The Bobcat Company Records document a post-war invention process and American manufacturing system through the case study of a dynamic machine, the Bobcat skid-steer loader. The records focus primarily on Bobcat's products, marketing, and advertising through product literature, photographs, advertisements, posters, newsletters, and audiovisual materials.
Scope and Contents:
The records are divided into ten series which document a post-war invention process and American manufacturing system, through the case study of a dynamic machine, the Bobcat skid-steer loader. The records focus primarily on Bobcat's products, marketing, and advertising through product literature, photographs, advertisements, posters, newsletters, and audiovisual materials.
Series 1, Historical Background, 1965-2007 and undated, is divided into nine subseries: Subseries 1, Company Histories, 1965-1996 and undated; Subseries 2, Organizational Materials, 1970s-2003 and undated; Subseries 3, Factories/Plants, 1965-1996; Subseries 4, Union Materials, 1971, 2005-2007; Subseries 5, Kaizen Materials, 2003-2004 and undated; Subseries 6, Company Christmas Cards, 1965-1974 and undated; Subseries 7, Company Picnics, 1966-1979; Subseries 8, Awards, 1969-1988; and Subseries 9, Subject Files, 1963-1985.
Subseries 1, Company Histories, 1965-1998 and undated, consists of published and unpublished accounts of the early history of Melroe Manufacturing and its corporate evolution. Of note is the undated A Modern Guide to North Dakota. This guidebook is intended for "foreign" visitors (anyone from Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Seattle, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia or outside the city limits of Gwinner, North Dakota) and provides historical background as well as information on the many diverse and interesting aspects of North Dakota.
Subseries 2, Organizational Materials, 1970s-2003 and undated, consists of mission statements, codes of conduct, a corporate directory, organizational charts, and letterhead. The organizational chart, while marketing and sales specific, does provide an overview of the company's administrative functions.
Subseries 3, Factories/Plants, 1965-1996, includes information about each plant.Factories represented include Belcourt, Bismarck, Cooperstown, and Gwinner, North Dakota; and Fort Benton, Montana. The materials document each plant and consist of a range of formats from articles and clippings to birthday cards, highway maps, fact sheets, field trip schedules, histories of the plant, service awards, product literature, guides, press releases, and employee information.
The Belcourt Plant was home to Melroe Manufacturing's welding division. Dedicated in 1975 at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation (Chippewa Tribe), this plant was established to relieve the Bismarck Plant of a heavy workload in welding requirements. The plant closed in the 1980s.
The Fort Benton Plant manufactured thirty-two different models of chisel plows under Clark Equipment Company's Melroe Division for Ag Products. The Fort Benton Plant closed in 1982.
The Bismarck Plant served as Melroe Manufacturing's headquarters for the three Ag Product Plants: Bismarck, Benton, and Cooperstown. Opened in 1973, the Bismarck Plant made grain drills, the windrow pick-up combine attachment, the automatic reset plow and plow packers, and crop sprayer (the Spra-Coupe). The Bismarck Plant closed in 2009.
The Cooperstown Plant also manufactured Ag products such as grain augers, swathers, field sprayers, machinery trailers, raw crop harvesters, grain drill packers, steel buildings, and aluminum grain boxes. The best known products produced at this plant were the steel teeth for making hay stacks and the automatic reset moldboard plow. The plant also fabricated parts and components for the Bobcat skid-steer loader. Of note in the Cooperstown Plant materials are a black-and-white advertisement and programmatic brochures for Clark Equipment Company's 1975 International Teenage Exchange Program. Five teenagers from "Clark North America" were selected to live with Clark families in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, France, or Germany. The Cooperstown Plant closed in 1977.
The Gwinner Plant remains open today and is the main manufacturing facility for Bobcat of North America. The Gwinner folder contains a high school paper title "Melroe" by Craig Allen Knudson, undated, and remarks given at a Dealer Advisory Council Meeting by Jim Strande about the "B Series" from the Engineering Department.
Subseries 4, Union Materials, 1971, 2005-2007, includes information about the United Steel Workers Local 560, the union that is currently in place at the Bobcat Company. Employees formally voted to unionize on April 2, 1970, under the Allied Industrial Workers (A.I.W.). In the early 1990s, the A.I.W. was becoming too small and could no longer provide the best financial backing or representation to Melroe employees, and therefore the employees decided to merge with the United Paperworkers International Union (U.P.I.U.). In 2005, the U.P.I.U. decided to merge with the delegates of the United Steel Workers of America and form the United Steelworkers (U.S.W.). Today, the Bobcat Company is represented by the U.S.W. in District 11 which includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The materials in this subseries consist of United Steel Workers Local 560 handbooks and agreements as well as authorized announcements from the local union members and Bobcat management that were posted for employees to read. These announcements/fliers were placed in authorized areas at the factory in Gwinner. There is one grievance record from 1971 detailing the request that certain jobs be posted so personnel can bid for the position.
