If you've ever wondered why the wheels on a road grader look like they're broken and might fall off at any moment you need to turn back the clock to a time when a road trip really was an adventure. In the last half of the 19th century roads were little more than muddy ruts that needed constant attention just to keep them passable. Some jurisdictions hired or contracted with individuals to maintain the public roads in a particular area. J.D. Adams was working as one such road inspector about 1885 when he had a better idea. Being well acquainted with the shortcomings of grading equipment of the period he began to look for a way to improve the performance. Just as a workman leans into a load he is trying to push, Adams reasoned that a grader's ability to excavate and move earth could be improved by shifting the weight of the machine onto the blade by adjusting the angle of the wheels. His design for adjustable angled wheels combined with an angled blade is the basis for road graders still produced today.
Although Adams had no formal training as an engineer he designed the first pull grader to employ the leaning wheel principle and was granted a patent for his invention. He started his business as a salesman visiting local governments while contracting the production with established manufacturing firms. By 1897 his business had grown to the point where he owned his own factory located in Indianapolis, Ind. In the years that followed J.D. Adams Co. expanded it's market into Canada and built marketing arrangements with Acme Road Machinery Co., Baker Manufacturing and Smith Trailer Corp. Adams Road Machinery was bought out by Letouneau - Westinghouse in 1953 who continued production using the Adams trade name until 1960.
The grader shown in these photos is owned by the Kissimmee Auction Company, a dealer in heavy construction equipment located near Spartanburg, SC. It's parked along the road front of their business on Wingo Heights Road along with another Adams grader, a Caterpillar pull grader and an Oliver crawler tractor.
Adams Road Machinery eventually produced self propelled graders but the early models lacked any power source being intended to be pulled behind draft animals, steam traction engines or whatever could be put into service.
By the same token the operator riding on the grader made all adjustments to the wheels and blade angle by hand.
The data plate on this unit has been severely damaged, it almost looks as if the model number has been ground off. The serial number is still readable ( 1026 ).
I've not been able to find an online resource that provides information about Adams road grader model and serial numbers. There are a number of photos posted on bing.com/images that closely resemble this grader but no reliable information about the model or date of manufacture. If you can contribute any information please leave a comment.
www.constructionequipment.com The Leaning-Wheel Grader by Tom Berry.
www.archives.hcea.net J.D. Adams & Company, 1905-1961 and N.D. by Thomas Berry.
www.bing.com/images Adams leaning wheel graders.