June 25, 2024


Fashion just doctor ordered

Willis Carrier Enabled Arizona To Develop, Expand and Prosper

In 1902, Willis H. Carrier, a recent Cornell University graduate began work in a New York print shop for the princely salary of $10.00 per week. Bright, eager, ambitious and curious, Mr. Carrier fully immersed himself in all aspects of the burgeoning American printing industry. His interest in printing, and solving problems endemic to the industry, inadvertently have resulted in the population boom in states like Florida and Arizona.

Mr. Carrier’s boss, the owner of the printing shop, was constantly lamenting the difficulty he experienced with stabilizing ink, paper formatting and application of typeface to paper based on temperature and humidity swings. The printing factory of the day was innately a warm, muggy environment as the machines were large, dirty and generated immense amounts of heat. Humid summer days further extrapolated the difficulties of the printing process. The result was inconsistent print quality and many jobs had to be redone at loss of profit.

Mr. Carrier was vexed by these problems and began to reflect on potential solutions. One evening, while waiting in the fog for the train to commute home, he had, as he described, “a mental vision” of how to solve the problem of heavy, moist, humid air which hampered the printing process and made life miserable for people during humid, torpid summer days.

Mr. Carrier’s solution was based on a simple realization and study of weather patterns: cool, wind, water, fog and seasonal adjustments that Mother Nature seemed to make on cue. His theorem, which was presented to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1906 in his patent filing, narrative and art, contained the first description of a workable prototype for a spatial air conditioner.

The original “centrifugal chiller” was not called air conditioning for several years. Mr. Carrier worked for several more years to commercialize his invention, and in 1915, with several investors having contributed $35,000, he started the Carrier Corporation. 2007 sales were in excess of $5 billion.

Willis H. Carrier created the air conditioning system with intended applications for wide industrial placement and usage. Medical products, food preparation, cosmetics, transport of spoilable products and finely calibrated machinery were a few of the markets and industries that Carrier initially targeted. The idea of using the new air conditioning system for personal comfort did not take hold until 1924. In that year, the original J.L. Hudson Department Store in Detroit installed the system and shoppers flocked to the store.

In the early 20th century Henry Flagler was building the first railroad system through Florida. At the time Florida was a relative backwater, sparsely populated, remote, with little industry other than citrus groves. The heat and humidity in most of the state was oppressive for most of each year. Mosquito’s and insects were oppressive. Windows had to be kept open to circulate the vapid, humid air.

Mr. Flager dreamt that some day Florida, Palm Beach, the Keys and Naples, would become world class resort destinations. He just needed to be able to safely; and comfortably transport visitors to the resorts he was building, and have them enjoy the wonders of Florida sunshine while the rest of the country was suffering from the winter blues. What to do about the bugs and humidity?

Arizona, much of Texas, New Mexico and Nevada were climatically challenged in different ways than Florida. Oppressive heat, no or little humidity and vast arid plains and desert made these states very difficult places to comfortably live for all but the heartiest few. Industry, technology, population growth and tourism were not likely to occur in such uninviting environments.

Henry Flager saw his opportunity to pioneer the rapid development of Florida immensely enhanced by the invention of the “centrifugal chiller”.

Finally, his vacationers could spend their days in his tourist palaces in splendor and total comfort. The air conditioner enabled people to visit and enjoy Florida, and, upon returning home, spread the word about the beaches and opportunities to live in such a place. The stampede to relocate to such a suddenly inviting locale would have been unthinkable without the invention, commercialization and mass availability of air conditioning.

Arizona and much of the southwest would still be Indian reservations, cactus and scrub ranches without Mr. Carrier’s invention. The mass migration of population to these states in the second half of the 20th century would have never been possible. Can you imaging Las Vegas without air conditioning.

Willis H. Carrier invented his air conditioning system to enable industry and manufacturers to function more efficiently. As so often happens, however, the device was adapted in ways that benefited the population in many alternative uses. Cars, planes, and trains were air-conditioned and the result was that long distance travel could be comfortably enjoyed for the first time in history. Arid and tropical environments around the world became hospitable.

Industries that we take for granted today could never have evolved without the ability to control excessive heat and climate. A silicon computer chip manufacturing facility creates huge amounts of heat that must be controlled. There could be no modern computer industry without air conditioning. The bio-technology, nano-technology, pharmaceutical and laser industries would not exist with Willis Carrier’s invention.

My marketing, consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, reviews hundreds of new product and invention submissions each year. Most of course, do not possess the wonderful utility of a product such as air conditioning. Nevertheless there are wonderful lessons for product developers to learn from stories such as Willis Carrier’s. The road first taken is usually not the route we wind up taking to success. Many products meander to successful mass-market commercialization.

The next time you walk inside on a hot summer day, remember that the blast of comforting cool air you feel was originally meant to enable printers to more productively place ink on paper. Keep your mind open and eyes focused for alternative, hidden opportunities to commercialize and maximum your ideas, concepts and inventions. They are all around you.