Subseries 5, Kaizen Materials, 2003-2004 and undated, contains materials related to the Kaizen process, which is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. When applied to the workplace, Kaizen activities continually improve all functions of a business, from manufacturing to management and from the chief operating officer to the assembly line workers. These materials include An Introduction to the Bobcat Production System ( BPS), undated, and a booklet that provides a road map to all Bobcat employees in utilizing "lean" concepts versus traditional mass production manufacturing. The BPS is intended to redesign production systems, machinery and labor to be as efficient as possible. Other documents include copies of power point slides and materials from a Kaizen workshop.
Subseries 6, Company Christmas Cards, 1965-1974 and undated, includes Christmas cards sent by the Bobcat Company as well as "mock-ups" of cards created by Flint Communications. The Bobcat Company purchased merchandise from companies that specialized in promotional and specialty gifts. Additonal information from those companies is included in this subseries.
Subseries 7, Company Picnics, 1966-1979, contains information about the company's annual family picnic or "family feast" at Lisbon Park in Lisbon, North Dakota. The picnics typically included a program (musical entertainment), games for children, prizes, and a softball game. The documentation includes fliers announcing the picnic, tickets, and receipts and memos detailing the prizes available and the associated costs. Prizes included, but were not limited to, portable televisions, drills, binoculars, cookware, cameras, bicycles, camping equipment, vacuums, and clocks.
Subseries 8, Awards, 1969-1988, contains information about awards given to the Bobcat Company from external organizations as well as individual awards given by the company to its employees. The Export "E" Award is bestowed by the United States Department of Commerce. Awarded for success in boosting sales of American products abroad, Melroe Manufacturing won this honor in 1969 for its increased sales of farm implements and industrial equipment to Canadian and European markets. Material about the 'E" Award includes newspaper clippings and articles, presentation remarks, and photographs. The United States Senate Productivity Award is administered through the United States Senate Commerce Committee. Each United States senator is allowed to select one winner every year. The program was established to encourage competiveness in American industry and ensure its survival in the international marketplace through increased productivity. In 1984, Senator Mark Andrews (R) announced that the Melroe Division of Clark Equipment Company was a recipient of the Productivity Award. The file contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, black-and-white photographs of the presentation, a tour of the factory in Gwinner, North Dakota, and the medal itself. There are other files about awards that recognize employees: Employee Recognition Service Awards, Patents Awards Recognition Dinner, and the 1000 Club. These materials contain lists of awardees, award programs, invitations, and napkins.
Subseries 9, Subject Files, 1963-1985, captures a varity of documentation associated with the company's corporate structure such as testimonials from owners and users of Bobcat skid-steer loaders, the first invoice for the Bobcat skid-steer loader (1963), the celebration of the 100,000th Bobcat skid-steer loader being produced and the "Melroe Mission to Japan." In 1985, a cross-sectional group of Melroe employees were selected to tour Japanese manufacturing plants and examine new concepts in both manufacturing and engineering. The lessons learned from this valuable trip were implemented at Bobcat and ultimately manifested themselves in the Kaizen materials. See Series 1, Subseries 4. The report, Bobcat Reports: The Melroe Mission to Japan contains employee observations about the trip, insights into similarities and difference between Japanese plants and Melroe plants; life style differences; and what it meant individually to the employee.
Series 2, Clark Equipment Company, 1965-1994, contains documentation about the Clark Equipment Company, one of the largest producers of material handling equipment. There are three subseries: Subseries 1, Company Histories, 1965-1978, (not inclusive); Subseries 2, Annual Reports, 1974-1994 (not inclusive); and Subseries 3, Employee Information, undated. The histories consist of typescript documents that were used for various presentations as well as a printed history, "Growing Up with Clark," Clark Magazine, spring 1978, by Steve Lokker. The employee information contains an employee handbook titled "Your Circle of Security" detailing total compensation of pay, benefits, and career opportunities at Clark, and a Guide to Maintaining Non-Union Status and Combating Union Organizational Attempts, undated. The annual reports, 1974-1994, also include information about quarterly report and annual meeting summaries.
Series 3, Newsletters, 1965-2009, consists of published newsletters for both internal and external distribution. Arranged alphabetically by title, the newsletters represent a variety of Bobcat Company news items aimed at specific audiences such as current employees, former employees (alumni), dealers, prospective customers, and the industry. For example, Bobcat Briefs, a monthly publication, contains information for and about Melroe Manufacturing Company employees. The Summit (Bobcat Sales Masters) a monthly newsletter designed for salesmen at varying levels, allowed them to stay up-to-date on their progress in the Sales Masters Program. It was created to recognize the achievements of retail salesmen. Additional newsletters targeted at salesmen/dealers include the Bobcat's Pajamas, Feller Buncher Toppers, Melroe Scoop, Winners Circle, Territory Tales and Worksaver. Worksaver is published four times a year and sent directly to a dealer's mailing list of customers and prospects. Worksaver is part of the Bobcat Company's co-op advertising program, with the single most important feature being the ability to target the Bobcat sales message. Newsletters aimed at employees include Bobcat Briefs, Bobcat Messages, Melroe Pick-up, Clark Pick-up, Melroe and Messages. The only newsletter not represented in this series is the Spra-Coupe Reporter. See series 8 for this newsletter.
