afriCalendar Highlights: Thomas Elkins

Dr. Thomas Elkins, pharmacist, abolitionist and prolific inventor, patented his invention of an improved refrigerator design 4 September 1879.

Dr. Thomas Elkins was a pharmacist, abolitionist and prolific inventor and designed many improvements for everyday items. Living in Albany New York he designed a new refrigeration device, that could also be used to store corpses.

Thomas Elkins patented his invention of an improved refrigerator design in 1879. He designed the device to help with the task of preserving perishable foods by way of refrigeration. Elkins had previously patented a dining, ironing table and quilting frame combined in 1870, and a chamber commode in 1872.

In 1872, a U.S. patent was issued to Thomas Elkins for a new article of chamber furniture which he designated a ""Chamber Commode"" (Patent No. 122,518). It provided a combination of ""a bureau, mirror, book-rack, washstand, table, easy-chair, and earth-closet or chamber-stool,"" which might otherwise be constructed as several separate articles. A patent was also issued to Thomas Elkins on this day in 1870 for a ""Dining, Ironing Table and Quilting Frame Combined"" (No. 100,020).

In the early 1840’s, committees of citizens were formed across the north with the intention of protecting fugitive slaves from re-enslavement. Thomas Elkins was the secretary of the Vigilance Committee. As slave catchers sought fugitives, Vigilance Committees provided legal assistance, food, clothing, money, sometimes employment, temporary shelter and assisted fugitives in making their way toward freedom.

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