Gradall began making its well-known excavator during the 1940's, during a time in which World War II had caused a scarcity of laborers. This decline in the labor force brought a huge demand for the delicate work of grading and finishing highway projects.
A Cleveland, Ohio construction company known 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 company that had become one of the major highway contractors within Ohio. The Ferwerdas' started to make a machine that would save their company and their livelihoods by inventing a model which would perform what had before been physical slope work. This creation was to offset the gap left in the worksite when a lot of men had joined the military.
The brothers initially invented an apparatus that had 2 beams set on a rotating platform, which was attached on top of a used truck. They used a telescopic cylinder to be able to move the beams in and out. This enabled the fixed blade at the end of the beams to push or pull dirt.
The Ferwerda brothers improved on their first design by making a triangular boom to produce more strength. Then, they added a tilt cylinder which allowed the boom to turn 45 degrees in either direction. This new model could be equipped with either a bucket or a blade 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 much 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 offered as well.