Bobcat compact loader creators inducted into inventor hall of fame

By Becky Schultz10 January 2023

Cyril Keller

Bobcat Company announced that Cyril and Louis Keller, the brothers who invented what became known as the Bobcat skid-steer loader, have been selected as 2023 inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF). The NIHF, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, annually recognizes inventors, promotes creativity and advances the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

In the 1950s, the Keller brothers operated a small machinist-blacksmith shop in Minnesota, 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.

Louis Keller

In response, in 1957, the Kellers built a three-wheeled loader with two drive wheels in front and a caster wheel in the rear. The loader came to the attention of Melroe Mfg. Co. (now Bobcat Company), which 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. The caster wheel in the rear came to be replaced by a second set of drive wheels in 1960, making the M400 model what Bobcat describes as “the world’s first true skid-steer loader.”

The Bobcat brand name was later established as a symbol of the machine’s toughness, quickness and agility, the company noted. Today, 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.

Original three-wheel loader produced by the Keller brothers in 1957. (Photo: Bobcat Co.)

Acknowledging the NIHF induction on behalf of his father Louis and his uncle Cyril, Joe Keller said, “This recognition is a great honor 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. It has been a great honor to have had a front-row seat watching this invention revolutionize the way work gets done around the world.

“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,” he continued. “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.”

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