History of the Wooden Pallet | Pallet Consultants
Pallets are indispensable to our modern economy and have roots dating back to ancient times.
Wooden pallets have been in use for over 80 years, and their precursor, skids, have potentially been used since ancient history. These packaging and transportation solutions can carry heavy weights, make moving items easier and are easy to repair and recycle. For more information on the changes pallets have gone through and where pallet design might go in the future, start a conversation with us.
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Before the 20th Century
While pallets and skids (pallets with no bottom deckboards) have some differences, it's important to mention that skids have been used as far back as Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It appears that skid-like objects were utilized at least since the 1st millennium B.C. Later, wooden skids appeared as a unit-load base designed to move goods in American factories in the late 1800s.
1920s and 1930s
The history and invention of the pallet is relatively obscure and up for some debate. The earliest U.S. patent on a skid can be found from 1924, describing the invention as a “lift truck platform” by Howard T. Hallowell. During the '30s new forklift types made skids more common. In 1938, George Raymond filed for a patent containing a new pallet jack design with features that are still in use today. It's likely that the first pallets were created around this time, as pallets are just skids with bottom deckboards and pallets were used in World War II.
Pallets in World War II
A relatively new invention, pallets were not in wide use at the beginning of the war and pallet handling techniques evolved in the '30s. Before World War II, pallet production was slim due to the lack of capital available for investment in equipment, especially in the military. Fortunately, there was some progress made in the private sector, but pallets were typically produced locally and in small amounts. In the beginning of World War II, lifting machines were rare and packaging cribs were poorly constructed, leading to inefficient storage and handling.
As the war continued, the United States Office of the Quartermaster General acknowledged the necessity for a more efficient handling system. After conducting studies on materials used for handling equipment in the industry, the office concluded that forklift trucks and pallets composed the most efficient system. Considered a luxury good, the production of forklifts was not a priority. Although the office eventually fought this classification, the shortages of forklifts continued to create problems as half of the manufacturing was done overseas in the early '40s.
Pallets after World War II
Many developments in pallets and logistics made during the war weren't put into wide use until the fighting was over. Consequently, we can find a patent filed by Robert Braun in 1945 on a four-way pallet. The first patent for a disposable pallet type was registered in 1949, under Norman Cahners who served as a U.S. Navy Supply Officer. That same year Darling Graeme described the complete structure of a modern four-way pallet. The first European dimensional and quality standards, known today as the Europallet, were not established until the 1960’s.
The modern pallet industry is a thriving and global business that supports the world's globalized economy. Our interconnected international trade would not be possible without pallets. As material sciences have advanced, so has pallet and their possibilities. Now available in wood, plastic and metal, pallets are made in every possible size, shape and construction style. Computer software has also allowed for the digital testing and design of pallets, making them more diverse and useful than ever. To learn more about modern pallet design and the future of the pallet industry, start a conversation with us.
Pallet Consultants is a national pallet manufacturer offering a wide variety of pallet products including recycled pallets, specialty pallets, custom-sized pallets, new pallets and more. We provide quality pallets and pallet retrieval services to industries around the country. Start a conversation with our expert team to see how we can meet the pallet needs of your operation.