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Car Air Conditioning and The Story of the Goldberg Brothers

I regularly receive submissions asking about the following story:

The Goldberg Brothers - The Inventors of the Automobile Air Conditioner

Here's a little factoid for automotive buffs or just to dazzle your friends.

The four Goldberg brothers, Lowell, Norman, Hiram, and Max, invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner. On July 17, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97 degrees. The four brothers walked into old man Henry Ford's office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that four gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter.

Henry was curious and invited them into his office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking lot to their car. They persuaded him to get into the car, which was about 130 degrees, turned on the air conditioner, and cooled the car off immediately. The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them $3 million for the patent.

The brothers refused, saying they would settle for $2 million, but they wanted the recognition by having a label, 'The Goldberg Air-Conditioner,' on the dashboard of each car in which it was installed. Now old man Ford was more than just a little anti-Semitic, and there was no way he was going to put the Goldberg's name on two million Fords.

They haggled back and forth for about two hours and finally agreed on $4 million and that just their first names would be shown. And so to this day, all Ford air conditioners show -- Lo, Norm, Hi, and Max -- on the controls.
This oft-told tale has circulated for many years. One would hope that the majority of recipients would quickly realize that the story is just a joke once they have read to the end. That said, I include it on these pages simply because I regularly receive messages from people asking if the story is true. So, just to set the record straight, no, the story is NOT true. It is simply a clever little humour piece built around the labels that might be found on a car air conditioning control. Enough said! Smile

As a matter of interest, the eHow website notes that automobile air-conditioning was debuted by the Packard automobile company in 1939.



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Last updated: July 30, 2015
First published: July 7, 2010
By Brett M. Christensen
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The History of Automobile Air Conditioning

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