Happy 53rd Birthday, Big Metal Box!

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There is no question that the shipping container is an invention that has changed our lives and our economies- goods that previously cost too much to ship can now be transported safely and inexpensively. World trade depends on them; Urban landscapes have been transformed by the virtual abandonment of previously crowded harbours. They are also a current favourite of the prefab housing crowd. BoingBoing suggests celebrating today as its 50th birthday; We suggest that they missed the boat. Shipping containers were common in Vancouver, Skagway and Whitehorse three years earlier.

staxxon folding container image

Nor was the Ideal-X the first containership; The Clifford J. Rogers beat it by two years.

We heard Marc Levinson, author of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger on the CBC Radio the other day and he was completely dismissive of the Clifford J. Rogers. We are not- while these do not look like standard ISO containers, neither did Malcom McLean's boxes; the ISO standard did not come into existence until 1964. ::The Magic Box: A history of Containerization, Peter Hunter 1993

And if you really want to go back for an American example,


The New York Central was moving big wood or steel boxes from truck to rail with a travelling crane that looks like any rail yard in North America today. ::Piggyback and Containers by David J. DeBoer