|In earth-moving history, the Fresno must occupy a place second only to the wheelbarrow.
It was invented around 1880 by Abijah McCall, a blacksmith and part-time digger of
irrigation ditches. His machine, named after the town where it was manufactured,
made possible the swift expansion of the railroads and highways from the turn of
the century right into the twenties. As the saying went, the Fresno moved more dirt
It was, in brief, a mule-powered scoop shovel. It came in widths of from three feet, for two-mule power, up to five feet for a four-mule team. The handle of the shovel was an iron bar up to eight feet long that was operated by the mule skinner. In action, the mules dragged the empty Fresno along the ground on its bottom until the operator reached the point where he wanted to scoop up some earth. There, he lifted up on the handle of his shovel, tilting the blade into the ground. Four mules on a five-foot Fresno could scoop up half a cubic yard of dirt, at which point the skinner threw his weight down on the handle and tilted the blade out of the ground.
From: R.G. LeTourneau: Mover Of Men And Mountains. By: R.G. LeTourneau. Page 55-56