A Biography of John Standard

The Inventor of a Better Refrigerator

John Standard
John Standard - Refrigerator Design. USPTO

John Standard (born June 15, 1868) was an African-American inventor from Newark, New Jersey who patented improvements both to the refrigerator and the oil stove. Overcoming racial division in the United States at the time, Standard revolutionized the modern kitchen and was granted intellectual property rights to two patents throughout his lifetime.

Standard is commonly attributed with creating the first-ever refrigerator, but the patent issued on June 14, 1891, for his invention (U.S Patent Number 455,891) was a utility patent, which is only issued for an "improvement" on an existing patent.

Although there is not much known about the early life of John Standard other than that he was born in New Jersey to Mary and Joseph Standard and even less known about his death in 1900, Standard's improvements to kitchen appliances eventually lead to more innovations in both refrigerator and stove designs that would change the way people around the world stored and cooked their food.

Kitchen Improvements: the Refridgerator and Oil Stove

Throughout his career, Standard defied the racial norms of his time by delving into scientific pursuits of research into cooling devices and stove constructions—a pursuit that was usually very limited to the African-American community.

In his patent for the refrigerator, Standard declared, "this invention relates to improvements in refrigerators, and it consists of certain novel arrangements and combinations of parts." John Standard was saying that he had found a way to improve the design of refrigerators—a non-electrical and unpowered design, Standard's refrigerator made in 1891 used a manually-filled ice chamber for chilling and was granted a patent on June 14, 1891 (U.S. Patent Number 455,891).

A few years later, Standard continued working on innovations to improve the home kitchen, and his 1889 oil stove was a space-saving design that he suggested could be used for buffet-style meals on trains. He received U.S. Patent Number 413,689 for this improvement on the standard stovetop on October 29, 1889.