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The Pittsburgh Press - Jul 5, 1955

17 Historical Reactions to Air Conditioning

Original image
The Pittsburgh Press - Jul 5, 1955

On July 17, 1902, Willis Haviland Carrier finished drawing up plans for what is today considered the first modern air conditioning system. It was installed in a printing business in Brooklyn in 1903, and in 1906, Carrier patented a refined version, called “Apparatus for Treating Air.” By 1936, Carrier predicted that in the future, "the average businessman will rise, pleasantly refreshed, having slept in an air-conditioned room, he will travel in an air-conditioned train, and toil in an air-conditioned office, store, or factory—or dine in an air-conditioned restaurant. In fact, the only time he will know anything about heat waves or arctic blasts will be when he exposes himself to the natural discomforts of out-of-doors."

Though Carrier is often called the father of air conditioning, his system wasn’t the first system—and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Here’s what people thought of “colderizing,” "air chilling," “mechanical weather,” and being “cooled by refrigeration” in its early days.

1. “Some Crank in Florida”

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When Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, Florida, was treating victims of yellow fever in the 1840s, he cooled his infirmary using a mthod that involved hanging a pan of ice from the ceiling. But eventually, his supply of ice ran out. Gorrie began tinkering, and in 1851, he received a patent for a refrigerating machine that made both ice and cool air. Unfortunately, the reception to his device was anything but warm, thanks in part to the Northern Ice Lobby, which made money by shipping ice down south in the summer. Gorrie was roundly mocked in the media. “There is Dr. Gorrie, a crank down in Apalachicola, Florida, that thinks he can make ice by his machine as good as God Almighty,” The New York Globe crowed. The same year he obtained his patent, Gorrie’s financial backer died, and the artificial ice machine did, too.

2. “Struck with Wonder”

But by the 20th century, the world was ready for air conditioning. Though it had been installed in the new New York Stock Exchange building in 1903 by Alfred R. Wolff, A/C had its public debut in 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair in the Missouri Building. The official Fair book noted that “a refrigeration plant installed in the basement has the capacity to reduce the temperature in the building to 70 degrees even when the mercury may be in the 90s outside.” According to the November 1904 issue of Ice and Refrigeration Magazine, “Visitors, not aware that the building was artificially cooled, were struck with wonder and were unable to account for the very perceptible change felt in the temperatures.”

3. “Exclaims with Delight”

Movie theaters were among the first businesses to install air conditioning. In 1922, Willis Haviland Carrier installed his system in Sid Grauman’s Metropolitain Theater, which advertised its new system by saying that the theaters were “cool as a mountain top—the ice system does it … it’s always fair weather inside.” Then, in 1924, Carrier outfitted the Palace Theater in Dallas. Owner Will Horwitz gave the system a glowing review, writing “The cooling plant is revolutionizing picture show attendance in Houston. Each patron exclaims with delight when he gets inside the doorway. The plant is working perfectly. Our engineer says he has nothing to do on the job but loaf” [PDF].

4. “Yes, the People Are Going to Like It”

In 1925, Carrier installed his system in New York City’s Rivoli Theater, which heavily advertised its new toy. According to Margaret Ingels in Willis Carrier: Father of Air Conditioning, here’s how Carrier described the night later:

Long before the doors opened, people lined up at the box office—curious about 'cool comfort' as offered by the managers. It was like a World Series crowd waiting for bleacher seats. They were not only curious, but skeptical—all of the women and some of the men had fans—a standard accessory of that day.

It takes time to pull down the temperature in a quickly filled theater on a hot day, and a still longer time for a packed house. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the fans dropped into laps as the effects of the air conditioning system became evident. Only a few chronic fanners persisted, but soon they, too, ceased fanning. We had stopped them 'cold' and breathed a great sigh of relief. We then went into the lobby and waited for Mr. Zukor [the president of Paramount Pictures] to come downstairs. When he saw us, he did not wait for us to ask his opinion. He said tersely, “Yes, the people are going to like it.”

