I think I have seen photos of fork trucks in the late 30's, and I'm checking
thru my files for them. May take a bit though.
However, Gregg is correct that WWII and the needs of the Department of the
Navy accelerated the use of the pallet and forklifts.

BTW, I decided not to leave myself open and dug into my file
marked"forklifts / skids". The May 1941 issue of Railway Mechanical Engineer
has an article and picture of a very modern looking Baker-Raulang forklift.
The capacities were 2K and 3K lbs. The strenght of these units was given as
their hydraulics units. Previously, forklifts had relied on mechanical

Pallets or heavy skids appear to have been in use from at least the 1920s.
The hand lift trucks that were used to move them around were very similar to
hand lift trucks in use today in manufacturing and warehousing facilities
today. A May 1926 issue of Railway Age discusses a new Yale elevating
platform truck. The model being discussed used a mechanical lifting system
as opposed to later hydraulic designs and was similar to other lighter Yale
elevating platform trucks.

An article on the Milwaukee RR stock warehousing system has a picture of a
raising platfor forklift mounted on the front of a Fordson style tractor,
which is also pulling a dozen wheeled, loaded skids. Various issues of
Railway Age from the early 1930s show pallet jacks and forklifts being used
to move pallets loaded with bags of flour, pulp sheets for vineer plants,

One article from a 1931 Railway Age says that it had previously required ~3
days to unload a boxcar containing 13,000 cases of canned goods. It took ~ 4
hours to unload the same size boxcar load with 13,000 cases when the cases
were loaded into the boxcar on pallets, or skids.

Finally, an article in a June 1936 Railway Age discusses a new fork truck
capable of lifting 10,000 lbs and up to 72" long. I even found an article
about a Central of Georgia LCL terminal that reduced it's labor needs by
utilizing electric fork lift pallet, or skid trucks. The same was also true
of the L&N LCL operations in the 1930s.

I hope this helps somewhat. Forklift trucks were definitely in widespread
use in the 1930s. There is even photo documentation of the UP using forklift
trucks in the 1930s.

Larry Sexton

Forklifts were invented in several steps in the 1920's (Clark Forklift
claims to have invented the forklift circa 1916, but photos suggest it is
more of a tractor than a forklift)  These early forklifts were very factory
specific.  For example Clark produced truck axles, and adapted their early
trucks (the forklift industry calls forklifts "industrial trucks") to pick
up stacks of truck axles, and bins of parts.

Several companies developed production models (machines that we would
recognize as a forklift) in the early 1930's (Clark claims the first,
introduced in 1932)  By the late 1930's there were several manufactures,
(one of the most advanced was Buda, maker of a variety of RR parts including
pump cars, track scales, rerailing frogs and bumpers.) and forklifts were
becoming more common, but without pallets they were limited to in plant
transfers, or moving material such as lumberor pipe, which is inherently
forklift friendly.

I have been told, but can't find a document to prove it, that pallets became
common during World War II when the Navy required them for inbound shipments
of certain material.  It was rumored that they (the Navy) had to issue a
description and specification for pallets, since they were unknown.  World
War II Clark "Carloader" (Carloader, as in boxcar, many companies had
"Boxcar special" forklifts), with military serial numbers are still common
in California junk yards, and I have seen a Clark manual from the 1940's
which contains instructions on how to destroy the forklift to prevent if
from falling into enemy hands (assuming they knew what it was and had
pallets)  There are photos showing forklifts unloading ships in Skagway
Alaska, and loading freight cars of the White Pass & Yukon RR.

Forklifts (and pallets) were common in many industries by the end of the

Randy Hees

S.A. McCall