Gradall began producing its famous excavator during the 1940's, during a time in which WWII had created a scarcity of workers. This decline in the labor force brought a huge demand for the delicate work of grading and finishing highway projects.
Ferwerda-Werba-Ferwerda was a Cleveland, Ohio based construction company which experienced this particular problem first hand. Ray and Koop Ferwerda were brothers who had moved from the Netherlands. They were partners in the company that had become amongst the leading highway contractors within Ohio. The Ferwerdas' set out to make a machine which will save both their company and their livelihoods by making a unit which will perform what had before been manual slope work. This invention was to offset the gap left in the workplace when so many men had joined the army.
The initial apparatus these brothers created had 2 beams set on a rotating platform and was connected 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 connected blade at the end of the beams to push or pull dirt.
After a short time, the Ferwerda brothers improved on their initial design. They made a triangular boom to create more power. Next, they added a tilt cylinder that allowed the boom to turn forty-five degrees in either direction. This new unit can be equipped with either a bucket or a blade 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.
Numerous digging buckets became available on the market not long after. These buckets in sizes ranging from 15 inch, 24 inch, 36 inch and 60 inch buckets. There was additionally a 47 inch heavy-duty pavement removal bucket which was offered too.