Before the container was developed, goods were moved from land to sea using crates, barrels, sacks, pallets and boxes. The loading and unloading of ships when they arrived at the dock was slow and labour intensive. Large items were hoisted on to the shore using cranes.
In 1953 Malcolm McLean, who ran a transport company in Conneticut, began to develop a shipping container that could be lifted from a lorry or a train and loaded onto a ship. In 1955 McLean sold his transport company and bought two old warships that could be converted to carry the containers he had designed. The maiden voyage was from Port Elizabeth, New Jersey to Houston on 26 April 1956.
At first, there was no standard for container size and construction; different companies used containers of different sizes. Then the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed standards for containers. This has made it easier to move containers between shipping companies in the US and elsewhere in the world. Wherever you travel these days there is always a container close by. Trains, ships and lorries now carry standard size containers that are a vital part of modern supply chains.