The Rivoli made $100,000 more that summer than it had the previous one

5. “An Actual Relief”

In a June 1925 article, a writer for the New York Times visited the Colony Theater and wrote, “When we entered … the other afternoon, we noticed, as we did at other theaters, the change in temperature, which was an actual relief. It was so comfortable that one dreaded going on into the hot sun.”

6. “The Naturally Pure Air of the Mountains”

When one Florida theater installed a refrigeration plant in September 1926, the St. Petersburg Times said that a visit “imparts the same physical exhilaration that you feel after a two-hour vacation in the naturally pure air of the mountains … now the theatre is a haven of comfort and pleasure, a place to be sought rather than avoided, regardless of the atmospheric conditions outside.”

7.“Many Compliments”

One of the first department stores to install air conditioning was Detroit's JL Hudson's in the summer of 1926. According to Marsha E. Ackerman in Cool Comfort: America's Romance with Air-Conditioning, Hudson's advertised that visitors could "shop in comfort. Pure fresh cool air makes shopping in the basement store a pleasure. On warm days it's 8 to 12 degrees colder in the basement store than street temperature." The building superintendent told Carrier that the store was "15 to 25 degrees cooler than outside ... we have received many compliments on the air condition in our store." A decade later, the store sent a testimonial to Carrier via telegram: "As the first large users of air-conditioning we have never regretted installation. Effect on business has been good beyond question."

8. “This is Not a Fairy Story”

In 1928, the St. Petersburg Times looked toward the future of air conditioning—the home. Giddily, the newspaper wrote,

"Press the button, John! And turn on the cold. This room is too warm to be comfortable," will say the wives of Johns all over the country some day. And John will push the button and in a few minutes the room will be comfortable. This is not a fairy story. It is a picture of a future modern home, electrically refrigerated … If you are astounded at this thought, reflect a few moments. The primitive caves of our ancestors were crude protection from the weather. Our forefathers later fashioned walls and a covering roof. Out of these attempts, over a period of time, has evolved the modern home, not only protecting those within it from the forces of nature, but actually harnessing these forces to serve those within the home. Think of it! Heat when you want it and as long as you want it. Running water. Electric lights. Electric labor-saving devices of all types, and then the newest development in the electrical field, electric refrigeration.

9. “This is regular Republican atmosphere”

In 1928, after complaints about the lack of fresh air in the Capitol building, air conditioning was installed and operational by the beginning of the next session. To quell the fears of Senators who were unaccustomed to cool air inside, fliers were posted that explained that "the sensation of chill experienced upon entering the Senate Chamber is due principally to the dryness of the air causing the evaporation of the slight amount of moisture of the skin. After the completion of this evaporation the body will be perfectly comfortable, for the actual difference in temperature between the inside and outside air is very small. No fear may be felt by the occupants of the Senate Chamber from the conditions produced by this new system of ventilation and air conditioning.”

Though the air undoubtedly increased comfort in the chambers, some still complained that it was too cold. According to Cool Comfort, John E. Rankin, a Democrat from Mississippi lodged the first complaint on May 28, 1929, saying "the atmosphere is too cool in this room. On yesterday it was 75 by thermometer ... and 91 degrees on the outside. Fifteen or twenty degrees difference is too much ... This is regular Republican atmosphere, and it is enough to kill anybody if it continues." His declaration was met with applause.

10. “Every Day Inside is a Fine Day”

Many publications covered A/C, and how it worked, with glee. In an April 1932 article, Popular Science noted that, “With complete air conditioning apparatus in the home, broiling August sun will mean as little as piercing January cold; every day inside is a fine day!”

