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How the Machine that Changes the World Evolved

"Adapted from Bobcat: Fifty Years of Opportunity, 1958-2008"

It’s been a half century since a small manufacturer in southeastern North Dakota and two blacksmith-inventor brothers from west central Minnesota joined forces to build a machine that would change the world. One wonders what might have been had brothers Les, Cliff, Roger and Irv Melroe—of the Melroe Manufacturing Company—not come across Cyril and Louis Keller and their three-wheeled loader that could turn within its own length. Or had farmer Eddie Velo not stopped- by the Kellers’ blacksmith shop to grumble about the difficulty in cleaning out turkey barns. What if the Kellers had not devised a solution for Velo? What if the Melroes hadn’t invited the Kellers to demonstrate their machine at the 1958 Minnesota State Fair?

The account of how these remarkable businessmen and innovators crossed paths and eventually began working together has its share of entrepreneurial vision, good fortune, and timing. But as the success story continues to unfold, leadership, perseverance, and ingenuity reach an entirely new scale: the Melroe Manufacturing Company puts a small North Dakota town on the map, lives are changed, and the bar for technology is set and continually raised. At the same time, manufacturers all over the world begin to chase the pioneer of the skid-steer loader, which the Melroes designated “Bobcat” in 1962 because of its toughness, quickness and agility.

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Well, others are still chasing that nimble animal today. But after the Melroe Manufacturing Company was acquired by Clark Equipment company, and then Clark was subsequently acquired by Ingersoll-Rand Company, the name “Bobcat” has come to represent much more than just skid-steer loaders. Bobcat Company is the world leader in the design, manufacture, marketing, and distribution of compact equipment, with a range of skid-steer loaders, compact track loaders, compact excavators (the only brand manufactured in the United States), mini track loaders, telescopic tool carriers, utility vehicles, and attachments. “Bobcat” no longer refers exclusively to a machine; it has become a powerful global brand.

Over the years, thousands of individuals have contributed to the Melroe and Keller legacies, helping Bobcat become what it is today. You will see the word “opportunity” throughout this book. The Keller loader, the Melroe Manufacturing Company, Clark Equipment Company, Ingersoll-Rand Company, and Bobcat Company have given thousands of individuals the opportunity to enjoy quality jobs close to home, excel as professionals, become leaders, and be part of a genuine success story—one that will be remembered for decades to come. This book is a tribute to them…the Bobcat story.

For the full story, we invite you to read our commemorative book, “Bobcat: Fifty Years of Opportunity, 1958-2008,” available now at participating Bobcat Dealers or online at