Gradall began making its well-known excavator during the 1940's, during a time in which World War II had caused a shortage of laborers. This decrease in the work force brought a huge demand for the delicate work of grading and finishing highway projects.
Ferwerda-Werba-Ferwerda was a Cleveland, Ohio based construction company which faced this particular dilemma first hand. Ray and Koop Ferwerda were brothers who had relocated from the Netherlands. They were partners in the firm which had become one of the major highway contractors in Ohio. The Ferwerdas' set out to make a machine that will save their company and their livelihoods by inventing a model which will perform what had before been physical slope work. This creation was to offset the gap left in the workplace when lots of men had joined the military.
The initial apparatus these brothers invented had 2 beams set on a rotating platform and was attached directly onto the top of a truck. They used a telescopic cylinder in order to move the beams in and out. 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 first design. They created a triangular boom to create more power. Next, they added a tilt cylinder that allowed the boom to turn 45 degrees in either direction. This new unit 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 much work to be done.
Not a long time after, many digging buckets were introduced 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 available too.