Gradall began making its well-known excavator during the 1940's, during a time wherein WWII had created a scarcity of laborers. This decrease in the labor force brought a huge need for the delicate work of finishing and grading highway projects.
A Cleveland, Ohio construction company referred to as Ferwerda-Werba-Ferwerda faced this specific problem first hand. Two brothers, Koop and Ray Ferwerda had relocated to the United States from the Netherlands. They were partners in the firm which had become among the major highway contractors within Ohio. The Ferwerdas' started to make a machine that would save both their company and their livelihoods by making a model that will carry out what had previously been manual slope work. This invention was to offset the gap left in the workplace when a lot of men had joined the military.
The brothers initially invented an apparatus which had 2 beams set on a rotating platform, which was connected on top of a second-hand truck. They utilized a telescopic cylinder to move the beams in and out. This allowed the attached 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. Next, they added a tilt cylinder which enabled the boom to rotate 45 degrees in either direction. This new unit could 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 finished.
Not a long time after, 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 that was offered too.