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The Clark Equipment Company is ultimately responsible for the forklift truck that we know today.
Around 1917, a group of workers at Clark Equipment Co. (originally Buchanan Electric Steel Company, located in Michigan) built a prototype cart called the Tructractor with a gas engine and three wheels to help move sand and rough castings around their factory. Though not easy to use and rather unsafe (the steering was reversed and there were no brakes), the fork cart had significant advantages over the platform trucks typically used in industry at the time. Visitors to the factory began asking for their own carts, but because of World War I the supplies were not available to the Clark employees to begin production.
This remained the case until an officer in the US Army visited the Clark factory and saw potential for the cart in transporting explosives during the war. Commissioned by the military, this led to the eventual production of the model Truclift that experts agree was the first hydraulic lift truck in the world. In the 1920s, the company began expanding, constructing a new facility in Battle Creek, Michigan, and releasing new Duat, CLARKat, CLARKtor, and Tructier models. In fact, the CLARKtor holds the record for the longest ever production span among lift trucks.
With these foundational steps, Clark went on to become the market leader in production of forklift trucks, providing 90% of the American Forces' tow and lift trucks during World War II.
After the war, Clark continued innovating with electric forklift models and a new production facility in Germany. For the next few decades, Clark acquired the forklift production branches of many other companies, but the early 2000s saw financial trouble for the company and even a production standstill in 2001. After filing for bankruptcy twice and changing ownership many times, Clark has existed as Clark Central Parts since 2003. Clark is now owned by a Korean firm.