Cyril and Louis Keller, the late brothers who invented the world’s first compact loader (later named the Bobcat® skid-steer loader), have been selected as 2023 inductees for the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF).
The NIHF annually recognizes inventors, promotes creativity and advances the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. In the 1950s, Cyril and Louis operated a small machinist-blacksmith shop in Minnesota together, building and repairing machinery for local farmers. 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. In 1957, the Kellers built a three-wheeled loader with two drive wheels in front and a caster wheel in the rear, the precursor to the modern skid-steer loader.
The loader came to the attention of Melroe Manufacturing Co., (now Bobcat Co.), which invited the Kellers to demonstrate their invention in their booth at the Minnesota State Fair in 1958. After a successful demonstration at the fair, the Melroe Manufacturing Co. was awarded exclusive manufacturing rights to the machine on a royalty basis and hired the Keller brothers to refine the design and put the machine into production.
To improve upon the design of the loader, a second set of drive wheels was added to the back of the loader in 1960.
Joe Keller, son of Louis, 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 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 job site 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, Bobcat Co. North America.