Frederick McKinley Jones is credited with transforming the food industry and America's eating habits with his invention of a practical refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars. Frederick Jones patented more than sixty inventions in all, but it is his invention of the automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks in 1935 that he is most famous for.
Fred Jones was born May 17, 1893 in Cincinnati, Ohio to an Irish American railroad worker and an African American mother. It's believed that his mother died when he was very young. Orphaned at the age of 9, Frederick McKinley Jones was sent to live and be educated at a Catholic church in Covington, Kentucky. Father Edward A. Ryan, a Catholic priest, took care of the boy and encouraged his interest in mechanics. He gave him responsibilities around the church and rectory which included cleaning, cooking, maintenance, and grounds work. Fred Jones had a very limited education., quitting school in the eighth grade and returning to Cincinnati when he was 16.
Frederick Jones found a job as an apprentice automobile mechanic, boosting his natural mechanical ability and inventive mind with independent reading and study. In 1912, Jones moved to Hallock, Minnesota, where he worked as a mechanic on a 50,000-acre farm. After service with the U.S. Army in World War I, Jones returned to Hallock. He continued his mechanic's work, but also studied electronics on his own. His skills grew to the point where he was able to build a transmitter for the town's new radio station. He also invented a device to combine sound with motion pictures, the beginnings of the modern movies with sound. His skills quickly attracted attention and in 1930 Joseph Numero of Minneapolis, Minnesota, hired Frederick Jones to improve the sound equipment made by his firm, Cinema Supplies Inc.
In 1935 Jones began work on the invention that was to make him famous. One day while Joseph Numero was playing golf with a farmer, the farmer complained that he had lost many truckloads of his crops because they had spoiled during the shipping. Knowing Frederick Jones skills as a gifted inventor, Numero said that perhaps his company could build a truck to solve the problem of food’s spoiling while it was being taken across the country. Frederick Jones quickly went to work on his new project, putting old odds and ends of machinery together. When he had finished building his machine, he attached it to a truck.
His invention was a success and Jones had created the first mechanically refrigerated truck. This meant that food could be shipped longer distances across the country without spoiling. Fresher and better food would be awaiting the American people in stores. Joseph Numero quickly expanded and began a new company, Thermo King, which is still thriving today. Naming Frederick Jones as the Vice- President, the mechanical refrigerating system was soon placed in ships and railway cars.
Jone's refrigeration unit for trucks, was compact and shock-proof, as well as automatic. He used his own self-starting motor (patented 1949). During World War II, the army was able to use Frederick Jone's refrigeration truck to transport blood, saving countless lives. He also developed an air-conditioning unit for military field hospitals, and a refrigerator for military field kitchens