barney Nowicki on Flickr
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