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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Matson container in Long Beach

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Matson container in Long Beach
Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Paula Johnson


This object appears in the following sections:

Making the Exhibition
Container Back Story — Imagining the Setting

Matson container in Long Beach
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection
This photograph shows one of the 1970s aluminum shipping containers that was refurbished and donated by the Matson Navigation Company for display in the "Transforming the Waterfront" section of "America on the Move." It was being stored at the Matson Terminal in Long Beach, California, prior to its restoration.
Physical Description
Date Made:
Dates Used:
2002 - 2002
California, Hawaii

Containerization transformed the way cargos are loaded and moved among ships, trucks, and trains. As the industry developed in the 1950s and '60s, there was disagreement over the ideal size for containers. Setting industry standards was crucial to developing a system that would work on all three surface modes of transport--water, road, and rail--and be interchangeable among shipping companies. Eventually, 20- and 40-foot-long containers became the industry standard. But the Matson Company determined that 24-foot containers best suited their service between the West Coast and Hawaii and they continued using them. In the first six months of the year 2000, only 1% of the 3.7 million containers on the West Coast were 24-footers. By contrast, nearly 72% were 40-foot-long containers.

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