The famous Gradall excavator traces its roots back to the beginning of the 1940s. During this time, WWII had caused a shortage of laborers because nearly all of the young men went away to fight the war. This decline in the labor force brought a huge demand for the delicate work of grading and finishing highway projects.
A Cleveland, Ohio construction business known as Ferwerda-Werba-Ferwerda faced this specific dilemma first hand. Two brothers, Koop and Ray Ferwerda had moved to the USA from the Netherlands. They were partners in the business which had become one of the major highway contractors in the state of Ohio. The Ferwerdas' set out to build a machinery which would save their business and their livelihoods by making a model which would perform what had before been manual slope work. This invention was to offset the gap left in the worksite when so many men had joined the army.
The first apparatus these brothers invented had 2 beams set on a rotating platform and was attached directly onto the top of a truck. They used a telescopic cylinder to be able to move the beams in and out. This enabled the fixed blade at the end of the beams to push or pull dirt.
The Ferwerda brothers improved on their first design by creating a triangular boom to produce more strength. Next, they added a tilt cylinder which allowed the boom to turn forty-five degrees in either direction. This new unit can be equipped with either a blade or a bucket and the attachment movement was made possible by placing a cylinder at the rear of the boom. This design powered a long push rod and allowed a lot of work to be completed.
Not a long time later, numerous digging buckets became available on the market. These buckets came in 15 inch, 24 inch, 36 inch and 60 inch sizes. There was additionally a 47 inch heavy-duty pavement removal bucket which was offered too.