Today in labor history: air conditioning patented by black inventor

Today in 1949 African American inventor Frederick McKinley Jones submitted 3 patents: for an automatic refrigeration system for trucks; the starter generator; and a generator for cooling gas engines – and hence air conditioning was born!

Jones who hailed from Cincinnati, in his early years did not complete high school. His inventor’s expertise included such diverse fields as cars, electrical engineering, refrigeration, and cinema. As a new inventor he failed to apply for patents for several early designs, including a portable x-ray machine, nevertheless he went on to submit over 60 patents which had wide application.

The National Medal of Technology was posthumously awarded to Jones.

Photo: Minnesota Historical Society


Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.