Leading Edge Attachments, Inc.

History of the First Backhoe and the First Tractor Loader Backhoe
Wain-Roy Corp.
(and the first Hydraulic Thumb)

The backhoe is characterized by being a hydraulic digger mounted to the back side of a tractor with a bucket and a boom arm that digs toward the operator. The backhoe has a hydraulic swing frame that allows the arm and bucket to be swung to the side for dumping without moving the machine. The backhoe has hydraulic outriggers to stabilize the tractor and to transmit the force to the ground rather than through the rubber tires. The backhoe typically has a swivel seat that allows the operator to rotate around and face forward to use the tractor when not using the backhoe.

The Tractor Loader Backhoe (TLB) consists of the backhoe as listed above, mounted on a rubber tired wheel loader, as opposed to simply being mounted on a non-loader type tractor.


Many references incorrectly say that the first backhoe was developed by the JCB Company in 1954 or by Case Corporation in 1957. Although it is true that Case produced the first integrated Tractor Loader Backhoe (whereby all the components were manufactured and warrantied by the same manufacturer), the true development of the backhoe actually began in 1947 by the inventors that started the Wain-Roy Corporation of Hubbardston, Massachusetts. In 1947 Wain-Roy Corporation developed and tested the first actual backhoes. In April of 1948 Wain-Roy Corporation sold the very first all hydraulic backhoes, mounted to a Ford Model 8N tractor, to the Connecticut Light and Power Company for the sum of $705.

We are in the process of writing a book about the history of origonal backhoe, but in the mean time, please read below, outlining a brief history:


First Backhoe 1948

(Kangas, 2009)


The invention and patent #2,496,874 of the first operator facing hydraulic tractor mounted digger was filed in June of 1947 by Vaino J. Holopainen (pronounced Waino). Then, the invention of the first backhoe swing frame was developed in July of 1947 by Vaino J. Holopainen and Roy E. Handy, Jr., (thus the company name Wain-Roy¯) and assigned to Wain-Roy Corporation. Then in July of 1948, patent # 2,698,697 was filed by Vaino J. Holopainen. The swing frame breakthrough allowed the hydraulic digging arm to swing to the side to dump the bucket. This patent also included the invention of the out-rigger bar, and high flow control. Wain-Roy made 24 units in 1948.  Sherman Products of Royal Oak, Michigan also made them for Wain-Roy under license in that year. In 1949 production increased. In the years following, Wain-Roy made them for Sherman and Ford. In 1949 Wain-Roy came out with the model 54A and Model 54B in 1950. Approximately 7000 Wain-Roy Backhoes were manufactured and sold between the fall of 1948 and early 1954, mainly through Ford dealers. (Prendergast, 1954)


Sherman Power Digger With Wain-Roy Backhoe 1948

1949 Sherman Brochure showing Wain-Roy Backhoe


In 1950 Patent # 2,768,759 was filed By Vaino for the invention of making a backhoe shovel version. Henry Manufacturing of Iowa started to make backhoes with the swing frame, not under license of Wain-Roy, and in 1951 Lord Mfg. in Lancaster, MA, and Ware Machine Works of Ware, MA also made some. The patent for the first reversible seat was developed at Wain-Roy by Carroll Arnold and Vaino Holopainen and then filed by Vaino under patent # 2,784,768, and in June of 1954, Vaino filed patent # 2,781,927 for individually controlled outriggers. Wain-Roy produced these units as the model 54C.


Vaino (Waino) Holopainen on First Backhoe 1947

1947 photo of Vaino J. Holopainen

(photo courtesy of the Handy family)


John S. Pilch of Ware Machine Works, Ware, MA, developed the first 4-bar linkage to achieve greater bucket digging and dumping rotation. Pilch filed for patent #2,678,741 in September of 1950. The 4-bar linkages were also used on the Wain-Roy backhoes after 1954.

 The first hydraulic wheel loader was invented by Frank G. Hough in the mid 1940's and patented under patents 2,782,946 and 2,726,778. The first Tractor Loader Backhoe was a Wain-Roy backhoe mounted to a Frank G. Hough model "HE" in 1952 in Holden, MA for the Holden Water Department. The F.G. Hough Company was a subsidiary of the International Harvester Company. By early 1954, two Hough Payloader model wheel loaders, the HE and the HF were available with Wain-Roy Backhoes. International Harvester also made the Wain-Roy Backhoes available on some of the IH Crawler Tractors.    (Pippenger, 1992)


First Tractor Loader Backhoe 1951

1951 photo shown of the first Tractor Loader Backhoe,

with Phillip Hammond of the Holden, MA Water Department

A Wain-Roy Backhoe mounted to a Hough HE Payloader

(photo courtesy of the Handy family)

First Tractor Loader Backhoe (TLB) 1952 Wain-Roy On Hough

Side view of next the next Hough model

(photo courtesy of the Handy family)

In 1954 Wain-Roy Corporation got a deal with IH for the Hough TLB full scale production on several other models of Hough loaders. The single most important key to the success of the backhoe was in the swing frame, of which Wain-Roy had the patent, however, since Henry, then Lord, Ware and Pippen etc., were making them by 1954, and the patent was not defended, due to bad counseling from the Wain-Roy patent attorneys, they were advised that they could then not defend it, so other companies started to manufacture backhoes, disregarding the patent. Sherman was bought by Ford to compete with Wain-Roy in the mid 50's. Ford dropped Sherman after a 1958 demo where Wain-Roy outperformed Sherman. Ford then bought them directly from Wain-Roy. At that time there were other patents that Wain-Roy owned such as the double pull swing cylinders, the double crowd cylinders, the inside stick lift cylinders, etc.


