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British Industrial History

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R. G. Le Tourneau

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Robert Gilmour Le Tourneau (November 30, 1888 – June 1, 1969)

Robert Le Tourneau was born in Richford, Vermont, and was a prolific inventor of earthmoving machinery. His machines represented nearly 70 percent of the earthmoving equipment and engineering vehicles used during World War II, and over the course of his life he secured nearly 300 patents.

1888 Born in Richford, Vermont.

1902 Left school at the age of 14 to begin work as an apprentice ironmonger at the East Portland Iron Works.

1909 Took an automobile correspondence course and granted himself a "Bachelor of Motorcycles".

1911 Became half owner in the Superior Garage in Stockton.

1920s LeTourneau completed many earthmoving projects during the 1920s and early 1930s, including the Boulder Highway to Hoover Dam, in Nevada, the Marysville Levees, Orange County Dam and the Newhall Cut-off, in California.

1933 He retired from contracting to devote his attention to the manufacturing of earthmoving equipment.

1935, he built a manufacturing plant in Peoria, Illinois, and the continued expansion of his business saw the establishment of manufacturing plants in Toccoa, Georgia, in 1938, in Rydalmere, New South Wales, Australia, in 1941, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1942, and in Longview, Texas in 1945.

The LeTourneau name became synonymous with earthmoving worldwide. LeTourneau was largely responsible for the invention and development of many types of earthmoving machines now widely used. He designed and built machines using technology that was years, sometimes decades, ahead of its time and became recognized worldwide as a leader in the development and manufacture of heavy equipment.

In 1953, LeTourneau sold his entire earthmoving equipment line to the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. He then applied his ingenuity to the development of the electric wheel drive concept.

1958, at the age of seventy, LeTourneau re-entered the earthmoving equipment manufacturing business, offering contractors a range of high capacity earthmoving, transportation, and material handling machines based on the revolutionary electric wheel drive system he had developed. An electric wheel drive is also called an electric Wheel hub motor.

1965 I.C.S. awarded LeTourneau his diploma in engineering, 50 years after he studied the course.

LeTourneau was active in his company as president and chairman of the board from 1929 until 1966. He also held the position of chief engineer, personally working alongside his engineers and employees throughout his working life. Having spent his entire life around earthmoving equipment, LeTourneau was just as likely to be seen at the controls of one of his machines, as he was to be seen attending to corporate matters.

1966, at age 77, LeTourneau handed over presidency of his company, LeTourneau Technologies to his son, Richard. LeTourneau continued to work each day and could be found at the drawing board in his modest office, designing new ways to move larger loads faster and more economically.

1969 Le Tourneau had a stroke in March, and passed away in June the same year.[1]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Wikipedia