Skid-steer inventors to be inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

By Julian Buckley25 January 2023

The first Keller loader was designed to work in a turkey barn

Cyril and Louis Keller, the brothers who invented the first compact loader (later named the Bobcat skid-steer loader) have been selected as 2023 inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF). Located at the University of Akron in Ohio, the NIHF recognizes distinguished inventors each year.

In the 1950s, the Keller brothers operated a small machinist-blacksmith shop in Minnesota. They approached by a local farmer to build 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-wheel loader with two drive wheels at the front and a caster wheel at the rear – the predecessor to the modern skid steer.

Bobcat M440 prototype developed by Louis Keller in1962

In 1960, the M400 was introduced, featuring an additional set of drive wheel at the rear. This was the first true skid-steer, a steering system which allows the machine to turn within its own length.

Cyril Keller

Speaking about the recognition from the NIHF, 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 many 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.”

Since the development of the first M400, Bobcat has gone on to build up a range of more than 100 products in the compact, grounds maintenance and industrial equipment industries, supported by more than 150 families of attachments.

Louis Keller

Keller continued: “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.”

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