Born this day in 1835: Amanda Theodosia Jones (1835–1914), poet and inventor.
Can’t get that jar of pickles open? Blame Amanda Theodosia (sometimes spelled Theodocia) Jones. Jones, a native of East Bloomfield, New York, invented the vacuum process for canning food in 1872. She held five patents (three joint, two single) for the various processes (wet food, dry food, dehydrated foods, liquids). She founded a canning company in 1890. Jones believed canning was the preserve of women (pun very much intended), and insisted it be run by women only.
“This is a woman’s industry. No man will vote our stock, transact our business, pronounce on women’s wages, supervise our factories. Give men whatever work is suitable, but keep the governing power.”
It turns out that she was a better inventor than business woman; the company was short-lived.
In 1880 Jones perfected the design of liquid fuel burners for glass furnaces and steam boilers. She also perfected protection valves, which had many applications, including improving the safety of oil drilling. For these inventions she held an additional three patents.
Jones had her finger on the pulse of not only the food manufacturing industry and the oil boom, but also on the latest religious movement, Spiritualism. She became heavily involved in the movement and fancied herself a medium. She described her experiences in A Psychic Autobiography.
Despite being weakened and often incapacitated by tuberculosis, Jones had a parallel career as a writer. She published several volumes of poetry and contributed poems to a variety of magazines. She also wrote prose and did editorial work.
Below is a brief sample of Jones’s poetry from A Prairie Idyl, and Other Poems, a volume of poetry in which she demonstrates her keen eye and knowledge of the natural world.
“A Prairie Idyl”
Ah, then, all out of perfect skies
Rushed in the lover-bobolinks!
Like Paganini, music-wise,
Each bird will tell you all he thinks
On just that one-stringed viol.
Should Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn
Set awful challenges afloat,
This little master, all alone
Half-way in Heaven, would tune his throat
And dare them to the trial.
—Amanda Theodocia Jones
You can find free electronic versions of Jones’s poetry as well as A Psychic Autobiography on Google Books and elsewhere on the Interwebs.