Series 4, Photographs, Negatives, Slides and Transparencies, 1960-2003 and undated, contains photographs, negatives, slides, and transparencies. The materials are arranged in alphabetical order following the original filing scheme created by the Bobcat Company. The only exception to this order is "Products" which are filed numerically by model number. For example, the B300 (Loader Backhoe), 2005, is filed before the 310 (Skid Steer Loader), 1977. Each model is identified parenthetically. The bulk of the materials consists of photographs, both black-and-white and color prints documenting the company's activities. They were created and assembled by Ernie Feland, the company's photographer for 37 years.
The images document almost every aspect of the company and its culture. Included are: products, employees, company picnics and outings, factory activities, trade shows, and dealerships. Well documented are the various company outings and activities that involved dealers and vendors. Elaborate theme-based activities were created for the dealers/vendors which were the highlight of the year. The company fostered a "family friendly" atmosphere and this is evident in the images. Many of the photographs documenting company products show the product in use in various industries and with various attachments. For example, there are photographs of skid-steer loaders removing snow, moving fertilizer, drilling holes, and hauling dirt.
Series 5, Dealer Materials, 1964-2003, documents the valuable connection between the customer, dealer, and the company. Dealers are an important part of the Bobcat success story. This series is further divided into eight subseries: Subseries 1, Dealer Advisory Council Meetings, 1967-1996; Subseries 2, Sales Meetings, 1964-1999; Subseries 3, District Manager Meetings, 1971-1990; Subseries 4, Conferences, 1973, 1974,1993; and Subseries 5, Specific Dealers, 1978, 1979, 2003; Subseries 6, Dealer Advertising and Sales Promotion Kits, 1967-1996; Subseries 7, Co-op Advertising Materials for Dealers, 1979-1982; and Subseries 8, Subject Files, 1965-2003.
Subseries 1, Dealer Advisory Council Meetings, 1967-1996, documents Dealer Advisory Council (DAC) activities and meetings. The first DAC was held in 1965 at the Ash Forks Camp on Lake of the Woods, Canada. Dealers competed in a sales contest prior to the meeting to determine which twelve of them would attend. Over the years the roster of dealers attending grew, and those chosen to serve on the council had an outstanding sales record. The company sought these dealers' advice on all aspects of Bobcat marketing, engineering and manufacturing, and both dealers and company management were encouraged to share their ideas and experiences. It is through a strong dealership system that the company sells its products and many times, it was a solid demonstration that sold the product. Dealers frequently were invited to the Bobcat Boot Camp in Lisbon, North Dakota, where they spent one week training on various Bobcat Company products as well as competitors' products.
To this day, dealers meet annually in different locations throughout the United States with particular emphasis on North Dakota, Minnesota, Idaho, Wisconsin, and parts of Canada. The meetings were well planned and followed a structure with receptions, orientations, dinners, plant tours, presentations, group discussions, and award presentations.
These records provide insight into the relationship between the company and its dealers with dealer distributor materials such as the dealer kits. The photographs in Series 4 document this aspect of the company well. Among one of the boot camp's first trainers was none other than inventor Cyril Keller.
The materials are arranged chronologically by meeting date and contain correspondence, agendas, memos, lists of dealers (in some instances with profiles), certificates (recognizing outstanding sales achievement), invitations, licenses for fishing, invoices for airline tickets, presentation scripts, photographs (the majority document fishing and hunting trips), and brochures. Many of the meetings also had programs for "ladies" since many of the dealer's wives accompanied them.
Subseries 2, Sales Meetings, 1964-1999, documents the annual gathering of all Bobcat dealers. Unlike the DAC Meetings, the annual sales meetings were larger in scale and had more programmatic functions. Meetings were held in a variety of locations throughout the United States, and almost all of the meetings were held either in January or February. The meetings are arranged chronologically and contain the location of the meeting if known. There is unevenness to the type and amount of documentation for each meeting. Many files include agendas, memos, correspondence, name tags, meeting programs, banquet programs, and presentation remarks. Some meetings contained more unusual materials. The 1974 Kona, Hawaii Meeting had a "Clark Money Tree Mid-Term Quiz" designed for dealers and dealer salesmen as a means of testing their knowledge of the Clark Retail Finance programs. The quiz was graded, and if the individual passed, a doctor of finance was issued along with a cash prize. Additionally, an audio disc from the 1974 Kona, Hawaii Meeting, Swing and Sway The Bobcat Way with Bobcat- The One and Only and Cattin Around was intended for use by dealers for a wide variety of promotional and selling situations: background music for radio and TV commercials, local fairs, exhibits, and conventions.
