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History of the Wooden Pallet | Take a Trip Back in Time

By: Johanna Mueller on July 24th, 2018

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History of the Wooden Pallet | Take a Trip Back in Time

Pallet Management  |  Pallet Company

The importance of pallets for our economy is often overlooked. The flat structured pieces of wood which are usually found in the back of grocery stores seem insignificant to most people. 

However, for approximately 100 years, wood pallets play an essential role in carrying, storing and displaying items. In addition, they are known for withstanding excessive weight and being easy to lift. Most importantly, wood pallets became one of the most environmentally friendly packaging and transporting material. 

Ultimately, our economy relies heavily on the ease and convenience that wood pallets provide. Let’s take a closer look at how wood pallets have evolved over the past century. 

Before the 20th century

While pallets and skids are different in their structure, it is important to mention that the usage of skids goes back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia. We can assume that skid-type structures 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 very late 1800’s. 

1920s and 1930s

The history of the actual wood pallet is relatively undiscovered. In 1924, we can find the earliest U.S. patent on a skid described as “Lift Truck Platform” by Howard T. Hallowell. During the 1930’s, new forklift types made pallets more common. In 1938, George Raymond filed for a patent concerning a new pallet jack design with essential features that are still in use today. The last notable patent made before WORLD WAR II, was Carl Clark, presenting a pallet with steel stringers, in 1939.

Development of the wood pallet during World War II

Generally, pallets were not widely used, although techniques of handling pallets have evolved over the 1920’s and 1930’s. 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 lesser amounts. In the beginning of World War II, lifting machines were rare and packaging cribs were poorly constructed which led to inefficient good storage and handling. As the war went on, the Office of the Quartermaster General came to acknowledge 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 got to fight this classification, the shortages of forklifts continued to create problems as half of the manufacturing was done overseas, in 1942 and early 1943. 

Patents after World War II

Developments made during the war were seen after World War II 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. Finally, Darling Graeme described the complete structure of a modern four-way pallet, also in 1949. Surprisingly, the first Europe-wide quality standards, nowadays known as the “Europallet”, were not established until the 1960’s. 

Pallets Today

The pallet industry is much more flexible and environmentally friendly, nowadays. Typically, pallets can be manufactured in all kinds of sizes and materials. Although wood is most commonly used, pallets made from plastic or metal as well. In addition, the usage of wood pallets has become much more diverse and exciting as many homeowners use pallets in their garden or as interior. Let’s also not forget the usage of mulch made from wood pallets on playgrounds. 



Pallet Consultants always provides the best service to our customers through offering customized pallets, recycled pallets and other packaging options. We also do many things to go green and protect the environment. 

About Johanna Mueller

Johanna Mueller is a participant in our 2018 PR Summer Internship program.