Gradall, Snorkel Founders Named to AEM Hall of Fame

Gradall M-2400

Gradall manufactured the M-2400 in 1946. Source: Gradall

Art Moore, founder of Snorkel Lifts, and brothers Ray and Koop Ferwerda, inventors of the Gradall excavator, are now in the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame recognizes “the pioneers whose inventions, ideas, leadership and courage have contributed to the industry and our community’s quality of life,” says AEM. “Both Moore and the Ferwerda brothers used hydraulic telescopic designs and unique innovate ways to solve problems critical to our industry.”

All three men shepherded products that are still evolving today.

Art Moore next to the first built Snorkel TB42

Art Moore with the first built Snorkel TB42 at the ARA Rental Show 2017, when he was inducted into the American Rental Association’s Hall of Fame.

Art Moore, Snorkel Lifts

Art Moore grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri, just north of Kansas City, where he became childhood friends with future business partner Ray Pitman.

Pitman and Moore started Pitman Manufacturing in 1949, focusing on hydraulic lift trucks. In 1958, the Chicago Fire Department modified a Pitman truck with a fire hose, and Moore saw the benefit of the idea. He broke off to focus on lifted fire equipment, starting Snorkel Fire Equipment in 1959. Snorkel’s products became so popular that the name “snorkel” is now a generic name for telescopic firefighting equipment.

In 1977, Moore took the extruded aluminum boom on the Snorkel Telesquirt and applied them to a construction access lift, developing the first TB42 lift. The aluminum design offered a less-costly alternative to steel access models.

In 1986, Moore led Snorkel to develop the “Uno” articulated boom lift for industrial plant maintenance. Two years later, Snorkel entered the scissor lift market with the acquisition of Economy Engineering. After retiring from Snorkel in 1991, Moore returned to the board of directors after the company was acquired by Ahern Rentals,. He served until his passing in 2019.

Ray and Koop Ferwerda, Gradall 

Ray Ferwerda

Ray Ferwerda

Born and raised in The Netherlands, brothers Ray and Koop Ferwerda took a job aboard a North American-bound steam ship in 1920. The brothers eventually made a home in the Cleveland area, finding jobs first at a local dairy and then building roads and sidewalks.

In 1925, the brothers opened Ferwerda Brothers Contracting, focusing their work in the eastern Cleveland suburbs. By 1940, they started developing an idea they had: A hydraulic excavator with an extendable boom that could reach down beneath the roadway to grade embankments, then a time- and labor-intensive task. This new machine had a hydraulically powered telescopic boom that could be raised and lowered and tilted left or right, according to Gradall Industries history.

Koop Ferwerda

Koop Ferwerda

In 1946, in working with Warner-Swasey, the Gradall M-2400 was introduced.  Since then, the Gradall excavator concept has been expanded, still using the triangular, extendable boom design first devised by the Ferwerda brothers.

Ray and Koop passed in 1976 and 1955, respectively. They are the third sibling team to be inducted into the Hall after Louis and Cyril Keller (Bobcat) and Maurice and Douglass Steiger (Steiger, along with their father John). Two other siblings, Robert Vermeer and Mary Andringa, both with Vermeer, were inducted separately in 2016 and 2019.

There are now 64 inductees into the AEM Hall of Fame, which includes Benjamin Holt (Caterpillar), Joseph Cyril Bamford (JCB), Jerome Increase Case (CNH Industrial), and John Deere (Deere & Co.).