Gradall began producing its famous excavator during the 1940's, during a time wherein the second World War had created a scarcity of workers. This decrease in the labor force brought a huge demand for the delicate work of grading and finishing highway projects.
A Cleveland, Ohio construction company referred to as Ferwerda-Werba-Ferwerda experienced this specific problem first hand. Two brothers, Koop and Ray Ferwerda had moved to the USA from the Netherlands. They were partners in the business that had become one of the major highway contractors within the state of Ohio. The Ferwerdas' started to make a machinery that would save their livelihoods and their company by making a unit that would carry out what had before been physical slope work. This creation 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, that was fixed on top of a used truck. They used a telescopic cylinder to move the beams out and in. This allowed the connected blade at the end of the beams to pull or push dirt.
After a short time, the Ferwerda brothers improved on their initial design. They made a triangular boom to produce more power. Then, they added a tilt cylinder which enabled the boom to rotate 45 degrees in either direction. This new model could be outfitted 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 a lot of work to be finished.
Not a long time later, 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 which was also offered.