As visitors enter an exhibit on comfort cooling, they are briefly blasted with hot air from a space heater before the air conditioning takes over. The exhibit stresses the history of air conditioning starting in the 1930s and how it changed the South forever. For example, Southern state populations grew — for better or worse. "General Electric has proved a more devastating invader than General Sherman when it comes to ruining the South’s distinctive character, said University of South Florida historian Raymond Arsenault.
But for folks in the South who like snow-free winters, all it took was air conditioning to make year-round living pleasurable. After all, before a/c, salvation came in shaded porches, electric fans, and the local swimming hole.
While home air conditioners were introduced in the 1930s, it wasn’t until the 1950s when inexpensive window units were introduced. According to the exhibit, by 1960, a little more than 18% of homes in the South had a/c; by 1970, half of Southern homes had a/c; and today it is 96%.