The National Business League

Founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington – August 23, 1900


Frederick McKinley Jones

Frederick McKinley Jones

Mobile refrigeration

The efficient movement of goods is vitally important to our society’s ability to thrive. Frederick McKinley Jones’ invention of a portable air-cooling unit for trucks allowed fresh foods, including meat and produce, to be shipped safely across the country. Prior to Jones’ invention, companies seeking to transport perishable foods would have to rely on ice and salt, and the food often spoiled before reaching its destination. His technology fostered healthier eating habits for Americans.

Jones’ mechanical skills were largely self-taught, first as a garage mechanic and later while working in the movie industry, supplying equipment like his device that allowed tickets and change to be automatically distributed to customers. A veteran of World War I, Jones also recognized the life-saving potential of his invention. The U.S. military used his portable cooling units to preserve food, blood, and medicine during World War II. His technology is still used on trucks, railroad cars, ships, and planes.

Jones received more than 60 patents during his lifetime and co-founded the U.S. Thermo Control Company, which grew into the Thermo King Corporation. He was the first African American to be awarded the National Medal of Technology, which was posthumously presented to his widow in 1991.