Friday, April 13, 2012

Thomas Moore's Refrigerator, 1802 patent

A patent for a refrigerator (ice box) was granted to Thomas Moore and signed by President Thomas Jefferson. In 1802 Jefferson went to the Moore home in Montgomery County, Md to see the new Refrigeratory, and later bought one.

Jefferson sketched a picture on Moore's 1802 invitation to visit.  He paid “Isaac Briggs [Moore's brother in law] for Thos. Moore 13.D for a refrigerator” in 1804.  Jefferson was still using it at his home Poplar Forest in 1819.

In an 1803 pamphlet (28 pages) Moore described in great detail his new invention in his work, An Essay on the Most Eligible Construction of Ice-Houses. Also, A Description of the Newly Invented Machine Called the Refrigerator. Thomas Moore. Baltimore: 1803.  It was positively reviewed, with lengthy excerpts, in The Medical Repository NY: 1803 (13 pages).  Moore also wrote a lengthy letter to newspapers in Sept. 1802 with details.

The term refrigeratory or refrigerator had been used by brewers and distillers as “…part of an Alembick, or Distilng-Vessel, which is plac'd about the Head of the Still, and fill’d  with Water to cool it, that the spirituous Vapours may the more easily thicken into Drops, and descend thro' the Neck of the Vessel.”  [The New World of Words.  Edward Phillips.  1720] Atlee's refrigerator is the small part within the bucket on the left side [E] as part of the coils [Encyclopaedia Londinensis. London: 1810]

Although Moore called his ice box a 'refrigeratory' when he wrote to Jefferson, the following year, 1803, when he patented it, he used "Refrigerators (this being the most appropriate term I have thought of for the machines intended to be here described)."  

For Moore's refrigerator, a cooper made a cedar oval tub and lid.  The rectangular tin box, as seen in the sketch above, allowed space for ice between it and the wood.  Both were covered with cloth and rabbit skin.  He gave detailed information on the properties of the tin, wood, air space, cloth and skin to the cooling process.  

As a farmer who lived near Sandy Spring, Md. [his home, "Longwood"] he sent butter and other produce twenty miles south to Georgetown or Washington, D.C. markets at night.  By using his new box, the night travel was not necessary.  The butter stayed firm and sold for 4d to 5 1/2d per pound higher than other's butter, thus paying for the box after four trips.

Moore's trial tin box was 14 x 6 and 12 inches deep, holding 22 one pound bricks of butter each wrapped in "linen cloths as usual."  The tin became cold enough that the first layer of butter bricks "became so hard in a few minutes, that the remainder might be built upon it without injuring the shape."

Although his first purpose was to keep the butter hard for market, he wrote that housewives could use one in the cellar for provisions or in the dining room for  "liquids"; butchers could store their meat, rather than use salt; and "fresh fish may be brought from any part of the Chesapeake bay, in the hottest weather and delivered at Baltimore market in as good condition as in the winter season."
The cost to make his trial size box he calculated at $4.  For smaller boxes and for persons "in low circumstances" they could have a permit for free.  For various other sizes and uses, the permit fees to make a refrigerator from his plans ranged from "2 dolls. 50 cts to 10 doll."

Years after the patent, Thomas Moore and his invention were remembered by a man in Boston writing to a magazine.  "Our butter is brought to market [Boston] in a sad state in summer, and it makes me blush when I reflect, that for more than thirty years the Philadelphia market has been supplied with it [butter] packed in ice, and since Mr. Moore's publication, in Refrigerators. I. P. Davis, Esq. imported one from Philadelphia, some years since, with the hope that it might be adopted here."  [The American Farmer.  Feb 6, 1829.  Baltimore]
In the Philadelphia markets c1819-1825: “butter, too genteel to come in baskets to markets, must appear in boxes…”  [Hoding, Sarah.  The land log-book.  Boston [UK]: 1836]

Thomas Moore, a Quaker, joined the large Quaker community in the Brookeville/Sandy Spring area by marrying a cousin of Elizabeth Ellicott Lea.  Lea, the first Maryland cookbook author [Domestic Cookery. Baltimore: 1845, 1846, 1851 editions, with reprints into the 1880s] and her cousins inherited land from their Brooke ancestor.

Sources and further reading -

The American Farmer.  Feb 6, 1829
Encyclopaedia Londinensis. London: 1810
Hoding, Sarah.  The Land Log-book.  Boston [UK]: 1836
The Medical Repository NY: 1803
Moore, Thomas.  An Essay on the Most Eligible Construction of Ice-Houses. Also, A Description of the Newly Invented Machine Called the Refrigerator. Baltimore: 1803
The New World of Words.  Edward Phillips.  1720
Washington Federalists in The National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, Sept. 22, 1802    letter from Moore  

- Detailed biography from the Maryland Archives HERE
- Moore in Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia HERE
- For information on the multi-talented farmer and inventor, and for pictures of Thomas Moore and his home, "Longwood" go to the  Sandy Spring Museum website.  

Mary Randolph's 1825 refrigerator in her cookbook Virginia Housewife.  More in my post HERE

©2012 Patricia Bixler Reber

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