The story of Frederick Jones is one that inspires anyone who comes across it to strive to achieve more, and it also evokes pride, especially for Black people.
His achievements in the field of science and technology are so outstanding, that you might be tempted to name him the Black inventor of all time. But of course, there is no competition in the ingenuity of the Black man.
Just like many Black inventors of his time, and of all ages, he stands as a testament to the intelligence and contributions of the Black man to the advancement of civilization.
Frederick Jones did not have an easy childhood. He was born on May 17, 1893, in Covington, Kentucky, near Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, and lost his parents at the tender age of 9.
After the death of his parents, he was put under the care of a priest, in the state of Kentucky. He was supposed to finish his education under the guidance of the priest, but he could not. He was not compatible with the strict educational system he was getting.
At 16 years of age, Frederick left school and returned to his hometown, Cincinnati. When he got home, he ventured into mechanical engineering, first as an apprentice, and then continued to acquire knowledge in the field through self-teaching and application.
He later became a soldier and was deployed to fight for America in France, in World War I. During the war, he stood out for his skills and ability to fix military gears and apparatus, and that made him very popular among the Black and white units of the army.
After the war, he returned home and made a living from being a garage mechanic. With the experiences he had gathered over time, he created a gasoline motor that could start on its own.
He had a rare skill and mastery of electronic appliances and devices, and the surprising thing was that his expertise was self-taught. He would later gain employment aboard a steamship outside of the USA.
After working on the steamship and a hotel for a while, he returned to Hallock, Minnesota, where he started to design and build racecars, which he drove and used to compete in local race tracks and events.
History accounts that his favorite racing car was nicknamed “Number 15”, and that he designed it so perfectly and well that it defeated other automobiles in the races, and also once beat an airplane to a race.
While in Minnesota, he built a radio transmitter for the Minnesota city radio station. He also was employed to work as a mechanic on railroads by James J. Hills who had a famous farm in Kittson County.
Everywhere he went, he was a shining star, leaving in his trail, a mind-blowing collection of achievements and inventions.
Frederick Jones designed an array of devices for the movie industry, which was developing around the late 1920s. He invented a device which adapted silent movie projectors to use talking movie stock. He also went ahead to develop a device for the movie-box-office which dispenses movie tickets and then returns change to the customers. He also created a snowmobile.
His biggest and notable creation was the invention of the first automatic refrigeration system for trucks that travelled long distances and railroad cars in 1935. The refrigerators were roof mounted cooling devices, and they removed the risk of food spoilage when shipped and hauled across long distances. This creation of his would later be adapted to other carrier systems around the world, such as ships and railway cars.
His ingenuity and invention of the mobile refrigeration units led to the creation of the Thermo-King Corporation (Minneapolis) in the same year 1935. The activities of this corporation and invention changed the transport industry and the fate of transportation of perishable goods, with trucks, railcars, and ships.
Jones’s invention of the refrigeration unit changed the way Americans ate food. They could now have fresh food all year round, and in distant locations. This contributed to the growth of many businesses and industries around America and the world.
In line with this invention, he went ahead to develop an air-conditioning unit which was used for military field hospitals, and also the refrigerator for military field kitchens. With this he gave back to the military which he served in, and to the American people, and the world in general.
Frederick Jones is till today renowned for being of the most prolific Black inventors who ever walked the face of the earth. He had over 60 patents and inventions to his name, asides the mobile refrigeration system. He also inspired other Black people in America to follow their dreams and create systems that would better human life in general.
Frederick Jones died on the 21st of February, 1961, and exited the world as a genius, inventor and inspiration to the world.
His story is a motivation for Black people worldwide. It goes to show the ingenuity of the Black man, even when living in a hostile environment and under oppressive laws.
It is important to note that the era in which Frederick lived and achieved all of this was the period after slavery, when whites in America set up Jim Crow laws and all sorts of propaganda to decimate the wealth and collective wellbeing of Blacks.
If he could withstand all of it, and become great, you too can reach inside of you and bring out that which will stand you out and make the world better.