The Frank G. Hough Co. is usually credited with inventing the wheel loader. Hough produced some of the first loader attachments for wheel tractors; one of the first integrated, purpose-built rubber-tired loaders; and the first all-wheel-drive, all-hydraulic rubber-tired loader. But the honor for the first known wheeled loader belongs to the Power Scraper Shovel.
Built by the Brown Hoisting Machinery Co. in 1919, the Power Scraper Shovel was designed as a supplement to Brownhoist’s wide range of dock-mounted ship unloaders. By lowering a large clamshell or orange-peel bucket into the hold, the unloader would clam out the cargo of coal or ore. But since it could only reach down, material in the corners or not directly under the hatch had to be manually shoveled to within its grasp. Lowered into the hold, the Power Scraper Shovel eliminated the use of hand labor for this task.
The Power Scraper Shovel was powered by a gas engine, and the bucket was raised and dumped by cable. Dumping clearance was only two and a half feet, suitable for its designed purpose. It traveled on three steel wheels with rubber tires, which were probably solid as opposed to pneumatic. Two of the wheels were in front for traction and the third was centered under the back for steering, a design concept repeated on thousands of Scoopmobile loaders produced in Portland, Ore., from 1939 through 1968; the turning radius is unknown, but the three-wheeled Scoopmobiles of like design could turn around virtually within their own length. Two models were produced: the 8,000-pound, 15-cubic-foot capacity Type No. 1 for coal and light materials; and the 16,000-pound, 24-foot Type No. 2 for ore and similar material. Both models were also marketed for bulk material handling in warehouses.
The Power Scraper Shovel may not have had a long production life, but from 1947 through the 1970s, Hough was the primary producer of thousands of small rubber-tired wheel loaders designed in part for the functions it fulfilled. Skid-steer loaders rendered these machines obsolete, but Caterpillar offered special ship unloading option packages for its 953C, 963B and 973 crawler loaders in 1997.
This article was submitted by Tom Berry, archivist of the Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA). With more than 4,300 members in 25 countries, activities include operation of National Construction Equipment Museum and archives in Bowling Green, Ohio; publication of a quarterly magazine, Equipment Echoes; and hosting an annual working exhibition of restored construction equipment. Individual memberships are $30 for USA/Canada, and $40 elsewhere. For more information, visit www.hcea.net, 419.352.5616, or firstname.lastname@example.org.