Equipment Specs

Robert G. LeTourneau

From RitchieWiki


Robert Gilmore LeTourneau (1888 – 1969) can be best described as a Christian industrialist who was perhaps one of the most influential individuals in the earthmoving industry. with close to 300 patents credited to his name for such inventions as bulldozers, scrapers, dredgers, portable cranes, rollers, dump wagons, bridge spans, logging equipment, mobile sea platforms for oil exploration, and the electric wheel, just to name a few.[1] The sum of all the contributions he made over his 42-year career have also earned him the nickname “Mr.Earthmover.”[2] He is remembered as a godly man whose positive attitude towards his work and life enabled him to accomplish what was well beyond ordinary men. As he once said, “The only difference between can and can’t, is a little extra effort.”[3]


[edit] History

Robert G. LeTourneau was born on November 30, 1888 in Richford, Vermont in the eastern part of the USA, from where earthmoving pioneers Deere, Holt, Allis, and Case also originated. From a young age, exposure to the gospel was a huge part of his life. At the age of 16, he was won to Christ and at the age of 30 dedicated his life to being what he called being a “businessman for God.”[4] Throughout his life, he combined a passion for the earthmoving business with a passion for evangelism. In 1917, he married Evelyn Peterson, the daughter of a draying company owner from Minnesota.[5]

[edit] The Early Years

Letourneau learned the business more through hands-on experience than formal education. Through his youth, he worked a variety of jobs in the trades as a mechanic, welder, electrician, woodcutting, farming, mining, and general laborer. All this practical experience combined to give him the knowledge he needed to form the foundation of his own company. The first piece of machinery he worked on was a Holt crawler tractor that needed repairing. To his surprise, he developed an instant passion for "moving earth" and set about starting a business as a land-leveling contractor. It was his dissatisfaction with the crude scrapers of the day that led him ultimately into the manufacturing of earth moving equipment.

[edit] Contributions to Earthmoving

Benjamin Holt invented the first steam-powered crawler tractor in 1904. By the 1920s, many improvements had been made to the tractor but it was still only a machine that was designed to pull things behind it. LeTourneau transformed the tractor from a pulling machine into a pushing machine when he created a cable-operated bulldozer.[6] This was just one of many significant contributions LeTourneau made during his remarkable career.

One of his first major accomplishments was building a scraper that was controlled electrically from the operator’s seat. It was a predilection to what was to become an ongoing fascination with electricity.[7]  His next accomplishment was the use of cable to control the bulldozer and scraper. In 1928, he developed a cable winch controlled by an electric motor. It was the first use of cable exclusively for that purpose.[8] In 1929, he officially formed his company R.G. LeTourneau Inc. and introduced his cable-controlled scraper. Other groundbreaking developments included pneumatic tires on scrapers, an apron, and positive ejection. In 1932, all these components were eventually combined with the production of his Carryall scraper.[9]

Another substantial contribution was the the Tournapull, introduced in 1937. It was the first integral, articulated wheel tractor-scraper earthmover. What made the machine unique was that it only had a single axle and an overhung engine ahead of the front wheels. It could also be easily coupled to the Carryall scraper.[10] The Tournapull would set the precedent for all future wheel-tractor scrapers.

In 1950, working off his knowledge of electricity, LeTourneau announced his newest development, the electric wheel, in which an electric drive motor and gearing were installed in the hub of the wheel.[11]

LeTourneau was also responsible for pioneering both the design and building of the mobile offshore drilling platforms.

[edit] LeTourneau, the Philanthropist

As much as LeTourneau exhibited an enthusiasm for moving earth, his dedication to his religious roots sparked him to become an active philanthropist and model member of the Christian community. For example, in 1952 he got involved in development projects in Liberia and later Peru that focused on colonization, livestock, evangelism, and philanthropic activities.[12]

He also spent much of his time ministering to the masses as the leader of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, president of the Christian Business Men’s Association and president of the International Gideon Society.[13] LeTourneau even incorporated his religious beliefs in the workplace by hiring three full-time Chaplains in his manufacturing plants.[14]

[edit] LeTourneau University

Though LeTourneau was not a formally educated man he was a huge proponent of combining practical hands on instruction with classroom studies. In 1946 he purchased an unused military hospital in Longview, Texas. The site would be turned into a technical institute bearing his name and dedicated to providing technical and mechanical training, college courses, and training for missionary technicians. Part of LeTourneau’s legacy was his desire to combine both his Christian ideals and passion for the earthmoving business into a philanthropic project—the synergy between the two was evident in his school. In 1961, the school became a college and eventually was given full university status, becoming Letourneau University.[15] A museum at the university was also  established, paying homage to R.G. LeTourneau’s life and career in earthmoving.

[edit] LeTourneau, the Businessman

LeTourneau was known as a practical, down-to-earth individual who shunned the wealthy lifestyle his success in the business afforded him. He was more the kind of man who would role up his sleeves and work side by side at the drawing board with company engineers creating new earthmoving machines or on the plant floor watching the building of heavy equipment going on. He always held an active involvement in the company he founded and worked on different fronts at one time or another as president, chairman of the board, and even as chief engineer. He was as happy to be working the controls of his machines, as he was to be attending to business.[16] 

[edit] LeTourneau’s Death

In March 1969, LeTourneau suffered a stroke. He passed away on June 1, 1969 at the age of 80 and was survived by his daughter and four sons.

[edit] Awards and Recognition

Appreciation of Service Achievement 1931 - 1935

This award was presented to LeTourneau from Six Companies Incorporated for supplying earthmoving equipment in the Boulder Dam Project.

Beavers Award 1958

The Beavers was an association of leaders from the heavy construction industry.

Construction Equipment Hall of Fame

This Hall of Fame is maintained and is a trademark of Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

[edit] References

  1. The Machines. LeTourneau Online Museum, 2008-09-29.
  2. LeTourneau Technologies: A History of Innovation. LeTourneau Technologies, 2008-09-29.
  3. R.G. LeTourneau: "God's Businessman". LeTourneau Christian Center, 2008-09-29.
  4. The Mission. LeTourneau Online Museum, 2008-09-29.
  5. R.G. LeTourneau (1888-1969). LeTourneau Technologies, 2008-09-29.
  6. Haycraft William, Yellow Steel, The Story of the Earthmoving Industry, 68
  7. Haycraft William, Yellow Steel, The Story of the Earthmoving Industry, 70
  8. Haycraft William, Yellow Steel, The Story of the Earthmoving Industry, 72
  9. Haycraft William, Yellow Steel, The Story of the Earthmoving Industry, 76
  10. Haycraft William, Yellow Steel, The Story of the Earthmoving Industry, 74
  11. Haycraft William, Yellow Steel, The Story of the Earthmoving Industry, 126
  12. R.G. LeTourneau (1888-1969). LeTourneau Technologies, 2008-09-29.
  13. R.G. LeTourneau (1888-1969). LeTourneau Technologies, 2008-09-29.
  14. The Man. LeTourneau Online Museum, 2008-09-29.
  15. R.G. LeTourneau (1888-1969). LeTourneau Technologies, 2008-09-29.
  16. R.G. LeTourneau (1888-1969). LeTourneau Technologies, 2008-09-29.