HVAC Residential Market / Furnaces / Air Conditioners / Freezers & Coolers

85 Years of Leadership: Historian Wins Oldest NEWS Contest

Bernard Nagengast, an engineering consultant and industry historian, had the oldest NEWS issue that we know of among our readers. His issue was dated Nov. 30, 1926. The very first issue was published in September of that year. His prize is the Kindle shown here.

SIDNEY, Ohio - Congratulations to Bernard Nagengast, an engineering consultant and industry historian who found the oldest NEWS issue among our readers. His oldest issue was dated Nov. 30, 1926. The very first issue of the magazine was published in September of that same year.

Nagengast is a member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), and the Society for the History of Technology. He had bought those old issues from a rare book dealer. “I started to collect it a long time ago,” he said. “If you really want to find out the history of an industry, look at the trade publications.

“I knew that it was the precursor to the current NEWS,” he said. His copy may have come from the U.S. Patent Office, by which it was stamped. “You can tell these were well-used issues.”


Nagengast said he used his issues in his study of the development of the household refrigeration industry. “Nobody could quite get it right. It wasn’t until the mid 20s that they started getting their act together.” An infrastructure was needed to provide appropriate service, both refrigeration and electrical. “There was only so much you could plug in before blowing a fuse.”

He started reading The NEWS during his days at California Polytechnic State University, where it was available for students to look at.

“I was always interested in the literature of the industry,” Nagengast said. He was also a consistent reader during his employment at Copeland, where multiple copies came in. He did post graduate work for Copeland as an application engineer, and then went into business for himself. He also is an avid coin collector, as well as an author of historical articles. He has been a subscriber since 1978-79. He is 62.

The most memorable of the older articles, he said, were those related to early patents. “There was a big patent suit between Frigidaire and General Necessities Corp. (Absopure),” he said, to determine who invented the first air-cooled refrigeration system.

Another interesting article was about a contractor who was working on a Carrier gas furnace in a house, and the unit was from the 1920s. “The furnace was still operating,” he said: “it was the first modern, condensing-style gas furnace - an actual, living example of the furnace in operation.

“Generally, I enjoy reading articles about new technological developments,” he said. “It’s interesting to see how The NEWS has been changing its focus over the years; from electric refrigeration, to broad coverage, to today’s contractor focus.”


As a student of history, Nagengast said he sometimes sees repeated trends. “I have noticed, generally, that people have come up with a lot of useful ideas that never really get off the ground,” he said. “They’re laying out there, and all of a sudden, something will go on the market and it will take off. It’s time has come.

“A lot of ideas are resurrected, knowingly or unknowingly.” He quoted U.S. President Truman: “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”

What can we learn from history in HVAC? Nagengast pointed to energy conservation and the whole green focus. “There has always been an interest in energy conservation,” he said. “When you look back at the literature in the industry, you see there was an interest in conserving fuel.

“We were always concerned about energy conservation in everything we designed!” On the heating side, Nagengast said he recalls seeing an 1890s ad for a solar water heater.

During 1929-40 the industry suffered greatly due to the Depression; not surprisingly, production numbers went down. “Nowadays you have a similar situation,” he said. With today’s advanced technology, it makes it a little more difficult for the workforce to shift around. “It’s a compact industry.”

It’s also very tight knit as a personal community. “When I still worked for Copeland, a guy said that if you stay in the industry, the people you know now will still be here in 30 years.” It has proved true so far. “Happy 85th to The NEWS,” Nagengast said. “It’s a valuable resource!”

Publication date: 06/27/2011

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