The well-known Gradall excavator traces its roots back to the beginning of the 1940s. During this time, the second World War had created a shortage of laborers because the majority of the young men went away to fight the war. This decrease in the work force brought a huge demand for the delicate work of finishing and grading highway projects.
Ferwerda-Werba-Ferwerda was a Cleveland, Ohio based construction business that faced this specific dilemma first hand. Ray and Koop Ferwerda were brothers who had relocated from the Netherlands. They were partners in the firm which had become one of the major highway contractors within the state of Ohio. The Ferwerdas' set out to make an equipment which would save their livelihoods and their business by inventing a unit which would do 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 move the beams in and out. This enabled the connected blade at the end of the beams to push or pull dirt.
The Ferwerda brothers improved on their first design by making a triangular boom to create more strength. Next, they added a tilt cylinder which allowed the boom to rotate 45 degrees in either direction. This new unit could be outfitted with either a blade or a bucket and the attachment movement was made possible by placing a cylinder at the back of the boom. This design powered a long push rod and allowed much work to be done.
Many digging buckets were introduced to the market not long after. These buckets in sizes varying from 15 inch, 24 inch, 36 inch and 60 inch buckets. There was also a 47 inch heavy-duty pavement removal bucket that was also offered.