(1848-1922) was the Scottish-American
inventor of the Fresno Scraper
Porteous was born in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland.
father, William Porteous, had been a wheelwright
who built and repaired carriages
and farm equipment
. After learning his
basic skills, James Porteous emigrated to
States in 1873, at the age of 25, and settled in Santa
Barbara, California. In 1877, he moved to Fresno and established a wagon shop, where he prospered,
manufacturing buggies and heavy
worked with farmers, Porteous recognised the dependence of the
Valley on irrigation and the requirement for a more
efficient means of constructing canals and ditches in the sandy
soil, and he went about the task of devising an earth moving
scraper for that purpose.
Porteous invented an improvement on the simple buckboard, a
horse-drawn earth scraper, and refined his Buck Scraper, as he
first called it, through several design improvements. His ideas, combined
with those of fellow-inventors William
Deidrick, Frank Dusy, and Abijah McCall, all of Selma,
California led to the
Fresno Scraper (1883).
Porteous purchased patents held by Deidrick and jointly by partners
Dusy and McCall as he perfected his machine. The basic design forms
the basis of most modern earth moving scrapers, having the ability
to not only scrape and move a quantity of soil, but also to
discharge it at a controlled depth, thus quadrupling the volume
which could be handled manually.
The blade scooped up the soil, instead of merely pushing it along,
and ran along a C-shaped bowl which could be adjusted in order to
alter the angle of the bucket to the ground, so that the dirt could
be deposited in low spots. This design was so revolutionary and
economical that it has influenced the design of modern bulldozer
blades and earth-movers to this day.
Porteous formed the Fresno Agricultural works, which Between 1884
and 1910 produced thousands of Fresno Scrapers. The machines were
used in agriculture and land levelling, as well as road and
railroad grading and the general construction industry.
played a vital role in the construction of the Panama Canal and later served the US Army
in World War I.
It was one of the most important agricultural and civil engineering
machines ever made. In 1991 the Fresno Scraper was designated as an
International Historic Engineering Landmark by the American Society of
. It is featured prominently in the Fresno