11. "Just As Clean When Ready to Leave the Train"

In the early '30s, according to Cool Comfort, railroad companies began equipping their cars with air conditioning. Carrier employee L. Logan Lewis tested out an air conditioned car in 1932 and wrote to his aunt that "I am completely sold on air-conditioning for passenger trains. I was comfortable at all times and felt just as clean when ready to leave the train as when I entered it in Lexington, Kentucky."

12. "The President did not like air-conditioning"

Carrier installed an air conditioning system in the White House for Herbert Hoover in 1929, and replaced that unit with a better one in 1934, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President. But FDR was no fan: In a memo, Carrier employee Logan Lewis wrote that the president "had a strong dislike of air-conditioning and never hesitated to say so. The outspoken comments that he frequently made to the press gave the installation some pretty bad publicity." In 1952, speechwriter Samuel I. Rosenman recalled that "The President did not like air-conditioning. It seemed to affect his sinuses. He did not even use an electric fan ...; he never seemed to mind the heat ... at least he seldom turned the air conditioning on."

13. “Almost at the ‘touch of a button’”

Self-contained air conditioning units for the home finally debuted in the 1930s. In a 1935 issue of Popular Mechanics, the magazine described the machine: “Compact and so low in height that it fits below the window sill of the average home or office, a self-contained air-conditioning unit is ready for the market … Almost at the ‘touch of a button,’ it is possible to have the air cooled, dehumidified, circulated and filtered.”

14. “Doggone Cool”

Carrier took its A/C systems—including home units—to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. The company’s “Igloo of Tomorrow,” attended by Mr. Carrier and some snow bunnies scooping manufactured slush, opened on April 25, 1939; outside, the weather was 90 degrees, but inside, it was a delightful 70 degrees. As a visitor to the fair wrote in the Miami News a month later, “It’s always doggone cool in the Carrier igloo.” 

Boy’s Life magazine noted that “a manufacturer of air-conditioning equipment has a building resembling a huge Eskimo igloo, with a scintillating aurora borealis playing over the snow-white dome of the structure.” By 1940, people could literally cool their heels there. According to the Nevada Daily Mail, 

Holding out promise of a cure for the blight of last year’s fairgoers—"Fairground Feet"—this foot-cooling device called the "Cold Dog Stand," has been installed at the Carrier Igloo of Tomorrow, air conditioning exhibit at the 1940 New York World’s Fair, for the comfort of walk-weary visitors. Pretty Eunice Healey, Broadway musical comedy star, finds the gadget a real treat after roaming about the grounds. Cool air is circulated by means of suction fans under the comfortable foot panels at a velocity of 300 feet per minute, creating a feeling of "walking on air." A miniature air conditioning system under the hood cools and conditions air for the machine.

15. "The greatest contribution to civilization"

In 1947, British scholar S.F. Markham declared that "The greatest contribution to civilization in this century may well be air-conditioning—and America leads the way." In 1953, Fortune wrote "The rump of a room conditioner bulging out of the window is becoming as unexclusive a social symbol as the television aerial overhead."

16. "The Men Leave on Their Coats"

According to Cool Comfort, in 1954, both House Beautiful and House & Home magazines published the results of a survey of well-to-do Dallas and Houston residents about air conditioning in their homes. "When we have a party now, the men leave on their coats," one said. "We run our machine 24 hours a day," said another. "It costs us much less than we'd thought, and we save part of the cost in fewer restaurant bills." A Texas pediatrician declared that "there is no doubt that air-conditioning is better for children," while one woman noted that "The movies and the automobile broke up family life, but television and air-conditioning are bringing families together again."

17. “My Tips Are Bigger”

The first air conditioned cars debuted in the 1930s, and by the mid-’50s, most cars were equipped with it. In a 1958 issue of the New Yorker, the talk of the town section—written by M. Pittman and John Updike—recounted a cabbie who “readily confessed” that he used to hate hacking:

In the summer, it was a nightmare. Now I look forward to a day’s work; I can hardly wait to get out of the apartment. No more noise. No more dirt. No more heat. It makes you feel—you know—different, almost distinguished. You’d be surprised how many people see the blue sticker saying ‘air-conditioned’ on the window and stop me and ask just to be drive around awhile, to cool off. I figure business has improved twenty-five percent since I got my unit in. On top of that, my tips are bigger.

