Without Fred McKinley Jones There Would Be No Ice Cream Truck

In the early days of mobile refrigeration, ice cream trucks and other food delivery vehicles relied first on ice, and then dry ice to keep perishables cold. Until Frederick McKinley Jones came along. In the early 1940s, Frederick just so happened to invent refrigeration equipment that makes a child’s visit to the ice cream truck possible. The frozen aisle at your local grocer remains stocked largely because of Jones as well. But his innovations didn’t stop there. Jones would eventually be awarded 61 patents in his lifetime, 40 for refrigeration equipment, and 21 others for diverse inventions ranging from portable X-ray machines to movie theater ticket dispensing machines, gasoline engines, window air conditioning units, and ice cream making machines.

But the problem that would define Fred’s legacy came about when his boss, Joseph Numero, recounted a story of one of his buddies who complained about a poultry truck that got stuck overnight. All the ice melted, and the entire shipment was ruined. Numero was only recounting the story to Fred, but he took the problem seriously and decided to give it a shot.

The problem was twofold; vehicles lacked the power necessary to run a refrigeration system, and the vibrations present in automotive applications made existing refrigeration unfeasible. Fred’s approach was to invent a single unit for installation in the roof of any enclosure, made up of the cooling unit and the motor to drive it. This made it both compact and simple to repair. The use of a dedicated engine solved the power issue, and by using a thermostatically controlled motor (for which he was issued a patent) the refrigeration unit was automatic.
With Fred’s solution in hand, Numero quit the film industry so that the two could go into the refrigeration business together. They started the US Thermo Control Company, later called Thermo King. Thermo King quickly became a multi-million dollar corporation, which now employs thousands of people as a pioneer and leader in transport refrigeration. 

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