Liftomatic’s History – Part II

One of the early 2-FTA models on a forklift with four drums strapped together - circa 1957.

As we talked about earlier, Liftomatic got its start in 1947 when a small group pooled their resources together around a great idea, bought a fair amount of military production equipment at a discount (production equipment that no longer had any use after World War Two) in order to help produce it, then established a factory in Chicago to help the process get rolling along. The massive volume of steel drum containers generated by the war had turned steel drums into the standard means of international shipping. Armed with its first great innovation, the Parrot Beak drum-handler, Liftomatic knew that the market for its products would be big to say the least.

Obviously, the war spurred the development of other post-war industries beyond just drum handling. For instance, the war had made it necessary for heavy equipment handling technology to be developed and produced rapidly. One such company, Clark Material Handling, profited heavily from furnishing Allied armies with its forklift trucks and tow tractors. It was widely reported that by war’s end Clark had produced somewhere around 90% of the total number of forklift trucks and tow tractors in the Allied arsenal. Just like the steel drum container, the forklift became ubiquitous in American warehouses and factories after the war.

With the advent of the Korean War in 1950, American armies again found themselves hauling steel drum barrels in vast numbers as a means of re-supply. Unlike the previous war, American forces began the Korean conflict with a huge number of forklifts. But the more things changed, the more old problems re-surfaced. The American military experienced the same accidents with steel drum barrels on forklifts that they’d experienced previously with hand-carts. Bulky and unwieldy, the drum barrels fell. A new solution for a new era needed to be implemented.

That’s where Liftomatic came to the rescue again. The military was already using our Parrot Beak drum-handlers to lift individual drums. Why not use our Parrot Beak technology on the fronts of forklifts?

We quickly developed and began supplying the American armies in Korea with forklift-mounted drum handlers. These new handlers were capable of carrying a much larger volume of cargo: steel drums could now be lifted four at a time when needed. They were ideal for the huge ongoing supply operations the US 8th Army had going in Pusan, where one forklift could easily be tasked with handling thousands of drum containers per month.

Thus it came about that a Liftomatic product was actually essential in helping the US achieve victory on the Korean peninsula in 1953.

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