Amanda Theodosia Jones, Inventor and Owner of All-Woman Business
Amanda Theodosia Jones (1835-1914) was a multi-talented woman who was a prolific inventor and a frequently published writer. Her inventions were in two very different fields—food preservation/canning, and the use of oil as a fuel for furnaces. In 1890 she also started and ran an all-woman canning business.
Amanda Jones was one of 13 children, born in East Bloomfield, New York. She attended local schools, eventually training to be a teacher at the East Aurora Academy. She was 15 when she first started teaching.
At a young age she had tuberculosis, and she struggled with ill health throughout her life. The time she spent at home, however, was time Jones often used to write. She had her first poem published in 1854, and in 1861, a book of her poetry was published. Eight years later a second book of poetry was published.
In the 1850s, Americans were very taken with spiritualism, a religious belief that spirits of the dead can communicate with the living, generally through a medium. Jones became very committed to this philosophy and came to believe that she was a medium. Though a very practical woman in many ways, some of her actions were undertaken because she believed it was the will of the spirits around her.
Amanda Theodosia Jones: Inventor
In 1869, she moved to Chicago. She based this decision on advice from the spirits she believed guided her. In Chicago she wrote for several magazines, but also became interest in solving problems via invention.
The spirit of her dead brother indicated to her that there was a better way to preserve fruit. This inspired her to begin experimenting. The result became well-known as the “Jones Process,” which involved a device that permitted fresh fruit to be vacuum-packed. (Several sources indicate that she connected with a professor in Albany who provided assistance to her, but his name is not mentioned in any one of her many patents. Perhaps she paid him for certain work pertaining to the food preservation process, but Amanda Theodosia Jones is the sole inventor credited by the U.S. Patent Office, and it is important that she be given her full and due credit.)
In the late 1800s, oil was beginning to be used as a fuel source, and
Jones’ next project had to do with improving on the way that oil was fed into a burner. Her first patent in this field was granted in 1880 and was for use in businesses for the “purposes of steam-generation, metal-smelting, glass manufacturing, and the like.”
By 1900 Jones was back at work on improvements for food canning. By this time she was living in Junction City, Kansas, and felt there
were better ways to treat and sterilize the food that was being canned. Over time she invented processes for safely preserving and canning, wet food, dry food, dehydrated, food, and liquids. Three of these applications received patents in 1905, and the final application filed in 1900 was approved in 1906. It was for a process to sterilize and preserve food by drying it (dehydrating it).
In 1906 while still in Kansas, she returned to work on oil burners. She filed for three additional patents that were approved in 1904, 1912, and 1914. These essentially had to do with creating simpler and more efficient methods for burning fuel.
Formed All-Woman Business
In 1890, while still working toward improvements in the canning industry, Jones opened a business called the Women’s Canning and Preserving Company. In starting the business, she wrote: “This is a woman’s industry. No man will vote our stock, transact our business, pronounce on women’s wages, [or] supervise our factories. Give men whatever work is suitable, but keep the governing power… Here is a mission, let it be fulfilled.”
The business was not profitable, but it did not close until 1921. Other managers came in and took it over; it is not clear whether or not Jones maintained any tie to the business later on.
During the early 1900s, she moved to New York, still inventing and still writing. In 1905 she published a new book of poetry, and in 1910 she published her autobiography, A Psychic Autobiography, which focused more on her spiritual journey.
In 1914 Jones died of influenza.
While Amanda Theodosia Jones name is not well known today, she was listed in Who’s Who in America (1912-1913), and she was listed in the Women’s version of Who’s Who in 1914-1915.