Waving long feelers, scores of buglike vehicles scooted about Chicago's huge International Amphitheater. Like cocky midgets showing off giants' muscles, they hoisted enormous loads, effortlessly shuttled them about, gently set them down. The machines' exhibitors, the infant U.S. materials-handling industry, had a right to be cocky. They have changed the face of U.S. business.

The forklift truck, major instrument of the change, is at least 32 years old. But it was not until World War II, when the U.S. Navy used forklift trucks to perform prodigious feats of loading & unloading battle...

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