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Bobcat creators inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

By Adam Freill   

Construction Equipment

Cyril and Louis Keller’s invention and contributions to the compact equipment industry recognized at national level.

The first Keller loader. (Photo courtesy of Bobcat Company)

The brothers who invented the world’s first compact loader, later named the Bobcat skid-steer loader, are among the 2023 inductees for the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF).

In the 1950s, brothers Cyril and Louis Keller operated a small machinist-blacksmith shop in Minnesota together. After a farmer approached them with a need for a self-propelled loader light enough to be lifted to the second floor of a turkey barn and small enough to clean around the barn’s upright poles, the Kellers built a three-wheeled loader with two drive wheels in front and a caster wheel in the rear. This was the precursor to the modern skid-steer loader.

Melroe Manufacturing Company – now known as Bobcat Company – invited the Kellers to demonstrate their invention at the Minnesota State Fair in 1958. After a successful demonstration at the fair, the Melroe Manufacturing Company was awarded exclusive manufacturing rights to the machine on a royalty basis and hired the brothers to refine the design and put the machine into production.

To improve on the design of the loader, a second set of drive wheels was added to the back of the loader in 1960. With this four-wheel drive, the M400 became the world’s first true skid-steer loader.


Louis Keller testing the prototype for the M-440. (Photo courtesy of Bobcat Company)

“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,” said Louis’ son, Joe Keller. “While we may not always realize 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.”

“We are proud of our inventors’ spirit of innovation, and while we remain grounded in our humble roots, we continue to push the boundaries to offer customers increased choice, improved performance and advanced technology to work smarter,” said Mike Ballweber, president of Bobcat Company North America.

Bobcat now offers more than 100 products in the compact, grounds maintenance and industrial equipment industries, and produces more than 400 different types of attachments.

Acknowledging the award on behalf of his father and uncle, Joe 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.”




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