Thank You to the Man Behind the Can

Ever wonder who in the world came up with packing items into a metal container that can withstand the moist ocean air, harsh weather, and make its way across the globe and back again?  Malcom P. McLean was his name. He was a trucker who owned the one of the largest trucking fleets in the United States at the time, and in 1956, he invented and patented the first shipping container.

How did he come up with the idea? 

Trucker Malcom was at the end of a trip from Fayetteville, NC to Hoboken, New Jersey, where he was delivering cotton bales and was forced to wait hours upon hours, watching trucks be unloaded crate by crate, then loaded onto the vessel crate by crate.  He recalled:

“I had to wait most of the day to deliver the bales, sitting there in my truck, watching stevedores load other cargo. It struck me that I was looking at a lot of wasted time and money. I watched them take each crate off the truck and slip it into a sling, which would then lift the crate into the hold of the ship.” [Source]


For the next 19 years, Malcom concentrated on his trucking business before he was able to turn his recollection into anything. As states started to adopt different weight regulations, he turned to that idea he had almost two decades prior.

container history

According to the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, “He believed ‘that ships would be a cost effective way around shoreside weight restrictions . . . no tire, no chassis repairs, no drivers, no fuel costs . . . Just the trailer, free of its wheels. Free to be lifted unencumbered. And not just one trailer, or two of them, or five, or a dozen, but hundreds, on one ship.’ In many ways, McLean’s vision was nothing new. As far back as 1929, Seatrain had carried railroad boxcars on its sea vessels to transport goods between New York and Cuba. In addition, it was not uncommon for ships to randomly carry large boxes on board, but no shipping business was dedicated to a systematic process of hauling boxed cargo.”

There’s a lot more to his story, where he was seen as a leader in the shipping industry, and still is today. And if you were wondering, shipping containers like this, including actual box cars, had been around before this time.  What he was known for was the standardization and making the process more efficient…. Something technology and innovation does for us every day.

It is all around us and we have a lot to be thankful for.

And so we challenge you….

This year, as you sit at your modern-day Thanksgiving feast, look around the table and think about how domestic and international logistics, and the man behind the can made this year’s meal happen for you.  Think about the parts of the machines to the actual machines that produced the products around the table.  Think about the meal and its ingredients, along with the containers they came in.  Think about the clothes you’re wearing, the television you’re watching the game on, the footballs being thrown, and the potential gifts being advertised for Black Friday.  Amazing, isn’t it?  The world really is a small place.

We thank the man behind the can for standardizing the shipping process, and all the innovative leaders that continue to make supply chains easier and more efficient.  But most importantly, it’s the people around us every day that matter.  The people that come up with ideas. The people that create organizations. The people that implement.  The people, like our clients, are the ones that make this small world go round.

It is common knowledge that Scarbrough’s core values are centered around its people.  For nearly 35 years, Scarbrough’s foundation of growth has been positioned around the motto of “one client, one employee at a time.”  Scarbrough makes it a regular habit to give thanks and so the holiday week should be no exception.  Our foundation of success is built on understanding and exceeding our clients’ and employees’ wants and needs, making our reputation known as the best customer service there is and the best place to work.

history of container

Scarbrough Gives Thanks

Scarbrough’s owners are behind the servanthood mentality that Scarbrough permeates day in and day out, by being servant leaders in their church, local communities, as well as abroad. The employees of Scarbrough are thankful to be part of such an amazing, giving organization, making it easy to feel like part of the “Scarbrough family.”  And our clients feel the same.  We are truly thankful to our Scarbrough leaders, our clients and our partners.  Thank you.

So, we wanted to give you, our clients a shout out.  We give our profound thanks to our clients for your loyalty and partnerships, and we value the personal and professional relationships we have developed through the years.  We look forward to continuing those relationships into the new year and we are excited to see what’s ahead!  As global trade evolves, more than ever, Scarbrough and our expert team looks forward to being an integral part in your suppl y chain.  A sincere thank you to everyone who has impacted our business.

If you would like to write a comment or say thanks to Scarbrough, we’d love to hear from you.  Please email or write a review here.


Want to know more about the history of international shipping?  Check out this cool video.

More on the History of the Container