Celebrating Black History Month
February 12, 2022Jim Oswald

Did you know there are many Black figures in American history who have invented some of today’s most popular foods?

Frederick McKinley Jones
Portable Refrigeration

In 1935, Frederick Jones created the first portable refrigeration units, making it possible to transport perishable items, including foods, over long distances.

Frederick McKinley Jones was a prolific early 20th century black inventor who helped to revolutionize both the cinema and refrigeration industries. Between 1919 and 1945 he patented more than sixty inventions in divergent fields with forty of those patents in refrigeration. He is best known for inventing the first automatic refrigeration system for trucks. READ MORE

Alfred L. Cralle
Patented the First Ice Cream Scoop

Cralle was born just after the Civil War, later would go on to work as a porter at a drugstore and a hotel in Philadelphia, and developed the idea of the ice cream scoop while watching people struggle using two different spoons to get the ice cream into cones. Cralle’s mechanical invention, which is the basis of how ice cream scoops work to this day, was invented in 1897. READ MORE

George Crum
Invented the potato chip

George Crum was the chef at a restaurant called the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs. A customer came in around the summer of 1853 wanting extra-thin French Fries, frustrating Crum to the point he sliced them as thin as possible, fried them in grease, and sent them out.

The chips became a big hit, eventually becoming known as “Saratoga Chips.” While Crum never patented the dish, he did open his own restaurant, “Crumbs House,” that served a basket of them at every table.

Chips wouldn’t become a grocery product until 1895, and the concept of bagged chips didn’t show up until 1926. READ MORE

Abby Fisher
One of the first Black cookbook authors

Fisher was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1832. She learned to cook in plantation kitchens in the South, where she developed her distinctive style. After the Civil War, she moved to San Francisco in 1880 and opened a preserves business. Those close to her encouraged her to publish a cookbook; because she could not read or write, she ended up carefully describing her recipes to writers who assembled them for her. “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking” was published in 1881 (republished in 1995) and included 160 recipes, corn fritters, and okra gumbo among them. READ MORE

George Washington Carver
Creative uses for peanuts

It would be difficult to make any list of American food pioneers without mentioning George Washington Carver.

Though he did not, as popular folklore would have you believe, invent peanut butter, Carver did famously come up with more than 300 uses for peanuts.

Additionally, he helped support and spread the now-widespread idea of rotating crops to help combat soil depletion.

And, in fact, his many inventions of peanut uses were aimed at helping improve the profitability of the legume to better benefit farmers. READ MORE

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