May 29, 2024

Black Entrepreneur History

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Frederick McKinley Jones – Inventor of the First Portable Air Conditioning / Mobile Refrigeration Technology

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American man named Frederick McKinley Jones who was an engineer, businessman and serial inventor with over 60 patents, one of the most known is his invention of portable air conditioning technology which is responsible for refrigerated goods being taken from place to place via railway, truck and even car across the nation and nations around the globe.

Frederick McKinley Jones was born in Cincinnati,Ohio on May 17, 1893. When he was a child, Frederick Jones ended up an orphan, and his education was cut short in the sixth grade. Frederick was eventually cared for by a priest who lived in Covington, Kentucky through the age of sixteen. During this time, a teenage Frederick worked odd jobs in order to earn money, one was in a bowling alley setting pins and the other was in a car garage where he assisted a mechanic until becoming the foreman of the garage in Cincinnati, Ohio.

It wasn’t long after that he quit that job to become a chief mechanic at a huge, thirty thousand acre farm in Minnesota before serving in WWI in France. After his service in the war, he returned to work at the farm while also picking up a unique hobby. He built race cars and actually raced them on the dirt track circuit which is how people really began to pay more attention to his mechanical skill.

His popularity grew when the 5 feet 11 inches tall, with black hair and brown eyes Frederick [1] was hired by a movie supply firm owned by a man named Numero who needed Frederick to work as an electrical engineer to enhance his audio equipment. It was there that he invented devices to adapt silent movie projectors into talkies which ended up much better quality than the commercial models. His were also less expensive, selling at $100 compared to the $3000 commercial models.[2] He also invented the ticket dispensing machine for theaters.

Soon and it was this job that put him one day in the arena of those who played golf for sport as he was bragged about through his employer. It just so happened that one of the golfers was a truck driver who transported poultry, but he had a problem with the poultry spoiling during transport. Jones’ employer offered to help with that, using Frederick Jones’ creative and mechanical talent, which led Frederick to his next invention – the mobile refrigeration unit that he crafted through junk parts. It worked! Jones had invented the first mobile refrigeration unit.

The year was 1935 that Frederick Jones invented a way to transport perishable goods long distances without the old way of using ice. He invented the very first automatic refrigeration system for long hauling in trucks which was then used in railways, airlines and even ships. Jones’ invention changed everything when it comes to food spoilage and medical transportation of vaccinations and blood which need to be kept at a certain temperature to remain in edible and useful condition. His invention is a global sensation, making it possible for the global economy we have today.

Not only did he revolutionize the way we keep food, Frederick Jones and Numero also founded the business – Thermo King Corporation – which went on to produce the mobile refrigeration devices for the country, which of course earned him not millions, but billions. Later on it was acquired by Ingersoll Rand Company in the year of 1997.

Frederick Jones’ mind kept turning, and he went on to invent air conditioning units for field hospitals for the military as well as a refrigerator for those field hospitals as well while also inventing the portable X-Ray machine, which is utilized in virtually every hospital around the globe.

Below are many, not all, of his 60 inventions, fully patented, between the years of 1935 and 1960:

  • Ticket Dispensing Machine
  • Air Conditioning Unit Design
  • Removable cooling units for compartments
  • Means for Automatically Starting and Stopping Gas Engines
  • Starter Generator
  • Two Cycle gas engine
  • Refrigeration control device
  • Method and means for air conditioning
  • Method for preserving perishable foodstuffs in transit
  • Apparatus for heating and cooling the atmosphere within an enclosure
  • Thermostat and temperature control system
  • Method and means for defrosting a cold diffuser
  • System for controlling operation and refrigeration units
  • Control Device for Internal Combustion Engine
  • Rotary Compressor
  • Means for thermostatically operating gas engines
  • Automatic refrigeration for long haul trucks
  • Engine Actuated Ventilating System

Frederick McKinley Jones’ Death

It was in 1961 on February 2nd that Frederick McKinley Jones passed away. Through this one African American man, the entire globe benefited, so he did not die without leaving his mark on this earth in a multitude of arenas. He was buried in Minneapolis, Minnesota, leaving behind his wife Lucille L. Jones.


  1. Registration State: Minnesota; Registration County: Kittson County
  2. New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania)24 Jan 1970, Sat Page 3