Alexander Ashbourne Refines Coconut Oil
Alexander P. Ashbourne was born enslaved in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1820. By the time he was 60 years old, he received his third patent for clever culinary inventions!
This particular patent was for a process to refine coconut oil, which led to its widespread use in food, cosmetics, and other products. Ashbourne was awarded this patent on July 27, 1880, after spending three years developing the technique. He was building on the success of his second patent, which was also related to coconut oil processing.
His first patent award protected his invention of biscuit cutters, which he thought of during his years as a highly sought-after caterer in Philadelphia. He saw them patting out biscuits by hand and decided he could make that task simpler and revolutionized kitchens all over the world.
He later moved to Oakland and ran his own grocery store there until his death in 1915.