Brothers, Cyril and Louis Keller, who created the world’s first compact loader have been entered into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NHIF) in the US. The NHIF inducts new members annually and celebrates creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The loader’s development began in Minnesota in the 1950s when the Keller brothers were approached at their blacksmith shop by a farmer needing a small and light self-propelled loader. The brothers created a three-wheeled loader with two drive wheels in front and a caster wheel in the rear.
In 1958, Melroe Manufacturing Company (now Bobcat) invited the brothers to demonstrate their invention at the Minnesota State fair. Following its success at the fair, the company acquired the manufacturing rights to the machine and hired the Keller brothers to refine the design and put the machine into production.
In 1960, a second set of of drive wheels was added to the back of the loader, making the M400 the world’s first true skid-steer loader. ‘Skid-steer’ refers to the uniques steering system, which enables the machine to turn within its own length. The Bobcat brand name came later, given for the machine’s durability, speed and agility.
Louis Keller’s son, Joe, said: The Bobcat loader has positively impacted the lives of thousands of employees who have worked for the company, dealers who sell the machines, and customers who use the equipment every day to build their livelihood. While we may not always realise its impact, it is an integral part of our everyday life – from supporting farm operations that result in food on our tables to hauling materials around a jobsite building our homes and offices.”
65 years later, Bobcat now offer more than 100 products in the compact, grounds maintenance and industrial equipment industries and produces more that 150 types of attachments.
The 2023 NHIF
This year is the 50th anniversary of the event, with the first in 1973 celebrating Thomas Edison as the only inductee. Among the 17 other pioneers inducted this year was Rory Cooper, who invented wheelchair technology; Luis von Ahn, who co-created the website security program reCAPTCHA and Angela Hartley Brodie, who discovered and developed a class of drugs called Aromatase Inhibitors that stop the production of hormones that fuel the growth of cancer cells.
Receiving the award on behalf of his father and uncle, Joe Keller said: “This recognition is a great honour to dad and Cyril’s families, but it is not just for us. It is a recognition for all of the early and current Bobcat employees who have helped bring our little ‘Keller loader’ to be the Bobcat machine it is today. It has been a great honour to have had a front-row seat watching this invention revolutionise the way work gets done around the world.”