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Gradall: Where It All Began

What do you know about Gradall® Excavators?

You know that these machines can handle a wide range of work surfaces due to their unique range of undercarriage options and you know them for a notorious telescoping boom that handles the job with great efficiency. But, how did the Gradall Excavator come to be such a strong presence in so many industries?

We can thank 2 brothers from Holland that made their way to Cleveland, Ohio in 1920. Ray and Koop Ferwerda were involved in commercial and residential projects upon arriving and starting their lives in the United States. Their experience led them to develop their own company specializing in roads and bridges, water and sewer line installation, and site work.

At that time, much of the work was done with the use of rakes and shovels.

Can you imagine grading roadside embankments with only the use of hand tools!?

This challenging work was met with even greater obstacles with a growing shortage of available workers in the industry. The circumstances of the time led the Ferwerda brothers to create the Gradall Machine in an effort to do their work more efficiently.

By 1941 the brothers were able to rent a garage and begin the work of making their grading machine. They enlisted the help of 2 contractors, each with their own construction company, Ralph Werba and Donald Finlay. Together, the parties formed FWF Corp.

They presented the first Gradall in 1944 with a hydraulically powered telescopic boom and an excavating bucket mounted on the end with strong hinge pins for wrist action. The machine was successful in creating a trench and large hole in the ground.

The company went on to improve the machine's efficiency, creating two prototypes for testing and three production machines for sale by late 1945. After demonstrating the machine's versatility, an agreement with Warner & Swasey Co. of Cleveland was made to obtain rights to manufacture and market the Gradall.

1946 presented the first of 11 Gradall M-2400 lots and in just two more years it was introduced to the construction industry. The machine was recognized as a force for digging and grading that was unmatched.

Again, the Ferwerda brothers came to improve further upon the efficiency of the Gradall, offering up the M-2460 by the end of 1948. This machine design allowed better visibilitiy and a more comfortable cab environment for the operator by moving control valves behind the cab to the machine's structural framework.

In 1951, the year Highway Equipment & Supply Co. was making its start, Gradall was producing upwards of 20 excavators per month. By 1953, 4 different models of the M-2460 were available which included the truck mount, the truck mount with railroad guide wheels, the crawler mount and the wagon mount, making the machine- yet again- prove its efficiency in various work environments. It would now prove useful in the steel industry!

Fast forward a century from when the Ferwerda brothers landed in America, they were recognized by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers into the Hall of fame in 2020. The Hall of Fame honors pioneers of the industry that have had a major impact on the community's quality of life.

The Ferwerda Brothers are the third sibling team to be added to the AEM Hall of Fame. In their company... Cyril and Louis Keller (Bobcat) and Maurice and Douglass Steiger (Steiger).

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