Orphaned in Kentucky and out on his own at age 11, Frederick McKinley ("Casey") Jones found his way to Kittson County, Minnesota, arriving in a snowstorm on Christmas Day in 1912. He was a self-taught engineer and inventor and was the first African American to become a member of the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers. While in Kittson County he built radios and a portable x-ray machine, and improved surgical instruments for the Hallock doctors. Casey built a powerful radio transmitter used by the newspaper editor to broadcast news for many years. He built a hook-up for the Grand Theatre in Hallock to give movies sound by photographing the vibrations of sound on the side of a film. He served in WWI as an electrician.
In 1929 Joseph Numero of Cinema Supplies, Inc., of Minneapolis persuaded Casey to work for him. From this association Thermo King Co. was born. Using Fred's ideas and designs, that company became the world leader in transport refrigeration production. This paved the way for the frozen food industry. Casey also worked for the U.S. Defense Department designing cooling units for field hospitals in WWII. He died in 1961 and was buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
His work and ingenuity were important not only to the local rural people in Kittson County but he went on to a company that became a worldwide leader in transport refrigeration because of his ideas.
~Cindy Adams and Karen Backlund, Lake Bronson, MN
Fred Jones' invention of providing refrigeration to a truck while transporting food items revolutionized the way we get food and supplies that are preserved with good quality, safe to eat, and from areas all around the world. His invention allows us to have kiwi from New Zealand and salmon from Alaska any time of year. Pharmaceuticals that are temperature-sensitive can be trucked into remote areas of Africa and save millions of lives. The shelf-life of foods lasts longer due to correct temperature-controlled transportation. In my mind, his invention has allowed us to experience other cultures through foods that are grown far away. It makes this world a better place to live.
~Kim Thorsen, Minneapolis, MN
He wasn't born in MN but he came here when he was 19 and lived here until he died. He invented many things in his time. One of them changed the world in how we get our food delivered today. He invented a way to refrigerate transport trailers - the rest is history.
~Dave Nelson, Mpls, MN
Truck Refrigeration The coming of truck refrigeration dramatically changed the country's food industry. Before this, people bought locally produced crops and, in the winter, relied on things stored in root cellars, canned goods or other foods preserved in the kitchen. Some food was shipped in railroad ice cars, but the invention of truck refrigeration allowed speedy and flexible delivery throughout the U.S.
The 1935 development is credited to Frederick Jones, an African-American who lived in Minnesota. He worked on farms, was a race car driver, and a self-trained inventor. A total of 61 patents were issued in Jones' name, including a portable X-ray machine,the movie ticket dispenser and air conditioning units for military field hospitals.
If you appreciate being able to get fresh or frozen foods from warmer climes in the winter rather than relying on rutabagas and salted pork, you might want to vote for truck refrigeration as one of the top 150.
~Steve Trimble, St. Paul, MN
Making Minnesota even colder
When you read the story of someone like Fred Jones, it's hard not to feel like a slacker by comparison. A self-taught mechanic, Jones held more than sixty patents, most for refrigeration systems. But he also invented a portable X-ray machine, an automatic ticket-taker, a sound-track movie projector, and a self-starting gas motor.
Born near Cincinnati to a poor African American family, Jones was orphaned and on his own by the time he arrived in Kittson County, Minnesota, in 1912. He started inventing early, building radios, the portable X-ray machine, and improved surgical equipment for local doctors. Stationed in France during World War I, he worked as an electrician. He returned home to Hallock, Minnesota, where he worked as a garage mechanic and raced cars. In 1929, Joe Numero, who sold equipment for the movie industry, persuaded Jones to come work with him in Minneapolis. It was during that time that Jones invented a box-office device that automatically distributed tickets and change to customers (patented in 1939).
One hot summer night in 1935, the story goes, Jones talked to a trucker who was frustrated because a load of chickens he was carrying spoiled before he could reach his destination. Drawing on his mechanical know-how, Jones built a refrigeration unit for trucks that was compact, shockproof, and automatic. Jones and Numero founded Thermo King Company to market their products, which soon included systems for trains and ships as well as for trucks. Today, Thermo King is the world's largest truck refrigeration company. So, next time you enjoy fruit in the middle of winter or salmon shipped fresh from Seattle, think of Fred Jones.
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