Subseries 3, District Manager Meetings, 1971-1990, consists of documentation for district managers' meetings which dealt with the "how" of demonstrating, advertising, financing, and servicing and the "why" of compact size, maneuverability, all-wheel drive, visibility, time, and labor for Bobcat products. These meetings appear to have been held in conjunction with the annual sales meeting.
Subseries 4, Conferences, 1973, 1974, 1993, includes speeches, photographs, agendas, invoices, memos, programs, and notes. The bulk of the materials consists of Clark Executive Conference materials from 1973.
Subseries 5, Specific Dealers, 1978, 1979, 2003, contains files for specific Bobcat dealers in the United States. The files are arranged alphabetically by dealership name and include advertisements, announcements, correspondence, and other branded materials with the Bobcat logo.
Subseries 6, Dealer Advertising and Sales Promotion Kits, 1967-1996, consists of folders filled with a memo or letter to the dealer, dealer lists, newsletters, logo types, line drawings, price lists, brochures, product information sheets, specifications, and posters designed to assist dealers in promoting a certain product, campaign, or sale. Reg Stansfield served as the dealer development manager (regional, European and worldwide) from 1978 to 1988. It's clear that the company was interested in measuring performance, seeking room for improvement, and knowing about problems. Stansfield had a great interest in training and in helping salesmen avoid making unnecessary mistakes. He created "Sales Success Strategy" cards with sales tips which were included in the dealer promotion kits. These tips were part of the "Melroe Success Formula," which was to promote, demonstrate, sell, and support. Arranged chronologically, these kits provide valuable information on what the company was sending its dealers and the accompanying instructions. The kits also provide a comprehensive overview of the types of industries using Bobcat products, such as colleges, cemeteries, landscapers, stockyards, rendering, and the poultry industry.
Subseries 7, Co-op Advertising Materials for Dealers, 1979-1982, includes materials that were assembled into binders and were distributed to dealers as a way to assist them in promoting and advertising Bobcat products. The binders were organized into categories: direct mail, newspaper, radio, television, Yellow Pages, specialties, signs and displays, and fairs and shows.
Subseries 8, Subject Files, 1965-2003, are arranged alphabetically by topic. These files include topics such as dealer financial profiles, golf tournaments, review guidelines, motivational concepts, sales specialist's guides, website programs, and Y2K compliancy. The dealer-initiated materials include examples of specific materials developed by dealers for promoting Bobcat products and sales. For example, the J.S. Equipment Company of Sacramento, California, developed a Bobcat Bulletin and the K.C. Bobcat of Kansas City, Missouri, developed a mailer card touting their Bobcat Center with equipment and accessories. Proper use of the Bobcat brand name adds value, helps develop customer loyalty and presents a consistent identity. Spelled out in a brochure of Brand Identity and Standards for Bobcat Dealers are the four trade name categories used by dealers: "Bobcat of (location);" "Bobcat (Name);" "(Name) Bobcat;" and "An Independent Trade Name." Additionally, it details unacceptable uses of the Bobcat trademark logo and the associated color standards.
The Melroe Annual Sands Hill One Invitational Engolfment (MASHIE) files chronicle the establishment of an annual golf tournament designed for the company (Melroe) and its dealers to get to know each other better and have fun while doing it. The golf tournament included visits to the factory and offices as well as an awards dinner.
The motivational concepts file contains a variety of notes and lists detailing motivational concepts for dealers. There is an untitled poem about Christmas, Santa, and a Bobcat as well as a 1977 planning session document from Flint Advertising. The Y2K compliancy materials consist of memos, correspondence, spreadsheets, and questionnaires for dealers about their computer compliancy for the year 2000.
Series 6, Marketing and Promotional Materials, 1954-2007, are divided into ten subseries: Subseries 1, Correspondence of Ferd Froeschle, 1974-1976, 1990; Subseries 2, Budget/Finances, 1961-2000 (not inclusive); Subseries 3, Advertisements, 1964-2001; Subseries 4, Artwork/Storyboards, undated; Subseries 5, Advertising Proof Books, 1954-1993; Subseries 6, Surveys/Profiles, 1977, 1979, 1990-1991; Subseries 7, Promotional Ideas/Retail Sales, 1970s-2007; Subseries 8, Sales Campaigns and Programs, 1972-2001; Subseries 9, Contests, 1965-1999, undated; and Subseries 10, Posters, 1977-2005, undated.
Almost all of the promotional pieces were created by Flint Communications of Fargo, North Dakota, under the direction of the Bobcat Advertising/Marketing Department. Flint was established in 1946, by Harold Flint. Today, Flint consists of a network of six companies, known as the Flint Group, serving a diverse list of businesses, industries, government entities, and not-for-profit clients. The Flint Group includes Flint Communications, Fargo, North Dakota; HatlingFlint, St. Cloud, Minnesota; SimmonsFlint, Grand Forks, North Dakota; WestmorelandFlint, Duluth, Minnesota; AadlandFlint, Anchorage, Alaska; and Flint Interactive, an online services firm with staff in multiple locations. In some instances the marketing and promotional pieces have a Knight Printing Company tag affixed to them. This tag provided critical information to both Flint and the Bobcat Company for reordering purposes and dating. For example KN-500-397-#650152-F translated means Knight Printing Company-quantity 500-March 1997-Bobcat Company job number, and the F equals Flint.
