A Tribute to the Founder of The MEWP Industry

In 1944 – around 70 years ago – a young boy picking cherries during his summer holiday laid the foundation for the multi-billion dollar mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) industry we know today.

Exasperated at the time-consuming and exhausting practice of climbing down the ladder he was using to reposition it countless times during the day, the young boy set about creating the world’s very first “cherry picker”. In the evenings and during weekends, he built a man-carrying bucket lift supported by a maneuverable telescopic steel structure mounted on a truck chassis, complete with a one-lever control.

His name was Jay Eitel.

Just after World War II ended, Eitel started his own company – the Telsta Corporation – and his “cherry pickers” became widely used by numerous utilities for a range of applications, including the Bell Telephone Company. Eitel’s aerial platform innovation initiated the highly productive practice of directly placing telephone cables from a moving truck – a major contributor to building of our modern telecoms network.

His next innovation was the “lamplighter” lift, which allowed operators to step from the driver’s seat onto the lift platform, and to be safely elevated to perform street light maintenance. In the course of founding the modern MEWP industry, which has saved thousands of lives by offering superior safety and brought massive productivity advances to countless industries, this remarkable innovator and inventor accumulated 65 patents.

Eitel sold his Telsta Corporation to General Cable Corporation in 1965, although he remained actively involved in the company for another 11 years. General Cable was later incorporated into American Financial Corporation, which later became Mobile Tool International (MTI). The assets of MTI were acquired by Altec Industries, Inc., which still produces Telsta products.A lifetime member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Eitel consulted on manufacturing problems in South Korea in 1981 at the request of the World Bank. A year later, he was commissioned by the Korean government to assist in solving problems in their automotive industry.

Following his retirement in 1976, Eitel could focus his attention on his passion: midget racecars and custom-made automobiles. This resulted in two of the most extraordinary custom-built automobiles ever created.

We pay tribute to the founder of our industry, who sadly passed away on 10 June 2010 in Palo Alto, California. His remarkable legacy of innovations and inventions that became industry game-changers lives on in the safety and productivity achieved at countless work sites around the globe where cherry pickers are used.

Jay Eitel

About the Author: Gary