Keith Tantlinger

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Keith Walton Tantlinger
Keith Walton Tantlinger (1958).jpg
Tantlinger in 1958
Born (1919-03-22)March 22, 1919
Orange, California
Died August 27, 2011(2011-08-27) (aged 92)
Escondido, California
Education University of California, Berkeley
Occupation Mechanical engineer
Known for Intermodal container
Spouse(s) Marjorie Cunningham
Wanda Mae Gunnell Delinger
Awards Gibbs Brothers Medal

Keith Walton Tantlinger (March 22, 1919 – August 27, 2011) was a mechanical engineer and inventor whose inventions played a major role in globalization.[1] Working with Malcom McLean, who spearheaded the container ship revolution in the 1950s, Tantlinger developed much of the early technology that made modern container shipping possible. His designs included the corner casting and Twistlock systems found on every intermodal container, the spreader bar for automatic securing of containers lifted on and off ships, and the ship-shore container transfer apparatus for the first cellular container ship.[2] In the course of his professional career, Tantlinger was granted 79 United States patents, all related to transportation equipment. Many of his patents related to commercial highway freight trailers and transit buses.

Life and career[edit]

Tantlinger was born in Orange, California, on March 22, 1919. He was educated the University of California, Berkeley, where he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. During World War II, he worked for the Douglas Aircraft Company (later McDonnell Douglas), where he designed tools used to produce the B-17 bomber.[2]

He married Marjorie Cunningham. They had a daughter, Susan Tantlinger, and they later divorced.[2]

In the 1950s, Tantlinger persuaded McLean that shipping containers should be built so they could be separated from a chassis, with strong corner posts and built so they could be stacked on top of each other.

Tantlinger also worked on the basic structure and many features of the Bay Area Rapid Transit cars for San Francisco and the rapid transit cars for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority.

During his career he also worked as chief engineer and vice president of engineering at Brown Trailers in Spokane; vice president of engineering and manufacturing at Fruehauf Corporation in Detroit; and senior vice president, ground transportation systems at Rohr Industries in Chula Vista, California.

On September 10, 1981, he married Wanda Mae Gunnell Delinger in Las Vegas, Nevada.[2]

In 2010, Tantlinger was awarded the Gibbs Brothers Medal by the National Academy of Sciences for his role in developing the expansion of world trade. He died in Escondido, California, on August 27, 2011, age 92.[2]


  1. ^ Leonhardt, David. "Lives they lived, Keith W. Tantlinger, b. 1919". New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2011. Tantlinger developed a lock that connected to the corners of containers and that crane operators could mechanically open and close from their seats. The lock, which led to the adoption of uniformly sized containers over the next 15 years, caused a revolution in shipping. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Margalit Fox (September 6, 2011). "Keith Tantlinger, Builder of Cargo Container, Dies at 92". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-08. ... The son of a citrus grower, Keith Walton Tantlinger was born in Orange, Calif., on March 22, 1919. (The family name is pronounced TANT-lin-gurr, with a hard “g.”) Mr. Tantlinger earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. During World War II he worked for the Douglas Aircraft Company, a precursor of McDonnell Douglas, where he designed tools used to produce the B-17 bomber. ... 

External links[edit]