Tantlinger, Keith Walton

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Tantlinger, Keith Walton

Keith Walton Tantlinger, 1919–2011, b. Orange, Calif. Trained as a mechanical engineer, he was the inventor of the modern shipping container. After stints at Douglas Aircraft Co. (later McDonnell Douglas) and Brown Industries, a manufacturer of truck trailers, he went to work for Malcolm McLean at Pan-Atlantic (later Sea-Land Services), where he devised a means of locking shipping containers together and stacking them several containers high. Though containers had been used since the 19th century to haul heavy loads such as coal, the mechanisms Tantlinger devised in the 1950s allowed containers to be moved by crane onto ships that could hold thousands of them and then be offloaded onto trains and trucks; this intermodal shipping greatly reduced freight costs. This innovation, which made it cheaper and easier to ship goods manufactured in countries where labor and other costs were much lower than in the United States, was crucial to the development of international trade and globalization as well as to a decline in American manufacturing.

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