Nowadays, the consequences of heavy construction is all around us with super high rise buildings at every block in every city. However, the history of heavy construction and the equipment used during the process is long and deep. So much so, that there is an entire non-profit organization set up to preserve the history of the construction equipment that changed and shaped our world.
The Historical Construction Equipment Association is run by dedicated staff members who preserve the history of the construction industry. Additionally, they preserve the history of the dredging and surface mining industries, their applications and types of equipment. The Historical Construction Equipment Association operates the National Construction Equipment Museum in Bowling Green, Ohio. The Museum preserves and displays historic literature, photographs, business records, and much more for manufacturing companies from the 1870s to today.
The importance of having a museum like this is to protect what would otherwise become heaps of broken down and unusable pieces of heavy construction equipment. These would normally be dismantled for the parts, used for scrap metal or just left to the elements. As well, the administrative and sales records of the company is usually thrown out to avoid being seen by the public and to prevent researchers from reviewing them. Often times, they are kept within family collections to protect and preserve them. This is why it's so important to create a museum that allows the public to discover this key piece of our history.
Since 1992, The National Construction Equipment Museum has rented a piece of open land in Bowling Green, Ohio that offers public displays of the historic machinery, exhibits and other artifacts. The collection has over fifty pieces of machinery that are representative of the development and history of the construction industry. In all, the artifacts and equipment will take you through the industry from the 1800's to the mid 1960's.
There is even a section of the Museum where volunteers restore machines to working order and revive their origin appearance and condition. The volunteers are not all from the construction industry, although they do share a passion for heavy construction machinery. At this point in the Museum's development, there are over 2,600 manufacturing companies represented by either artifact, record or piece of equipment.
Also, the heavy construction industry has many branches and businesses it affects. Many of these affiliate companies can be identified through the Museum's collection that includes truck and trailers, attachments, engines and components, mining contracts, dealers and auctioneers, non-profit organizations and even government agencies. Many of the archived companies span from the 1870s to the present day, including major collections of records from the Marion Power Shovel Company, Euclid, Volvo Construction Products, Clark Equipment Company, Austin-Western, the Cleveland Trencher Company and many more.
The Marion Power Shovel Company has a long history and was one of the first large manufacturers who designed, manufactured and sold heavy construction equipment. These machines included steam shovels, excavators and dragline excavators for the construction and mining industries. The Marion Power Shovel Company was founded in Marion, Ohio in August, 1884 by Henry Barnhart, Edward Huber and George W. King as the Marion Steam Shovel Company. Edward Huber was in fact a noted and extremely well respected inventor and industrialist of the time.
Long before he helped to create the Marion Steam Shovel Company he had invented the "revolving hay rake" that was patented in 1863. It improved the speed and efficiency of harvesting hay immeasurably and he went on to invent many more tools and agricultural implements which were very popular. Huber also began to build and sell affordable steam tractors which was the precursor to the heavy construction machine known as the steam shovel. Huber was also one of the first to produce modern gasoline powered tractors.
The company grew and changed dramatically through the decades and went from the Marion Steam Shovel Company to the Marion Power Shovel Company in 1946 to reflect the company's and the industry's change from steam power to diesel power. However, before that it should be noted that the Marion Steam Shovel Company supplied nearly all the heavy construction machinery for the building of the Panama Canal near the turn of the 20th century.
The Marion Power Shovel Company was eventually sold and became the Marion division of Dresser Industries, Inc. in 1976. It was then put up for sale in 1997 and Bucyrus International, Inc. bought the division for $40.1 million USD. Bucyrus eventually absorbed the Marion division's products into their product line, and closed the Marion, Ohio, plant. The Marion Power Shovel brand lives on however, as Bucyrus, honors and provides technical service and support for the Marion brand machines that are still active.
Many of the Marion Power Shovel Company's historical corporate files and archives are kept safe and on display at both the Bowling Green, Ohio's Historical Construction Equipment Association and the Marion County Historical Society in Marion, Ohio. The history of the Marion Steam Shovel Company and its subsequent journey through time may seem like a very local story on the surface. However, it's vital that the company's impact not be overlooked. Ultimately, the company and its founders, helped to shape the heavy construction industry across the country and around the world.