Ulrich Bonnell Phillips's Life and Labor of the Old South, published in 1929, is one of the most significant books on the history and geography of the American South. Although it's rarely found on reading lists beyond historiography classes these days, it's opening paragraph is still a defining statement about the region:
Let us begin by discussing the weather, for that has been the chief agency in making the South distinctive.
. . .
The summers are not merely long, but bakingly hot, with temperatures ranging rather steadily in the eighties and nineties of the Fahrenheit scale.
The early 20th century single story Southern home, with its high-roof, wrap-around porch, and traditional "dog trot" breezeway, is a vernacular response to that baking heat. Homes of this type can still be found throughout the South, in fact, contemporary construction in the region often incorporates its features in vestigial form. But what has made the South so popular these days? I believes, in particular, the natural climate remains a significant draw, especially now that the social and political climate of the New South welcomes all Americans. Still, all Southerners must deal with the heat. And that brings us to the significance of Willis Carrier, an American inventor who made the South tolerable during the long, hot summers.
|Willis Carrier in 1915|