The hack concluded that "In about five years, all the cabs will have air-conditioning. It’s going to be real big business, real big."

Additional reporting by Roger Cormier and Arthur Holland Michel.

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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The Charming English Fishing Village That Inspired Dracula
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Whitby as seen from the top of the 199 Steps

The train departed King's Cross at 10:25 a.m. on July 29, 1890. Bram Stoker settled wearily into the carriage for the six-hour journey to Whitby, the fashionable and remote seaside village in North Yorkshire. The sooty sprawl of London gave way to green grids of farmland and pasture, and then windswept moors blanketed in heather and wild roses.

Stoker needed this holiday. The 42-year-old manager of London's Lyceum Theatre had just finished an exhausting national tour with his employer, the celebrated but demanding actor Henry Irving. The unrelenting task of running the business side of Irving's many theatrical enterprises for the past decade had left Stoker with little time for himself. When the curtains fell at the end of each night's performance, he may have felt that the energy had been sucked out of him.

Now he looked forward to a three-week getaway where he would have time to think about his next novel, a supernatural tale that harnessed the sources of Victorian anxiety: immigration and technology, gender roles and religion. In ways he didn't foresee, the small fishing port of Whitby would plant the seeds for a vampire novel that would terrify the world. Stoker started out on an innocent and much-deserved vacation, but ended up creating Dracula.

A photo of Bram Stoker
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Stoker emerged from the train station in Whitby, the sounds and smell of the sea would have restored him after the long trip. He loaded his trunk into a horse-drawn cab for the journey up the West Cliff, where new vacation apartments and hotels served the crowds of holidaymakers. He checked into a flat at 6 Royal Crescent, a half-circle of elegant Georgian-style townhomes that faced the ocean.

He often felt invigorated by the seashore: "He's finally on a holiday, away from the hustle and bustle of London, the Lyceum Theatre, and Henry Irving's dominance over him," Dacre Stoker, a novelist and the author's great-grandnephew, tells Mental Floss. "The ocean and the seaside play into Bram's life, and, I believe, in stimulating his imagination."

Stoker's wife Florence and their 10-year-old son Noel would join him the following week. Now was his chance to explore Whitby on his own.

The East Cliff with Tate Hill Pier in the foreground

"A curious blend of old and new it is," wrote a travel correspondent for the Leeds Mercury. The River Esk divided the town into two steep halves known as the West and East Cliffs. Down a tangle of paths from the brow of the West Cliff, Stoker found himself on the town's famed beach, where people gathered to watch the many vessels at sea or walked along the gentle surf. At the end of the beach was the Saloon, the nucleus of Whitby's social whirl.

"The enterprising manager engages the best musical and dramatic talent procurable, whilst on the promenade a selected band of professional musicians gives performances daily," wrote Horne's Guide to Whitby. Holidaymakers could purchase a day pass to the Saloon and enjoy afternoon tea, tennis, and endless people-watching.

Next to the Saloon, the West Pier featured a long promenade parallel to the river and a three-story building containing public baths, a museum with a collection of local fossils, and a subscription library. Shops selling fish and chips, ice cream, and Whitby rock lined the winding streets. Visitors could watch all kinds of fishing vessels discharging their daily catch, and even hop aboard a boat for a night's "herringing" with local fishermen.

Whitby's East Cliff had a more mysterious atmosphere. Across the town's single bridge, tightly packed medieval cottages and jet factories leaned over the narrow cobbled streets, "rising one above another from the water side in the most irregular, drunken sort of arrangement conceivable," the Leeds Mercury reported.