The marketing and promotional materials were intended for dealers in the Bobcat dealership network. Many of these pieces were distributed through targeted promotional programs which were designed to maintain regular contact with all existing users, to foster rental customers, and generate new inquiries. The promotional pieces consisted of giveaways, sponsorships, machine displays on dealership frontage, special displays at shopping centers, casual machine displays at stockyards and auctions, presentations and lectures to associations and colleges, group demonstrations, and highway billboards. The promotional methods included permanent advertisements, building and truck designs, ads in newspapers, local television and radio spots, envelope stuffers and stickers for correspondence, fairs, shows, and customer service schools, open houses at dealerships, handouts for salesmen and mechanics, and special telephone canvassing campaigns. These methods maximized the "Worksaver" Program.
Basic markets for the Bobcat include agriculture, agri-business (feed, fertilizer, grain elevators, meat packing), construction (excavating, landscaping, paving, utility, sewer, roofing, concrete, sand and gravel, snow removal, asphalt, and brick), industry (foundries, glass, steel mills, chemicals, coal and coke, lumber, papers, smelters and refiners, castings), forestry, rental yards, and miscellaneous (garbage, rubbish removal, waste paper, nurseries).
Subseries 1, Correspondence of Ferd Froeschle, 1974-1976, 1990, contains correspondence of Ferd Froeschle, the advertising manager and public relations director at Melroe Manufacturing from 1964 to 1981.
Subseries 2, Budget/Finances, 1961-2000 (not inclusive), includes budgets, price lists, advertising schedules (with proposed ad expenditures). There are monthly budget spreadsheets with actuals, budget, and variation for media, production, printing, film and photo, travel, conventions, co-op advertising, sales aids, and miscellaneous.
Subseries 3, Advertisements, 1964-2001, documents advertisements (both color and black and white), color proofs (used to evaluate the ads' final appearance), some examples of the four-color process-a printing process that combines different amounts of the four colors red, yellow, blue and black, copies and/or originals torn from trade and industry magazines. The advertisements are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by language. There is some clip art with Bobcat Company logos and an advertising manual for the international market. The manual was intended to help dealers prepare their own advertising.
Subseries 4, Artwork/Storyboards, undated, include artwork-the visual components of many advertisements-with and without typeset text for a variety of Bobcat Company products. Many are black and color ink on tracing paper or a transparency such as a photographic image on clear plastic. Also included is documentation on the development of the Bobcat Company logo and storyboards for the Bobcat of Futureville with plans on how to set-up/lay out a Bobcat dealership.
Subseries 5, Advertising Proof Books, 1954-1993, consists of advertisements that were placed in newspapers or various industrial, construction, and farming publications. The proofs are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by product or the industry in which the product was used; for example, agriculture, contruction, forestry, industry, and rental. In some instances, the alphabetical heading is further refined such as construction (regional) versus construction (national). This distinction was drawn to distinguish the type of advertisement and where it would appear. Advertisements appeared in publications such as The Dakota Farmer, Montana Farmer- Stockman, The Farmer, Canadian Machinery and Metalworking, and Heavy Construction News.
Subseries 6, Surveys/Profiles for Skid-Steer Loaders, 1977, 1979, 1990-1991, contains survey and summaries from research services that conducted interviews and analysis for the company on the use of skid-steer loaders. The testimonials contained within this section are from employees at Central Bi-Products, (a meat processing facility) in Long Prairie, Minnesota.
Subseries 7, Promotional Ideas/Retail Sales, 1972-2001, include pamphlets, brochures, point-of-purchase ads, stickers, calendars, and greeting cards (Christmas, birthday, and Thanksgiving).
Subseries 9, Contests, 1965-1999 and undated, contains documentation illuminating the company's many and varied contests. Held company-wide and worldwide, the contests were intended for dealers to promote the sale of new products. Incentives included cash, prizes, or attachments for various Bobcat skid-steer loaders. The Let's Do It! contest and campaign of 1972-1973, was a competiton for all employees to think more about their productivity efforts. Employees competed quarterly for corporate awards which were given to divisons and plants with the best nine month performance. Employees were judged on return on investment, inventory control, sales volume, and forecasting while the plants were judged on productivity improvement and inventory control.
Subseries 10, Posters, 1977-2005 and undated, consists of posters created by the company for dealers to use in conjunction with various campaigns, programs, and contests.
Series 7, Product Information, 1967-2008, contains brochures, specification sheets, and catalogs detailing the various products offered for sale by the Bobcat Company. Melroe product history file consists of histories of Melroe Ag products, memorable dates in the Melroe company history and speeches about Melroe Manufacturing.
