Since 1976, each February we acknowledge and celebrate the contributions made by our black predecessors. From inventions to institutional change, Black History Month ensures that the significant additions people of African descent have made to change and improve our lives remain a part of our collective historical memories.
There is much to be said (and read) about those who have been heralded throughout our history as pioneers in advocating for institutional change, but too often the contributions that black Americans made to the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry are overlooked.
In honor of Black History Month, One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning would like to recognize and applaud the incredible impact these heroes had on our industry.
Alice Parker – Inventor of the Gas Furnace
Born in 1895 in New Jersey, Alice Parker grew up frustrated with how cold she and her family would get each winter with only a fireplace to warm her home. This frustration spurred Parker to create a heating system that would change the heating industry forever.
Parker’s patent for a gas furnace was the first heating system that dispersed heat through a heat exchanger. This was accomplished by drawing in cold air and feeding that air into individual ducts that were independently controlled throughout different areas of the home. While most homes used gas or wood for their heating needs, Parker’s patent utilized gas to heat the home. This patent was the precursor to the modern heating systems we now use and was the inspiration behind the thermostat, forced air heating, and zone heating.
Lewis Latimer – Creator of the Air Conditioner
Lewis Latimer led an especially interesting life. The son of former slaves, he was separated from his parents at the age of ten to circumvent the ruling of the Dredd Scott case. At the age of 15, he joined the U.S. Navy and at 17 was hired as an office assistant at a patent law firm. Within seven years, Latimer was promoted to head draftsman after his boss recognized his talent for drawing up patents.
While working at the patent office, he worked with numerous notable people to draft their patents, including Alexander Gram Bell for the telephone and aided the Edison Electric Light Company in the supervision and installation of electric lights in cities around the world.
Finally, and most notably for this industry, Latimer invented and filed the patent for the first version of the modern air conditioner. The patent was for the Apparatus for Cooling & Disinfecting and was the forerunner to the air conditioning unit we know today.
David Crosthwait – Mechanical & Electrical Engineer; Inventor
David Crosthwait Jr. was born in Nashville, TN in 1898, grew up in Kansas City, MO, and received both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering from Purdue University. Becoming an expert in heating, cooling, and ventilation, Crosthwait was a sought-after engineer.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Crosthwait invented numerous items to provide a higher level of control for heating systems, including a boiler, vacuum pump, and thermostat. Because of his reputation as the preeminent expert in his field, Crosthwait was recruited by both the Rockefeller Center and New York’s Radio City Music Hall to design and oversee the install of their heating systems.
Ultimately, Crosthwait would hold 39 U.S. patents and 80 international patents, most relating to the HVAC industry.
Black Americans have contributed greatly to this industry and the world. HVAC, as an industry would not be the same, had it not been for the contributions of these pioneers and many others who followed in their stead.
One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning celebrate the women and men who made historic strides in this industry and look forward to the impact our expert technicians of today will make in the future.
When you are in need of professional, expert HVAC service, be sure to think of One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning or request an appointment today!