Above the ancient Tate Hill Pier, a stone stairway of 199 steps (which pallbearers used when they carried coffins) led up the cliff to St. Mary's parish church and its graveyard full of weathered headstones. Towering over the whole scene—and visible from nearly any spot in town—were the ruins of Whitby Abbey, a 13th-century pile of Gothic arches that had been built upon the remains of a 7th-century monastery.

"I think [Stoker] was struck by the setting. He's thinking, 'This is perfect. I have the ships coming in, I've got the abbey, a churchyard, a graveyard'," Dacre Stoker says. "Maybe it was by chance, but I think it just became that perfect scene."

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey

In Dracula, chapters six through eight kick the narrative into frightening action. By then, real estate agent Jonathan Harker has traveled to Transylvania to negotiate Dracula's purchase of a London property and become the vampire's prisoner. His fiancée Mina Murray, her friend Lucy Westenra, and Lucy's mother have traveled to Whitby for a relaxing holiday, but Mina remains troubled by the lack of letters from Jonathan. She confides her worries and records the strange scenes she witnesses in her journal.

On the afternoon of his arrival, according to a modern account compiled by historians at the Whitby Museum, Stoker climbed the 199 Steps to St. Mary's churchyard and found a bench in the southwest corner. The view made a deep impression on Stoker, and he took note of the river and harbor, the abbey's "noble ruin," the houses "piled up one over the other anyhow." In his novel, Mina arrives in late July on the same train as Stoker, mounts the 199 Steps, and echoes his thoughts:

"This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbor ... It descends so steeply over the harbor that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed. In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard; and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze. I shall come and sit here very often myself and work."

The churchyard gave Stoker a number of literary ideas. The following day, Stoker chatted there with three leathery old Greenland fisherman who likely spoke in a distinct Yorkshire dialect. They told Stoker a bit of mariner's lore: If a ship's crew heard bells at sea, an apparition of a lady would appear in one of the abbey's windows. "Then things is all wore out," one of the sailors warned.

Stoker ambled between the headstones that sprouted from the thick carpet of grass. Though most of the markers' names and dates had been erased by the wind, he copied almost 100 into his notes. Stoker used one of them, Swales, as the name of the fisherman with a face that is "all gnarled and twisted like the bark of an old tree," who begins talking with Mina in the churchyard. Mina asks him about the legend of the lady appearing in the abbey window, but Swales says it's all foolishness—stories of "boh-ghosts an' barguests an' bogles" that are only fit to scare children.

St. Mary's churchyard
St. Mary's churchyard, which Mina calls "the nicest spot in Whitby."

For the first few days in August, Stoker was occupied by the summer's social calendar. He likely enjoyed dinner with friends arriving from London, and went to church on Sunday morning. On the 5th, Stoker's wife and son joined him at 6 Royal Crescent. The next several days may have been spent at the Saloon, promenading on the pier, and making social calls, as it was the custom for newly arrived visitors to visit with acquaintances in town.

But Whitby's infamous weather had the ability to turn a sunny day somber in an instant. August 11 was a "grey day," Stoker noted, "horizon lost in grey mist, all vastness, clouds piled up and a 'brool' over the sea." With Florence and Noel perhaps staying indoors, Stoker set off for the East Cliff again and chatted with a Coast Guard boatman named William Petherick. "Told me of various wrecks," Stoker jotted. During one furious gale, a "ship got into harbor, never knew how, all hands were below praying."

The ship was the Dmitry, a 120-ton schooner that had left the Russian port of Narva with a ballast of silver sand. The ship encountered a fierce storm as it neared Whitby on October 24, 1885, and aimed for the harbor.

"The 'Russian' got in but became a wreck during the night," according to a copy of the Coast Guard's log, which Petherick delivered to Stoker. The crew survived. In a picture taken by local photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe just a few days after the storm, the Dmitry is shown beached near Tate Hill Pier with its masts lying in the sand.