Series 8, Melroe Ag Products/Spra-Coupe Materials, 1972-1998, is divided into two subseries: Subseries 1, Melroe Ag Products Division, 1973-1983 and Subseries 2, Spra-Coupe, 1972-1998, undated. Melroe Ag Products was a division of Melroe Manufacturing which specialized in farm equipment. The products included reset plows, multi-weeders, rock pickers, chisel plows, grain drills, harroweeders, windrow pick-ups and the Spra-Coupe. The Spra-Coupe materials consist primarily of advertisements, product information, and promotional materials. The Spra-Coupe was first built in 1963 by John D. Kirschmann and brought to market in 1965. In the spring of 1972, Melroe Manufacturing acquired the Spra-Coupe, which was designed to apply chemicals using a self-propelled sprayer. The Spra-Coupe was sold primarily to custom operators and was used to replace the airplane as a means of applying liquid spray.
Series 9, Press Related Materials, 1969-2005, is arranged chronologically and divided into four subseries: Subseries 1, Press Clippings, 1969-2005; Subseries 2, Scrapbook of clippings, 1977-1978; Subseries 3, Press Releases, 1972-1999, undated; Subseries 4, Press Conferences, 1978, 1989, 1994; and Subseries 4, Articles, 1967, 1979, 1993. The press releases were used by the company as "organizational announcements" and were released internally to announce promotions, new positions, scholarship recipients, and service awards. In some instances there are black-and-white photographs found in this series as well as "special" releases from 1972-1974 containing correspondence with television stations and industry specific publications such as the Montana Farmer- Stockman and Fertilizer Solutions.
Series 10, Audiovisual Materials, 1963-2007, is divided into seven subseries: Subseries 1, Corporate documentation, circa 1960s-2007, undated; Subseries 2, Promotional, 1967-2007, undated; Subseries 3, Sales, 1963-2003, undated; Subseries 4, Safety/training, circa 1970s-1983, undated; Subseries 5, Commercials, 2004, undated; Subseries 6, Spra-Coupe, 1988-1993, undated; and Subseries 7, Supplemental documentation, 1974-1975, 1983, undated.
Of note are the commercial films made by William Snyder. Snyder was born and raised in North Dakota, and after working in Hollywood, California, for Technicolor he returned to Fargo to form Bill Snyder Films, Inc. Most of Snyder's output was 16 mm film format in color and black-and-white for industrial programs produced by corporate entities and non-profit groups. Snyder supplemented this work by producing television commercials and commercial movies for industry, including Melroe Manufacturing. Melroe hired Snyder in the early 1960s to make a "short" demonstrating the company's skid-steer loader. Eventually more movies were made: The Story of the Bobcat Kid, Bobcat a Go- Go, and Farm Boy at Heart. The movies provide an insight into the marketing strategy of a small company looking for a new and creative marketing effort called the "info-mercial." Aired on local television in the five-state area (Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming) and using Melroe employees, these movies boosted sales for the company.
Subseries 1, Corporate documentation, circa 1960s-2007 and undated, contains footage of corporate events (primarily National Dealer Meetings), the manufacturing process in the two North Dakota factories, employees at work, and other company-related moving images.
Subseries 2, Promotional, 1967-2007 and undated, consists of films that promote various models of Bobcats and attachments to consumers and dealers. Many films highlight the features, capabilities, and different uses of specific models and associated attachments. CD-ROMs were probably given to potential customers based on their interest in Bobcat products or could have been used in dealerships for customers to access the same information.
Subseries 3, Sales, 1963-2003 and undated, documents the material shown to salesmen and dealers of Bobcats for sales purposes. Methods for improving sales, techniques for selling against competitors' machines, and detailed information about Bobcats' capabilities and features are highlighted to educate salesmen on the products. Numerous motivational and instructional videos were made with Reg Stansfield, Regional Sales Manager, offering strategies to improve sales and increase productivity. Some films in this subseries may have been shown to customers.
Subseries 4, Safety/training, circa 1970s-1983 and undated, documents education of the safe operation of Bobcat machines.
Subseries 5, Commercials, 2004 and undated, contains tapes of thirty second television commercials promoting Bobcat skid-steer loaders.
Subseries 6, Spra-Coupe, 1988-1993 and undated, consists of material relating to the Melroe Spra-Coupe and its electrostatic spraying process. Customer testimonials, descriptions of the use of the machine, and the features and capabilities of the Spra-Coupe are included.
Subseries 7, Supplemental documentation, 1974-1975, 1983, and undated, consists of brochures, scripts, and descriptions for some of the audio visual materials.
Collection is arranged into ten series.
