Baby, It’s Hot Outside

Scene:  Collegeville, Pennsylvania, Summer, 1934.  The windows are wide open, but there is little relief from the steamy Mid-Atlantic heat and humidity.  A brilliant young physicist sits down at the dinner table and his lovely wife places his meal before him.  He smiles and thanks her, picks up the salt shaker and upends it over his plate. Nothing happens. He shakes, and still nothing.

“Jeepers!” he cries, “There must be a way to fix this! I need a pencil!”

Okay, I made that up in my mind … there is absolutely no evidence in the collection that John Mauchly said “Jeepers” (although that is a nice authentic 1930s exclamation!) or that he was driven to say it by his salt solidifying due to the humidity.

However, there is evidence that Dr. Mauchly thought that a solution to this problem was necessary.  Residential air conditioning was not common in American homes until the latter half of the 20th century, so it is possible that Dr. Mauchly may have experienced a scene similar to the one I have depicted.  And if I know anything about Dr. Mauchly, it is that he was a problem solver and a creative thinker.  Below is his suggestion for a way to keep  salt and sugar dry in a pre-air conditioned home!

Mauchly_sugar_and_saltThere is no indication whether the General Electric Company ever implemented such a creation, but I am always amazed by the way that Mauchly thought and how diverse his interests were!

One thought on “Baby, It’s Hot Outside

  1. There is an easier solution, which was in fact implemented in the Mauchly home. Put your salt shakers on top of the stove. With the pilot light on, it’s always warmer there. This wasn’t totally effective against the Pennsylvania humidity, however, especially since the gas pilot was itself giving out a humid exhaust. So we put rice grains in the salt shakers. That worked very well, in fact. No help for the sugar, however.

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