Bobcat: 50 Years Of Skid-Steer Loaders

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | August 2008 Vol. 63 No. 8
Cyril Keller, co-inventor of the compact loaders, is shown using the original Melroe skid-steer loader for a marketing demonstra

Throughout 2008, the Bobcat Company is having a special celebration with a variety of activities and special events.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the development of the first compact loader, the machine that initiated the compact equipment revolution. In the years that followed, Bobcat has become one of the best known brands of construction equipment, primarily for its ubiquitous Bobcat skid steer loader.

Of course, today's Bobcat equipment line-up includes not only skid steer loaders, but compact track loaders, compact excavators, tractors, utility vehicles, material handling equipment and a wide selection of attachments that extend the capabilities of basic equipment models.

The 50th anniversary commemorates the Melroe Manufacturing Company's acquisition of rights to a small, self propelled loader invented by brothers Cyril and Louis Keller. That invention quietly launched the revolution of compact, highly maneuverable construction equipment.

Part of the anniversary celebration is publication of Bobcat: Fifty Years of Opportunity, a comprehensive history of the company, its inventions and innovations, product line and more. It is fully illustrated with photos of early equipment and the pioneers who developed the products and company, reproductions, early advertising and promotional material and reflections of current and former employees.

The following very brief summary of key events is based on information contained in the book.

The Keller brothers operated a blacksmith shop in Rothsay, MN, and designed and built a three wheel machine for a customer who was looking for a way to speed the task of cleaning the barns on his turkey farm. The Kellers' solution was a machine that was lightweight, maneuverable and had enough power to handle the barn cleaning work. There was no other machine like it. Although the loader worked well for barn cleaning and the turkey farmer was pleased with its performance, the Kellers saw several changes that could make their invention even better. They went back to work and made several changes, adding a clutch drive transmission. In 1957, the Kellers patented the loader's clutch design and built several machines which they sold to nearby customers.

Potential