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Weird History: Fourth of July Plumbing and Heating Facts


1741, 1776, 4th of July, america, benjamin franklin, iology, boston, cambridge, chemistry, cooling, declaration of independence, experiment, founding fathers, fourth of july, franklin stove, frederic tudor, heating, hvac, independence day, john hadley, monticello, pennsylvania oven, physics, plumbing, science, thermometer, thomas jefferson, jefferson, united statesHappy Independence Day! To celebrate the holiday today, here are four weird history facts about our nation’s history with heating, plumbing, and HVAC that you may not have known!


Benjamin Franklin invented the Franklin stove in 1741. It was a metal-lined fireplace with a hollow baffle near the back which was used to transfer heat from the fire to the room and circulate it via air. It’s intention was to produce more heat and less smoke than the typical fireplace of the time. It’s also known as the Pennsylvania fireplace.


Thomas Jefferson’s estate Monticello was massive, and thus keeping it cool during the summertime was no easy feat. Despite the mountaintop areas being somewhat cooler than the flat lands, it was still a hot climate. To cope with this, Jefferson built Venetian Porches on either side of his house, complete with wooden blinds and would allow airflow and circulation of cooler air. He also owned a number of fans, and actually designed a fan to be used at the dining room table. But scholars don’t know if this was ever built.


Do you know how the beginning of the commercial ice industry in the U.S. began? In the early 1700’s, Frederic Tudor of Boston sent a shipload of ice to Martinique in the West Indies with the goal of relieving the Yellow Fever epidemic. That shipment was technically the beginning of the ice trade in the U.S.


We started off with Benjamin Franklin, and back to him we go for our final weird history fact! In 1758, Franklin and a professor of chemistry, John Hadley, collaborated on a project that investigated the means of evaporation as a way to rapidly cool an object. Their experiments took place at Cambridge University in England. They actually confirmed that the evaporation of highly volatile liquids like alcohol and ether could be used to decrease the temperature of an object past the freezing point of water. They used a bulb from a thermometer filled with mercury (as was the custom back then) for their experiment. They found that soon after it had passed the freezing point of water (32 °F), a thin film of ice formed on the surface of the thermometer’s bulb. When they finally stopped the experiment after reaching 7 °F (−14 °C), the ice was about 1/4 inch thick. Franklin wrote, “From this experiment, one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer’s day.”


And with that, you have four weird history facts that relate to heating, plumbing, HVAC, and Independence Day!

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