As all of us in Southern California seek places to cool off during the heat wave, Russell Johnson, UCLA Library Special Collections’ curator for history of medicine and the sciences, shares some nuggets from the “The Story of Air Conditioning.”
The fact-filled 16-page pamphlet was distributed by the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Machinery Association sometime between 1940 and 1953, Johnson said.
UCLA Library acquired the pamphlet in 2011 and it is the only copy now held by a library thanks to the West Sand Lake, New York-based ephemera dealer aGatherin’, which found it and offered to UCLA. The pamphlet is definitely a relic of its time in that there’s no mention of how air conditioning has contributed to climate change.
“The Story of Air Conditioning” uses characters Tempy (temperature), Drippy (humidity), Stirry (air circulation), and Dusty (cleanliness) to answer the question, “Did you ever wonder why you are so much more comfortable in air conditioned surroundings?” Johnson notes that the italics are the author’s.
“The illustrations alone are worth the price of admission!” Johnson said. “The pamphlet is wittily illustrated by John Groth, who was the art editor of Esquire in the 1930s and combat correspondent and artist for the Chicago Sun during World War II.”
The pamphlet also fits in with what was happening in industry at the time, Johnson said.
“General Motors and Bell Telephone and others would issue free ‘information rack service’ pamphlets to their employees, many of whom were lifers,” Johnson said. “The pamphlets were about everything, from how to do your taxes or organize a barbecue to first aid or overcoming fear of failure to the meaning of the atomic bomb in society. All part of continuing education, investing in their employees to keep them informed and happy. Because a happy employee makes a better product, and keeps an eye on the place looking on how to improve working conditions. I made a collection of that kind of pamphlet, because no other institution seemed to do that much.”
The complete copy of “The Story of Air Conditioning” is available online at UCLA Library Digital Collections.