Willis Haviland Carrier

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Willis H Carrier - 1876-1950.
"The Father of the Air Conditioning Industry"

Brothers William and Henry Wendt built their new Buffalo Forge Company right in the heart of the German neighborhood.

Established in 1878, Buffalo Forge Company specialized in the the manufacture of portable forges and blowers.

The Carrier memorial in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

The text below is, in large part, a reprint from a brochure published by Forest Lawn Cemetery

Willis Haviland Carrier, the man known as "The Father of the Air Conditioning Industry," was born on November 26 on a farm near Angola, a small town in western New York. His father, Duane Carrier, ran the family farm.

Young Willis, however, began showing inventive and mechanical skills at the early age of 11 and it thought that some of those skills, perhaps, were inherited from his mother, Elizabeth Haviland Carrier. It was Elizabeth who fixed family clocks, sewing machines and other mechanical items. Perhaps most importantly, Elizabeth taught Willis fractions and other mathematics and obviously captured the interest and imagination that would lead eventually to Willis becoming an engineer. Even though Willis lost his mother at an early age, years later he would say that she opened "a new world to me and gave me a pattern for solving problems that I have followed ever since."

As a young boy, Willis was recognized as inventive and studious. After chores on the farm, he often burned the midnight oil on self-invented problems. One friend remembers Willis working on geometry problems outside, during a snowstorm, unmindful of the weather around him.

Willis became obsessed with the idea of becoming an engineer. He won a state scholarship and attended Cornell University, graduating in 1901 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

He met his first wife, Edith Claire Seymour, while at Cornell, and married her in 1902.

After graduation from Cornell, he took a job with the Buffalo Forge Company, a manufacturer of heaters, blowers, and air exhaust systems. His first job title was heating engineer in a new experimental department of Buffalo Forge.

One of his earliest challenges was finding the answer to a humidity problem at a printing plant in Brooklyn, New York. The then 25-year-old Carrier reduced a complicated cooling and humidity problem at the printing plant to its simplest terms. Moisture inside that plant was causing paper to expand and contract, creating production problems. He determined what the proper moisture level for printing should be, and reviewed National Weather Tables to determine the precise temperature to maintain appropriate moisture levels. He then set about designing cooling equipment to bring the temperature inside the plant to that humidity level.

As a result of his working with adjusting air levels, and specifying temperatures for cooling water that flowed through refrigeration coils, he was able to determine the size and capacity for an air cooling and moving system to solve the printer's problem. That system is recognized by authorities as the first scientific air conditioning system - quite an accomplishment for an engineer freshly out of college!

Carrier quickly supplemented this work with other mechanisms to control heat and humidity, including the invention of an apparatus to produce fog mechanically. He developed the idea for that invention while standing on a railroad platform in Pittsburgh, Pa., contemplating the effects of temperature on that city's smog. He once again turned his thoughts and ideas into reality, developing an apparatus to create moisture by using a nozzle originally designed to spray insecticide. He patented the "Apparatus for Treating Air," which made dew-point control - the fundamental basis for development of the air conditioning industry - possible.

Carrier was soon named to head a subsidiary of Buffalo Forge named Carrier Air Conditioning Company, in honor of the young engineer.

By 1914 Carrier had designed and installed air conditioning systems for manufacturing plants, department stores, soap, rubber and tobacco factories, breweries, bakeries, food processing plants and others.

But the outbreak of World War I forced the Buffalo Forge Company to retrench, and eliminate its new and speculative business.

Carrier and six colleagues staked their personal savings of $32,600 - and their futures - on a new company called Carrier Engineering Corp.That company incorporated in 1915 and was originally located in New Jersey. Most of his company's early installations were for commercial purposes, but by the 1920s he was refining and improving his industry so the air conditioning began to be
applied to benefit the health and comfort of the public.

Some of his installations include the Madison Square Garden, the U.S. House and Senate Chambers and the White House, to name a few of his prestigious clients. He would install the world's first residential air conditioning system in a home in Minneapolis, Minn., and his company would eventually air condition atomic submarines, the first bus, railroad cars, and even planes.

But his impact goes beyond air conditioning and products. His invention to control the inside climate allowed for the commercialization of warm geographic regions, like Arizona and Texas.

Carrier moved his company to Syracuse, New York, in the 1930s, and Carrier Corporation would become one of Central New York's largest and best employers.

Carrier, because of his accomplishments and business, traveled extensively. He had the foresight and vision to start Toyo Carrier in Japan in 1930, and now that country is the largest single market place for air conditioning in the world.

Dr. Carrier was married three times. His first wife died in 1912, and he married the former Jennie Martin, who died in 1939. In 1941 he remarried again, this time to Elizabeth Marsh Wise.

On Oct. 9, 1950, shortly before his 74th birthday, Willis Carrier died.

Willis Carrier and his wives are all buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery on lot 76 in Section 15.

See also: Steve Powell, Buffalo, NY the Birthplace of Air-Conditioning

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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