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Tue, 05.17.1892

Frederick McKinley Jones, Inventor born

Frederick M.Jones

This date in 1893 marks the birth of Frederick Jones, a Black inventor.

Frederick McKinley Jones was born in Covington, Kentucky, near Cincinnati, Ohio.  He served in France in World War I. After he returned home, he worked as a garage mechanic, and with this experience, he developed a self-starting gasoline motor. His mastery of electronic devices was largely self-taught through work experience and the inventing process.

After brief stints working aboard a steamship and a hotel, Jones moved to Hallock, Minnesota, began designing and building race cars and drove them at local tracks and at county fairs. His favorite car was known as Number 15 and was so well designed that it defeated other automobiles and once won a race against an airplane.  He soon took a job as a mechanic on railroad magnate James J. Hill's farm in Kittson County.

In the late 1920s, Jones designed a series of devices for the developing movie industry, which adapted silent movie projectors to use talking movie stock. He also developed an apparatus for the movie box office that delivers tickets, and returns change to customers. He also invented a snowmobile. Frederick Jones was granted more than 40 patents in the field of refrigeration.

In 1935, he invented the first automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks and railroad cars 1935 (a roof-mounted cooling device). This system eliminated the risk of food spoilage during long-distance shipping trips and was later adapted to other common carriers, including ships and railway cars.  His patent was issued in 1949.

Jones's pioneering designs for mobile refrigeration units led to the Thermo-King Corporation (Minneapolis) formation in 1935 and revolutionized the field of transport refrigeration for trucks, railcars, and ships.  His invention radically altered American consumers' eating habits; now, people could eat fresh produce across the United States during the middle of summer or winter. Frederick Jones also developed an air-conditioning unit for military field hospitals and a refrigerator for military field kitchens.

Jones was one of the most prolific Black inventors ever. Frederick Jones patented more than 60 inventions but is best known for inventing a practical automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks died on February 21, 1961.

To become a Mechanical engineer
To become an auto service mechanic


MST Hall of

Minnesota Historical Society
345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN 55102-1906

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