The Fresno Scraper is a machine used for constructing canals and ditches in sandy soil.
It was invented in 1883 by the Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...
immigrant and entrepreneur James Porteous
James Porteous was the Scottish-American inventor of the Fresno Scraper.James Porteous was born in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland. His father, William Porteous, had been a wheelwright and blacksmith who built and repaired carriages, wagons and farm equipment...
who, having worked with farmers in Fresno, California
Fresno is a city in central California, United States, the county seat of Fresno County. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 510,365, making it the fifth largest city in California, the largest inland city in California, and the 34th largest in the nation...
, had recognised the dependence of the Central San Joaquin Valley on irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...
and the requirement for a more efficient means of constructing canals and ditches in the sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...
. In perfecting the design of his machine, Porteous made several revisions on his own and also traded ideas with William Deidrick
William Deidrick, of Selma, California was a co-inventor of the Fresno Scraper, the machine that became the basis of most modern earth-moving equipment. On April 17, 1883, Deidrick received U.S. Patent 275,893 for his horse-drawn scraper, which was a variation on the Buck Scraper, invented by James...
, Frank Dusy
Frank Dusy was an early business leader of Selma, California and a co-inventor of the Fresno Scraper, the basis of most modern earth-moving machinery. On June, 16, 1885, Dusy and his partner Abijah McCall were issued U.S. Patent 320,055, for their improvement on the Buck Scraper, invented by James...
, and Abijah McCall
Abijah McCall was a co-inventor of the Fresno Scraper, a horse-drawn earth-moving machine upon which modern road- and canal-building equipment is based. Along with his partner Frank Dusy, McCall devised an improvement on the Buck Scraper, invented by James Porteous. On June 15, 1885, McCall and...
, who invented and held patents on similar scrapers. Porteous bought the patents held by Deidrick, Dusy, and McCall, gaining sole rights to the Fresno Scraper.
The design of the Fresno Scraper forms the basis of most modern earthmoving
Earthworks are engineering works created through the moving or processing of quantities of soil or unformed rock.- Civil engineering use :Typical earthworks include roads, railway beds, causeways, dams, levees, canals, and berms...
In civil engineering, a wheel tractor-scraper is a piece of heavy equipment used for earthmoving.The rear part has a vertically moveable hopper with a sharp horizontal front edge. The hopper can be hydraulically lowered and raised. When the hopper is lowered, the front edge cuts into the soil or...
, having the ability to not only scrape and move a quantity of soil, but also to discharge it at a controlled depth, thus quadrupling the volume which could be handled manually.
The blade scooped up the soil, instead of merely pushing it along, and ran along a C-shaped bowl which could be adjusted in order to alter the angle of the bucket to the ground, so that the dirt could be deposited in low spots.
This design was so revolutionary and economical that it has influenced the design of modern bulldozer
A bulldozer is a crawler equipped with a substantial metal plate used to push large quantities of soil, sand, rubble, etc., during construction work and typically equipped at the rear with a claw-like device to loosen densely-compacted materials.Bulldozers can be found on a wide range of sites,...
blades and earth-movers to this day.
Between 1884 and 1910 thousands of Fresno scrapers were produced at the Fresno Agricultural Works which had been formed by Porteous, and used in agriculture and land levelling, as well as road and railroad grading and the general construction
In the fields of architecture and civil engineering, construction is a process that consists of the building or assembling of infrastructure. Far from being a single activity, large scale construction is a feat of human multitasking...
industry. They played a vital role in the construction of the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6...
and later served the US Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...
in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...
It was one of the most important agricultural and civil engineering machines ever made. In 1991 the Fresno Scraper was designated as an International Historic Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers is a professional body, specifically an engineering society, focused on mechanical engineering....
. It is featured prominently in the Fresno Metropolitan Museum.