In 1884, two young men, a pattern maker and a machinist, joined forces and opened a small machine shop in Milwaukee. Three years later Henry Harnischfeger and Alonzo Pawling would introduce the first three-motor electric traveling crane. In 1913, the company, headed by Harnischfeger, introduced gas-driven excavating machinery, and later the first gasoline-powered dragline.
Prior to 1913, excavating machinery was built much like agricultural machinery. A visionary, Harnischfeger saw the value of a mechanical means of digging and refilling trenches. He believed excavators should be built like any other heavy-duty machinery, and that the contractor would pay for high-grade design and construction, if it meant greater machine life and more profit to its user. The impact of Harnischfeger's vision extends worldwide.