The Melroe Bobcat, now sold in seventy-five countries through 900 dealerships and celebrated by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 best products in the United States, has its origins in Great Plains local enterprise. In 1947 E. G. Melroe, the son of Norwegian immigrants, founded the Melroe Manufacturing Company in the small North Dakota community of Gwinner. Through the 1950s the company thrived on the sales of Melroe's first invention, a windrow pickup device attached to combines that could collect windrows of grain with little loss of kernels. In 1957 Melroe's sons (E. G. Melroe had died in 1955) bought the rights to a homemade three-wheeled loader that had been built by Cyril and Louis Keller of Rothsay, Minnesota. The Kellers became employees of Melroe Manufacturing Company, and the first in a developing line of Melroe Bobcats came off the assembly line.
The Bobcat was initially a three-wheeled light loader that could turn 360 degrees in its own length. By 1963 an additional wheel had added more stability, and the utility of the Bobcat had been proven in industry and construction as well as in agriculture. Refinements in design (for example, a quick-change attachment system was developed in 1973 to make the Bobcat a multijob machine) and diversification of models for different jobs (for example, the Mini-Bob loader was produced in 1971 for work in the most restrictive spaces) have kept the Melroe Bobcat at the forefront of the loader and excavation business.
The Melroe Company, now headquartered in Fargo and with plants in Gwinner and Bismarck, is North Dakota's largest manufacturer, and the Bobcat logo, featuring the head of that tough, agile Plains animal, can be seen on building sites, farms, and industrial operations worldwide.
David J. Wishart University of Nebraska-Lincoln