When you think of great American inventors you likely think of men like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Edison, and that is no surprise. These two men, and their inventions, gave a great deal to not just this country but the whole world.
But what if I told you there was someone who may be even more worthy of the title of Greatest American Inventor? That man was Oliver Evans.
Evans was born in 1755 in rural Delaware and was a prolific inventor. He either invented or drew up plans for items such as an amphibious vehicle (which was America’s first automobile), the machine gun, refrigerators, the high-pressure steam engine and much more.
But the invention we need to thank Oliver Evans for the most doesn’t seem nearly as impressive: that is, the automatic flour mill.
Evans and his brothers built a flour mill on some land they acquired from their father, and he went about his work of automating each process so that the creation of flour would go from grain to finished product without human intervention. With many Quaker millers in the area Evans was sure that he would be able to sell his invention, but for seven years he was unable to convince other millers to adopt the process. Finally, in 1789, a local mill owner installed Evans' automatic mill and was blown away by the cost savings it gave his company. Other mills soon followed.
The next year Evans was given the third U.S. Federal Patent for his automatic flour mill, which was personally examined and approved by then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.
Evans' inventions were often decades ahead of the times, and his hard work moved the Industrial Revolution forward and helped the U.S. become a manufacturing powerhouse.
In this episode of Cooking with Fire, Josh Cary and Chef Tom Jackson celebrate milled flour by making Federal Pound Cake -- on the grill.
- 1 lb cake flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 lb unsalted butter, room temperature
- 12 oz sugar
- 9 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat your grill to 325ºF, set up for indirect grilling.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugar until lightened in color and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.
- Add the eggs one at a time. About half way through, scrape down the bowl and continue adding the eggs, one at a time. When all eggs are incorporated, scrape down the bowl one more time. Add the vanilla extract, then mix another ten seconds.
- Fold in the dry mixture by hand in three stages, using a rubber spatula. Pour the mixture into a greased bundt pan.
- Bake at 325ºF until golden brown and springy to the touch, about 60-70 minutes.