clock menu more-arrow no yes

Air conditioning didn't just change America — it also changed Congress

This place used to be even grosser than it is now.
This place used to be even grosser than it is now.
Shutterstock

One reader emailed me with an interesting point about my Q&A with Salvatore Basile about his book on how air conditioning changed America forever:

Your article missed something considered pretty huge for those of us who exist in Washington, DC.

The Capitol city was built on a swamp.  Only with Air Conditioning did Congress become viable as a year-round endeavor.  Prior to the adoption of AC, politicians avoided the city in hot and sweaty months because it was (and is) awful.  Air Conditioning gave us a Congress that meets year-round.  And for those of us who commute into and out of this metro area, when Congress is gone (it is not the 535 members, but the thousands of others:  Staff, journalists, lobbyists, rent-seeking sycophants), everything about the National Capitol Region is much nicer.  The rest of the Nation probably agrees as well -- they can do no harm when they are not here!

I blame the AC.

Noted, reader. Duly noted.

(For what it's worth, Basile's book actually spends a fair chunk of pages talking about the struggles of trying to cool the nation's capital, which unfortunately didn't make it into my Q&A. It includes such drama as President Taft installing an early Oval Office cooling system, which needed to be fed a ton of ice a day. Then President Wilson ripped it out after news of the pricey ice bills became public.)

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays