08/15/2014 06:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Beating the Heat before Central Air


How does one beat the dog days of August? It's easy! Open your Westinghouse refrigerator, prop a fan in front of it, and let the cool air do the rest. At least until your mother finds out. Jane Dornfeld of Edina did just that, although her comfort was short-lived. Given that air conditioning was not common in most homes in 1955, people had to find creative ways to get comfortable; sacrificing the family food supply is not typically the best approach.


An alternative to a fan in front of an open refrigerator is to place a fan directly on top of 400 pounds of ice. These women who sold advertising at the St. Paul Daily News used that method to get through a stifling work day during the heat wave in the July of 1936. Judging by their smiles, it appeared to work.


Blocks of ice serve other purposes, too. Why use a fan when direct contact offers immediate relief? In this instance, truck driver Frank Smith of Minneapolis chills his motor with a slab of ice, also during the scorching heat wave of 1936.


The summer of 1936 was one of the most brutal in terms of the heat during the 20th century. So much so that numerous St. Paul residents resorted to sleeping outdoors on the grass to get some much needed respite.


Of course, the quickest way to cool off is to step directly into the path of water jetting out of a fire hydrant, which is exactly what this Twin Cities area boy did in 1938. Doesn't that look refreshing?

To see more historic images of summer, visit Minnesota Historical Society's Collections Online.