Series 1, Historical Background, 1965-2007
Subseries 1.1, Company Histories, 1965-1998 and undated
Subseries 1.2, Organizational Materials, 1970s-2007 and undated
Subseries 1.3, Factories/Plants, 1965-1996; 2007
Subseries 1.4, Union Materials, 1971, 2005-2007
Subseries 1.5, Kaizen Materials, 2003-2004 and undated
Subseries 1.6, Company Christmas Cards, 1965-1974 and undated
Subseries 1.7, Company Picnics, 1966-1979
Subseries 1.8, Awards, 1969-1988
Subseries 1.9, Subject Files, 1963-1985
Series 2, Clark Equipment Company, 1965-1994 and undated
Subseries 2.1, Company Histories, 1965-1978
Subseries 2.2, Annual Reports, 1974-1994
Subseries 2.3, Employee Information and undated
Series 3, Newsletters, 1965-2009 and undated
Subseries 3.1, Bobcat Alumni Newsletter, 1984 fall; 1987 spring
Subseries 3.2, Bobcat Brief, 1985-1993
Subseries 3.3, Bob Cat's Pajamas, 1965-2008
Subseries 3.4, Bobcat Messages, 2000
Subseries 3.5, Bobcat System, 1993
Subseries 3.6, Clark Pickup, 1975-1976
Subseries 3.7, Feller Buncher Toppers, 1984-1985
Subseries 3.8, Melroe Farm Reporter, 1973-1977
Subseries 3.9, Melroe Messages, 1987-1996, 1999
Subseries 3.10, Melroe Pickup, 1969-1975
Subseries 3.11, Melroe Scoop, 1970
Subseries 3.12, Newsloader, 1979-1982 and undated
Subseries 3.13, Scoop, 1991
Subseries 3.14, The Summit, 1990-1992
Subseries 3.15, Territory Tales, 1974-2002
Subseries 3.16, The Winner's Circle, 1983-1989
Subseries 3.17, Worksaver, 1977-2008
Series 4, Photographs, Negatives, Slides, and Transparencies, 1960-2003 and undated
Subseries 4.1, Alphabetical, 1960-2003 and undated
Subseries 4.2, Miscellaneous, 1963-1986 and undated
Series 5, Dealer Materials, 1964-2003
Subseries 5.1, Dealer Advisory Council Meetings, 1967-1996
Subseries 5.2, Sales Meetings, 1964-1999
Subseries 5.3, District Managers Meetings, 1971-1990
Subseries 5.4, Conferences, 1973, 1974, 1993
Subseries 5.5, Specific Dealers, 1978, 1979, 2003
Subseries 5.6, Dealer Advertising and Sales Promotion Kits, 1967-1996
Subseries 5.7, Co-op Advertising Materials for Dealers, 1979-1982
Subseries 5.8, Subject Files, 1965-2003
Series 6, Marketing and Advertising Materials, 1954-2007
Subseries 6.1, Correspondence of Ferd Froeschle, 1974-1976, 1990
Series 10, Audiovisual Materials, circa 1960s-2007, undated
Subseries 10.1, Corporate documentation, circa 1960s-2007 and undated
Subseries 10.2, Promotional, 1967-2007 and undated
Subseries 10.3, Sales, 1963-2003 and undated
Subseries 10.4, Safety/Training, circa 1970s-1983 and undated
Subseries 10.5, Commercials, 2004 and undated
Subseries 10.6, Spra-Coupe, 1988-1993 and undated
Subseries 10.7, Supplemental documentation, 1974-1975 and undated
Biographical / Historical:
The Bobcat Company Records document the evolution of the Bobcat skid-steer loader from a simple agricultural machine into a versatile and widely recognized tool. The Company's loaders, mini track loaders, and product attachments improved productivity in many industries such as shipping, landscaping, and construction. In 1958, approximately 20 loaders were built, and by the 1960s, the total number of units was in the few thousands. In the 1970s, 10,000 loaders were being manufactured a year. Today, Bobcat produces approximately 40,000 loaders a year and celebrated its 750,000th loader in 2008. Other companies, such as Caterpillar, Case, John Deere and New Holland all make loaders, but Bobcat dominates the market and its name is synonymous with the compact construction equipment industry. The records focus primarily on Bobcat's products, marketing, and advertising through product literature, photographs, advertisements, posters, newsletters, and audiovisual materials.
The Bobcat Company is a story of individuals, simple ingenuity, independence, and innovation and improvement. The Kellers' problem of removing turkey manure from a barn was solved with a can-do, make-do ethos of the farm which spawned a global industry. The early roots of the Bobcat machine lie in the farming heritage of central Minnesota and the North Dakota plains with two blacksmith brothers, Louis (b. 1923-) and Cyril (b. 1922-) Keller. Out of farming necessity to make manual labor easier, a story of technology grew into a world-wide industry that would become known as the compact equipment industry and would be identified with the name Bobcat.
