ESCONDIDO, CA -- The bulk vending and amusement industries might not have noticed the recent announcement of Keith W. Tantlinger's death on Aug. 27.
However, if not for Tantlinger, bulk vending, amusements and myriad other industries, small and large, would be very different. In the mid-1950s while working at Brown Industries, a manufacturer of truck trailers in Spokane, WA, he took a call from Malcolm McLean, the owner of Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corp., with an idea to create a truck trailer that could be stacked on ships.
Tantlinger set to work improving on existing, cumbersome containers by adding a locking mechanism at the corners and features that allowed a sealed container to be hoisted by crane from truck to ship, and ship to truck or railcar. The initial modifications were made to steel containers measuring 40 ft. long by 8 ft. or 9 ft. high.
The result was an "intermodal shipping container" because it can be transferred from ship to truck or railcar without directly handling the contents. The container also allowed shippers to transport far more goods than ever before at substantially lower costs. Ships could now carry thousands of containers filled with everything from raw materials to perishables over long distances, paving the way for globalization.
With their use taking off in the 1970s, the new containers were seen by some as the beginning of the end for American manufacturing, and this created fury among dockworkers' unions. Eventually, a global infrastructure was put into place to support container traffic.
In the bulk vending and amusement prize segments, container shipping enables imports of toys, plush and hard goods for venders, cranes and redemption counters of unprecedented quality at price points attractive to distributors, operators and consumers.
In 2009, Tantlinger was awarded the Gibbs Brothers Medal by the National Academy of Sciences, which recognizes his "visionary and innovative design of the cellular container ship and supporting systems that transformed the world's shipping fleet and facilitated the rapid expansion of global trade."
The son of a southern California citrus grower, Tantlinger was born in Orange, CA, on March 22, 1919, and earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He went on to work for Douglas Aircraft Co., an early incarnation of McDonnell Douglas, during World War II before landing a job at Brown Industries.
Tantlinger died at his home in Escondido, CA, according to a statement released by his family. He was 92. He is survived by his second wife, the former Wanda Gunnell Delinger; a daughter from his first marriage, Susan Tantlinger; a stepson, Daniel Delinger; and two grandchildren.