How Our Ancestors Kept Cool in the Summer?

Most people today have air conditioning units, central air or at least some good electric fans. However, our ancestors, even just one generation back, did not have those cooling items during a hot summer.

One method invented in the late 1700s, was a rocking chair with a fan attached above where a person would sit and the fan moved back and forth as a person rocked in the chair.

Another very popular method in many locations was to set up a bed on an outside porch. The porch could have been screen enclosed, just have a roof and not enclosure, just to provide a cooker place with some fresh air to sleep. Even President Taft had a sleeping porch on the roof of the White House in 1910. It was also very common in Florida to sleep on the porch.

Another item to help keep the inside of the house cooler were awnings over each window. It helped keep the sun’s heat from directly coming into the house. These awnings were made of canvas.

In homes that had servants, they pulled a cord that swept a piece of fabric back and forth across a room – a type of large fan, attached to the ceiling.

A summer drink from the 1800s into early 1900 to help refresh someone from the heat was a glass of buttermilk. Shop owners couldn’t keep enough in supply on hot days.

Many ancestors learned to take it easy and not rush about during chores. This kept them from getting too hot.

Many homes were also built with thick walls. Another building item was the high ceiling, this was also popular in the South and especially Florida. The heat rose to the ceiling.

People went into rivers, lakes, beaches and streams to cool off. Towns with a fountain also have many visitors to submerge their heads to stay cool.

Taking a nap in the afternoon also meant not doing any strenuous work during the hottest part of the day, reducing the threat of dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Many times that nap was under a big shade tree in the yard.

Check with some relatives, get their remembrances on staying cool in the summer.

Photo: Sleeping porch in 1913

Related Blogs:

Female Ancestors in the Summer

Summer Picnics

1911 Heat Wave

< Return To Blog There was the "Swamp Box". A box was added to bottom of slightly opened window. a fan was inside and a hose dribbled water thatwas sent into the house to cool it. It looked like an early window AC. Very popular in the West and mid-West.
Carol A. Preece 18/07/21

Very good addition to how our ancestors tried to stay cool.
alice 18/07/21

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