The First Self-Loading Haulers

The earliest known self-loading hauler was patented in 1866. Fifty-four years later, the more direct ancestor of today’s elevating scraper came to market — learn more about the benefits that helped it stand out from conventional competition in the 1920s.

The Improved Slusser Excavator, patented in 1866. Note the slat conveyor for loading.
The Improved Slusser Excavator, patented in 1866. Note the slat conveyor for loading.
G. G. Haslup & Bro. advertisement circa early 1870s, HCEA Archives.

Regardless of its efficiencies in carrying and dumping a load, the efficiency of any kind of hauler is going to be impacted by how easy it is to load. Most often, this is a matter of the loader’s own efficiency. But what about a hauler loading itself?

The earliest self-loading hauler known to this author was the Improved Slusser Excavator, patented in 1866 and built by G. G. Haslup & Bro. of Sidney, Ohio. This machine was a self-loading wagon, modestly described in period sales literature as “The Excelsior of all other Labor-Saving Machines.”

In the 1920s, Highway Trailer Company of Edgerton, Wisconsin, introduced the more direct ancestor to today’s elevating scraper. Highway’s sales literature described it as the “Self-Loading Quick-Action One-Man Operated Rear-Dump Two-Wheel Scraper.” Mercifully for sales and service staff, plus the telegraphers who handled so much of their communication, it was officially the HTS, with a suffix for its three exceptionally large sizes of its time, 2 cubic yards through 5 1/2 cubic yards.

Unlike more conventional competition, it probably could not be run in multiples behind a single tractor. But as that handle noted, it was controlled from the towing tractor, eliminating the cost of a second employee on the scraper(s).

Both the Haslup and Highway machines used a mechanism not unlike that in today’s elevating scraper, a mechanism that picked material from the ground and swept it up into the wagon or scraper. Haslup used a slat conveyor, whereas Highway’s “raker” much more strongly resembled what Gene Hancock perfected in the 1950s.

Thomas Berry is an archivist with the Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA). HCEA is a 501(c )3 nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the construction, dredging and surface mining equipment industries. With over 3,500 members in a dozen countries, its activities include operation of the National Construction Equipment Museum and archives in Bowling Green, Ohio; publication of a quarterly magazine, Equipment Echoes, from which this text is adapted, and hosting an annual working exhibition of restored construction equipment. Individual memberships are $35 within the USA and Canada, and $55 elsewhere. HCEA’s next International Convention and Old Equipment Exposition will be held Sept. 22-24, 2023, in Bowling Green, Ohio. HCEA seeks to develop relationships in the equipment manufacturing industry, and offers a college scholarship for engineering students. Information is available at, or by calling 419-352-5616 or emailing [email protected].