Cool Toes for Flip Flops!

Doctors in early America realized that yellow fever was more prevalent in warm climates and cooler weather reduced the number of cases.  So the thinking was that cooling the air would cure yellow fever ... but how could one cool the air during the heat of summer?

Cutting Ice

A 19th century ice team cutting ice.

In 1844 Dr. John Gorrie, a Florida doctor, experimented with air cooling systems. He hung trays of ice along the ceiling of his sick rooms.  Warm air rises and cold air falls, so the warm air would rise to the ceiling where it was cooled by the trays of ice.  Then the cold air would fall, where it cooled the patient in his sick bed.  As the ice cooled the room Dr. Gorrie assumed he would cure his patients of yellow fever.

His air cooling system required a lot of ice, but it's not easy to find ice in Florida! It was common in the northern states to cut ice from ponds and lakes in the winter, then store the ice in a well insulated building called an "ice house" for use in the summer.  Dr. Gorrie purchased ice from the northern states and had it shipped down to Florida.  The time and labor involved in cutting, storing and shipping the ice made it very expensive.  When supplies ran low and prices went even higher, Dr. Gorrie decided to create his own ice. Following vapor compression technology that had been developed in the 1830s, he created an ice making machine in 1844 and received a patent for his invention in 1851.

Ice House - The Official Gazette of the US Patent Office - 1895

Plans for a very well insulated Ice House, 1895.

Everyone was cured of yellow fever, right?  Well, no.  Dr. Gorrie's primitive form of air conditioning made his patients more comfortable with the cooler air, but they were not cured. His patients were dying just as frequently as the patients of doctors who didn’t use his air cooling system.  Today doctors know that yellow fever is a virus spread by mosquitoes.  Yellow fever is more common in warmer climates because mosquitoes thrive in warm weather - not because of the air temperature itself. 

Dr. Gorrie's ice making machine made him an enemy of the wealthy and powerful "Ice King" Frederic Tudor.  Tudor was an American businessman who became a pioneer in the international ice trade.  He made his fortune by cutting ice from his home in New England and then shipping it to the Caribbean, Europe and India.  An ice making machine would drive Tudor out of business!

At the same time Dr. Gorrie also received moral criticism for his invention.  Only God could make ice - did Dr. Gorrie think he was better than God?  How dare he make man-made ice instead of using the natural ice that the Good Lord had provided for us!  It has been suggested that Frederic Tudor may have been behind the moral objections to Dr. Gorrie's ice making machine.

Considering himself a failure, Dr. Gorrie died in 1855 almost 100 years before air modern conditioning became a part of everyday life.

Do you want cool toes?  You could hang trays of ice from the ceiling like Dr. Gorrie, but a more attractive solution is to knit the Flip Floppers toe-less socks.  Show off a pedicure, play "This Little Piggy Went to Market", and wear your favorite flip flops with this cool summertime project! This KAL starts July 6th with Katie Rempe!

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

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