'The Wreck of the Dmitry' (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
The Wreck of the Dmitry (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
Courtesy of the Sutcliffe Gallery

Petherick's account gave Stoker the means for his vampire's arrival in England, the moment when the mysterious East disrupts the order of the West. Mina pastes a local newspaper article describing a sudden and ferocious storm that hurled Dracula's ship, the Demeter from Varna, against Tate Hill Pier. The Coast Guard discovered the crew had vanished and the captain was dead. Just then, "an immense dog sprang up on deck and … making straight for the steep cliff … it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight," the article in Mina's journal reads. The dog was never seen again, but townsfolk did find a dead mastiff that had been attacked by another large beast.

Mina describes the funeral for the Demeter's captain, which Stoker based on scenes from an annual celebration he watched on August 15 called the Water Fete. In reality, thousands of cheerful spectators lined the quays as a local band and choir performed popular songs and a parade of gaily decorated boats sailed up the river, with banners fluttering merrily in the breeze, according to the Whitby Gazette's report. But through Mina, Stoker transformed the scene into a memorial:

"Every boat in the harbor seemed to be there, and the coffin was carried by captains all the way from Tate Hill Pier up to the churchyard. Lucy came with me, and we went early to our old seat, whilst the cortege of boats went up the river to the Viaduct and came down again. We had a lovely view, and saw the procession nearly all the way."

The final week of Stoker's holiday elicited some of the most important details in Dracula. On August 19, he bought day passes to Whitby's museum library and the subscription library. In the museum's reading room, Stoker wrote down 168 words in the Yorkshire dialect and their English meanings from F.K. Robinson's A Glossary of Words Used in the Neighborhood of Whitby, which later formed the bulk of Mr. Swales's vocabulary in his chats with Mina.

One of the words was "barguest," a term for a "terrifying apparition," which also refers specifically to a "large black dog with flaming eyes as big as saucers" in Yorkshire folklore, whose "vocation appears to have been that of a presage of death," according to an account from 1879.

"I do think Stoker meant for that connection," John Edgar Browning, visiting lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and expert in horror and the gothic, tells Mental Floss. "Moreover, he probably would have meant for the people of Whitby in the novel to make the connection, since it was they who perceived Dracula's form as a large black dog."

Downstairs, Stoker checked out books on Eastern European culture and folklore, clearly with the aim of fleshing out the origins of his vampire: Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, a travelogue titled On the Track of the Crescent, and most importantly, William Wilkinson's An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldovia: with Various Observations Relating to Them.

The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
Courtesy of Dacre Stoker

From the latter book, Stoker wrote in his notes, "P. 19. DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL. Wallachians were accustomed to give it as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous by courage, cruel actions, or cunning."

The Wilkinson book gave Stoker not just the geographical origin and nationality for his character, but also his all-important name, redolent of mystery and malice. "The moment Stoker happened upon the name of 'Dracula' in Whitby—a name Stoker scribbled over and over on the same page on which he crossed through [the vampire's original name] 'Count Wampyr,' as if he were savoring the word's three evil syllables—the notes picked up tremendously," Browning says.

By the time Stoker and his family returned to London around August 23, he had developed his idea from a mere outline to a fully fledged villain with a sinister name and unforgettable fictional debut.

"The modernization of the vampire myth that we see in Dracula—and that many contemporary reviewers commented upon—may not have happened, at least to the same degree, without Stoker's visit to Whitby," Browning says. "Whitby was a major catalyst, the contemporary Gothic 'glue', as it were, for what would eventually become the most famous vampire novel ever written."

Bram Stoker visited Whitby only once in his life, but the seaside village made an indelible mark on his imagination. When he finally wrote the scenes as they appear in Dracula, "He placed all of these events in real time, in real places, with real names of people he pulled off gravestones. That's what set the story apart," Dacre Stoker says. "That's why readers were scared to death—because there is that potential, just for a moment, that maybe this story is real."

Additional source: Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition, annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller


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