Tractor Loader Backhoe (TLB) Brochure 1954 Wain-Roy On Hough

1954 Brochure


In 1954, JCB released the JCB MK1 Excavator, which was a JCB backhoe and a JCB loader mounted on a UH2711 Fordson Power Major tractor.

 In 1955 Sherman sold the twin crowd cylinder version of the Wain-Roy backhoe model 54E, and in 1956 Wain-Roy developed an improvement on the swing frame utilizing a linkage.

 The 1957 Patent # 3,003,651 was filed by Vaino for the invention of a quick disconnect backhoe and loader conversion method. In that same year, J.I. Case came out with their Case model 320 “factory integrated tractor loader backhoe utilizing the swing frame, the individual outriggers, the reversible seat, the 4-bar linkage etc.

The 1958 Patent # 2,973,874 was filed by Vaino for the invention of using two cylinders for the swing function of the swing frame. In 1958 in the extended Wain-Roy Fitchburg, MA plant, one backhoe was being built every 35 minutes. WR build thousands of units after that.

 In 1959 Patent # 3,047,109 was filed by Vaino for the method of a quick connect for a backhoe to the back of a farm tractor. Patent # 3,057,494 was then filed by Vaino for the method of protecting the cylinders and making a more uniform package. Vaino also filed patent # 3,116,845 in 1960 for the invention of the first hydraulic clam shell bucket.


First 1948 Wain-Roy Backhoe In Ford Lobby

Ford Tractor and Implement Division Lobby Detroit 1960

Wain-Roy Backhoe Mounted to Ford Model 8N Tractor

First 1948 Wain-Roy Backhoe In Ford Lobby

Enlargement of the Ford display sign in the Ford lobby 1960

It Says:

12 Years of Progress!

Evolution of the Ford Backhoe

Displayed at the right is the original hydraulic Tractor Mounted Backhoe produced in 1948 by the Wain-Roy Corporation

and sold to the Connecticut Light and Power Company, mounted on a model 8N Ford tractor

similar to the one on display. This Backhoe replaced many hand shovels for digging ditches and trenches.

Displayed at the left, mounted on a Ford 1811 Industrial Tractor is the new Ford 10' Backhoe

(12' and 14' also available) produced for Ford Motor Company by the Wain-Roy Corporation.

We invite your visual comparison of 12 years of progress in the production of hydraulic Tractor Mounted Backhoes

For more details and specifications on Ford's industrial line ask at information desk for free booklet.

Ford's First In Productivity!


In 1960 Vaino Holopainen was introduced as“Mr. Backhoe"¯ to Henry Ford II. (Kangas, 2009) Wain-Roy continued to produce them for Ford until 1963 when Ford made their own and Wain-Roy could not compete with such a large company after that. Wain-Roy Corporation bought the AC Anderson Company and then the company suffered.

 Patent #3,193,110 was filed in October of 1963 by Joseph C. Bamford of the J.C. Bamford Company of England, for a horizontal stabilizing bar.  Patent # 3,047,171 was filed in 1964 by Elton B. Long of the J.I. Case Corporation for an improvement on the swing frame.

 In 1964 Elton B. Long of the J.I. Case Corporation filed a patent #3,249,244 for the first extendable boom.

Patent #3,273,729 was filed in January of 1965 by Vaino J. Holopainen for the first hydraulic thumb.

             Although Wain-Roy Corporation no longer exists, the Wain Roy product line of backhoe attachments and couplers are still available through the Woods Equipment Company of Rockford Illinois.

The pictures below were taking in the Hubbardston, Massachusetts town center at the Charles Clark Corner.

Wain-Roy First and original backhoe dedication in the Hubbardston, MA Town centerWain-Roy First and original backhoe dedication in the Hubbardston, MA Town centerWain-Roy First and original backhoe dedication in the Hubbardston, MA Town center



Prendergast, F. (1954, August). A case study in private enterprise. Industry, XIX (11), 7-10, 38.      

 Pippenger, J. J. (1992). Fluid power - the hidden giant. (pp. 220-223). Jenks, OK: Amalgam Publishing Company.    

 Kangas, G. W. (2009). Hubbardston; images of america. (pp. 113-117). Portsmouth, NH: Arcadia Publishing.   

We plan to release a book in the near future that will further disclose this amazing history!

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Revised: April 5th, 2017