Gradall began making its famous excavator in the 1940's, during a time wherein WWII had caused a scarcity of workers. This decline in the work force brought a huge demand for the delicate work of finishing and grading highway projects.
A Cleveland, Ohio construction company referred to as Ferwerda-Werba-Ferwerda faced this particular problem first hand. Two brothers, Ray and Koop Ferwerda had relocated to the USA from the Netherlands. They were partners in the business that had become among the major highway contractors within Ohio. The Ferwerdas' set out to make a machine which would save both their livelihoods and their company by inventing a model which will do what had previously been physical slope work. This invention was to offset the gap left in the worksite when lots of men had joined the army.
The first apparatus these brothers invented had 2 beams set on a rotating platform and was connected directly onto the top of a truck. They utilized a telescopic cylinder to be able to move the beams in and out. This allowed the fixed blade at the end of the beams to pull or push dirt.
The Ferwerda brothers improved on their initial design by making a triangular boom to produce more strength. After that, they added a tilt cylinder which enabled the boom to turn 45 degrees in either direction. This new model 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 much work to be done.
Many 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 that was also offered.