How did people stay cool in the heat of the the Old West?

Justin Loughman

Rancho Santa Margarita, California

Before air conditioning and backyard swimming pools, Mexicans and Indians taught settlers to build homes with cool, shady breezeways. At night they soaked their bed sheets in water and went to sleep. Many slept outside to take advantage of the wind.

During the day, Westerners often took a nice, refreshing dip in irrigation ditches or canals. And they had access to ice—ice plants were around by the 1870s.

Lastly, don’t be fooled by those historic photographs of people in formal dark suits and dresses. People usually wore light colored clothing made of natural fibers that “breathed.” Around the house most women stayed comfortable in loose-fitting cotton dresses, while men working outdoors wore long-sleeve cotton shirts.

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