Oct 15, 2023

Brothers who invented first skid

Cyril (L) & Louis (R) Keller (photo: National Inventors Hall of Fame)

WEST FARGO (KFGO) – The brothers who invented the world's first compact loader, which would later become known as a Bobcat skid-steer loader, are being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In the 1950s, Cyril and Louis Keller operated a machine shop in Minnesota where they built and repaired machinery for farmers. In 1957, a farmer asked them to build him a machine that he could use to clean his turkey barn.

The farmer needed the machine to be light enough to lift up to the second floor, and small and agile enough to get around poles in the barn. The Kellers built a three-wheeled loader for the farmer. It had two wheels in the front and a caster wheel in the back.

Melroe Manufacturing, now Bobcat Company, heard about the loader and asked the Kellers to demonstrate it at the Minnesota State Fair in 1958. Bobcat was awarded exclusive manufacturing rights, and hired the Kellers to improve the design.

Eventually, the Kellers added a second set of drive wheels to the back of the loader and, because of its ability to turn within its own length, it became the world's first true "skid-steer" loader.

"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," Louis Keller's son Joe said. "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."

The National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum is in Alexandria, Virginia.