William Dana Ewart, an Iowa farm implement dealer, conceived an idea for a square detachable link for a chain belt. It was 1874, and Ewart's "linked belt" solved a problem faced by his customers: Harvesters operated with continuous chain belt drives that would wear unevenly and break. Once broken, the entire chain belt was taken back to the barn for repair, thus delaying the harvesting. Ewart's belt with detachable links could be repaired in the field and would wear more evenly.
Ewart obtained a patent on his idea in 1874. Over the next several years, Ewart was relentless in pursuing the idea of using link belt chain as foundation for all types of power transmission and materials handling equipment. His driving ambition and continuous innovation of this concept led to the founding of the Link-Belt Machinery Company in 1880 and the Link-Belt Engineering Company in 1888. In 1890, these companies developed the first wide-gauge, steam-powered, coal-handling clamshell crane - ancestor of today's Link-Belt construction equipment.