So Minnesota: Portable air cooling unit

One inventor changed the world by revolutionizing the food industry.

In 1893 Fredrick Jones was born in Kentucky. When he was 19, Jones moved to Hallock, Minnesota, to work as a mechanic on a farm owned by railroad tycoon James J. Hill.

During World War I,  Jones served in an all-Black unit and was promoted to Sergeant working as an electrician.

“When his superiors found out about his mechanical and electrical skills, they kind of took him away from the infantry duties and sent him to electrify the camp,” said Annie Johnson, Minnesota History Center Museum manager.

After the war, Jones met Twin Cities entrepreneur Joe Numero who had a friend in the trucking industry that shipped frozen chickens from Chicago to Minneapolis. Numero made a bet with his friend that Fredrick Jones could create a mobile refrigeration system to keep food from spoiling. In 1938 Jones designed the first portable air cooling unit.

“It really did create the frozen food industry,” Johnson said. ” This allowed for reliable cooling to keep goods frozen or refrigerated long distances so you could transport things not only between the cities in the midwest but from overseas.”

Jones passed away in 1961. Three decades after his death, Jones became the first African American to receive the National Medal of Technology Award.