In the fall of 1947, Louis Keller formed Keller Manufacturing (sometimes known as Keller Welding) in Rothsay, Minnesota, which provided a wide range of general repair services to customers, especially blacksmithing and welding services. In 1953, Cyril Keller joined his brother Louis as an equal partner in the business. The small family business noted that they "weld anything except a broken heart." In the summer of 1956, Eddie Velo, a local turkey farmer, approached the Kellers with the problem of cleaning manure out of his turkey barns after the turkeys had been taken to slaughter. Standard loader tractors could not be utilized because of their limited maneuverability, and they were too heavy to operate on the second story of a barn. Velo needed a tractor that could maneuver around the posts in his barn, move backwards and forward, and make sharp turns. The Kellers developed a drive system that was designed to provide the maneuverability required by Velo. A bucket was placed in the front, and a motor in the back. A third castor wheel was added to permit sharp turning. They employed a pulley-and-chain system to switch back and forth. They found that this system was too dangerous, and they abandoned it for a clutch system. The result was a system for "transmitting power from a power unit to propulsion wheels, drive shafts and the like, and in particular to a transmission system for self-propelled vehicles having independently rotatable propulsion or drive wheels."0F A completed loader was delivered to Velo in fall 1957, but the Kellers continued to refine and test it. They manufactured six additional models on speculation and ultimately sold them to area poultry farms. To address the instability issues of having three wheels, they added a counter weight at the back. Additionally, they introduced attachments for the loader-snow blade, sweeper, a bucket, and a manure fork. The Kellers sought to mass-produce their loader. After pursuing various avenues, their uncle, Anton Christianson, a dealer with Melroe Manufacturing Company of Gwinner, North Dakota, introduced them to Melroe Manufacturing. Melroe Manufacturing Company was founded in 1947 by Edward Gideon "E.G." Melroe (d. 1955), a pioneer in agricultural technology.
The Kellers were invited to bring their loader to the Melroe booth at the 1958 Minnesota State Fair, to determine the amount of interest in the loader. The interest was so great that Melroe decided to manufacture the loader. After the State Fair, an agreement was reached-Melroe would have exclusive manufacturing rights on a royalty basis. The Kellers would be employed by Melroe to further develop the loader. Access to the Melroe facilities allowed the Kellers' work to progress and be widely marketed. In the fall of 1958, Louis and Cyril Keller moved to Gwinner, North Dakota, to begin work. Louis worked on the manufacturing floor from 1958 to 1967 developing the loader, and Cyril worked from 1958 to 1980 as a salesman promoting and selling Melroe products and training dealers.
Development of the first Melroe loader prototype (M60) began in November 1958 and was completed in early 1959. The prototype utilized the Keller patented drive design, which was used on various Melroe and later Bobcat models until 1982. The name "Bobcat" originated in 1962 with Lynn Bickett, of Gould, Brown and Bickett, a marketing agency in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Allegedly, Bickett found the word "bobcat" in the dictionary, and noted that it was a North American mammal that is "tough, quick, and agile." These traits perfectly described the Melroe loader to them, and the Bobcat slogan, "Tough, quick, and agile," was born.
Officially designated the Bobcat Company in 2000, the company previously operated under the names: Melroe Manufacturing (1958-1969); Clark Equipment Company (1969-1995); and was also known as Ingersoll-Rand Company (1995-2007). In 1969, Clark Equipment Company of Buchanan, Michigan, acquired Melroe Manufacturing and pushed the Bobcat loader to even greater sales. Clark was a leader in forklifts, but adding the Bobcat product line expanded Clark's range and marketing potential. In 1995, Clark was acquired by Ingersoll-Rand (IR), a leading manufacturer of construction equipment and industrial machinery. IR wanted a strong brand name and the top market share that accompanied it, and Bobcat was just the thing. The IR Company provided Bobcat with a platform to focus on product innovation (front end attachments) and it encouraged global manufacturing and development. The Bobcat Company was acquired by Doosan Infracore International of South Korea in October 2007.
2 Louis Keller. Transmission system. US Patent 3,151,503, filed Dec. 1, 1958, and issued Oct. 6, 1964.
These records complement many of the Archives Center's agricultural holdings such as the William C. Kost Farm Records (documenting a 20th century family-owned farm in Illinois); the Robinson-Via Family Papers (documenting daily farm life in Prince George's County, Maryland); the Everett Bickley Collection (documenting agricultural technology of bean sorting) and the Southern Agriculture Oral History Project Records (documenting the disappearing farm). These papers also complement the Archives Center's holdings of industrial equipment such as Caterpillar, Page Tractors, and B.B. Brown (documenting tractor engines). Construction related papers include the Clyde Learned Papers (documenting a highway engineer); Lloyd F. Rader Papers (documenting civil engineering); the Leon Struck Photo Album (documenting road building) and many of our collections of civil engineering materials.
The Division of Work and Industry holds one magnetic lifter, Accession 2007.0196.01-.02
This collection was donated by Scott Nelson, President of the Bobcat Company of North America on June 23, 2008.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Viewing the film portion of the collection without reference copies requires special appointment, please inquire. Do not use original materials when available on reference video, DVD, or audio tapes. Contact the Archives Center for information at email@example.com or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions. The Archives Center does not own rights to these photographs. All requests for permission to use these photographs for non-museum purposes must be addressed directly to the Bobcat Company. Potential users must receive written permission from appropriate rights holders prior to obtaining high quality copies.