Heritage \ Writings \

Bay City Shovels Co. (1913-1969)
(aka: Bay City Dredging Works Co.)
Location: East side of Center Ave., just east of Livingston St..

Bay City Shovels (aka. Bay City Dredge Works)

The Bay City Shovels was established in 1913, as the Bay City Dredge Works, by William W. Billington and William Burnett. The Comapany's principle product at that time was a unique machine designed for dredging purposes, hence the name. However, over time they expanded into making shovel machines, and in 1929 the company was renamed the “Bay City Shovels.” Like so many other companies that were successful early on, they lost market share and eventually were bought out by a larger firm. Unit Carne & Shovel Corporation took over Bay City Shovels in 1960, but continued to operate it under the original Bay City Shovels name, but with all new officers from Unit Crane replacement former managers of the plant. Six years later, in 1966, the Manitowoc Corporation purchased the Bay City operations, and they ran the company under the name of Bay City-Manitowoc Corporation for three years, and it was finally shut down bring an ending shovel manufacturing in Bay City.

During the company's earliest years, it became well known for its walking dredge crane, which was quite a unique design, as the body of the crane or shovel was supported by two huge supports that spanned a large gap and slowly moved it along as it dug out a new channel or removed dirt from an existing one. The design was updated in 1916, Carl F. Wilson, who had it patented.

They produced 267 of these walking dredges, which they advertised often in national magazines, but I suspect that in later most of their sales came from awareness within the industry that they were the source for this type of specialty crane.

One of these dredges continues to catch attention today, as it is preserved as a landmark in the Collier-Seminole State Park, near Naples, Florida, which it helped create.

Because of its unique design and capabilities, this crane built in 1924 was designated a Mechanical Engineering Landmark (#172) by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1994. Reference: [ASME.org]

Michigan Manufacturer & Financal Record, Vol. 11, Detroit – Oct. 11,1913.


The Bay City Dredge company has started work on a new factory at Bay City. The company succeeded the Bay City Tool & Machine company, a partnership composed of Messrs. Burnett and Billington, who for four years have conducted a shop where fourteen new style land dredges or large ditching machines have been invented and built, and which are to be the principal product of the new company and known as the “Bay City Dredge.”

The dredge differs from all others in that it spans the ditch being dug, travels on portable tracks laid on both banks and is driven by an oil burning engine. Patents have been secured in both the United States and Canada and it is claimed that large ditches can be excavated quicker and cheaper with this machine than by any other method.

The dredging mechanism can also be mounted on pontoons or a scow for digging canals through swamps.

The new building will be 85x180 feet, one story high, and of frame construction, with gravel roof and railroad track running through it, ample light, heat and ventilation is to be provided and a one-story fire proof pattern shop and vault 30x40 feet is be erected adjoining.

About twenty skilled mechanics will be employed, and as the new company has orders already booked for several machines for early spring delivery, a very bright future is in store for it.

Water & Sewage Works, Vols. 54-55 – Mar., 1918.


Contractors engaged in drainage and ditch work will be interested in the new type of land dredge manufactured by the Bay City Dredge Works. This a walking dredge using a series of feet in place of the steel trucks and sectional track for moving the dredge ahead on the work.

Four corner feet are attached permanently to the four corners of the dredge and two large movable feet art in the center, one on each side. The moveup cable passes over a set of sheaves and attaches to the upright or leg on each side above the middle foot. When the operator is ready to move up on the work he engages the clutches controlling the move-up drum and as the cable tightens up it gives a lifting motion to the entire dredge and transfers the weight of the dredge from the corner feet to the center feet. When the weight is removed from the corner feet the tension on the move-up cable causes the dredge to move forward over a set of rollers attached to the middle legs and resting under the longitudinal framework of the dredge. The dredge moves forward 5 to 10 ft. at a shift, the center feet, which temporarily carry the weight of the machine, remaining stationary. When the operator has moved forward the required distance, the tension on the move-up cable is released and the dredge settled on the corner feet. The center feet are then pulled forward until the front of same are flush with the rear end of the front feet. The feet are then in position for the next step.

This move ahead motion is quite rapid and an experienced man can move forward at the rate of 2 steps in 60 seconds. It is possible to move across open country from one piece of work to another at the rate of 500 to 1,000 ft. per hour.

The walking dredge will work successfully over rough, marshy, soft or slippery ground. No track, skids or extra planking are required. No track men are used and labor troubles are great diminished. The increase speed of moving produces larger yardage and lower operating costs. This walking dredge will be found particularly desirable in drainage districts, where the yardage per stations is small, where there are many laterals or where there are a series of short, detached ditches. It will be possible to move from one section of the work to another with a great deal of speed, cutting out the lost time on dead moves and proportionally increasing the monthly yardage.

This walking type of land dredge has been built for the past two years and now they are working successfully in nine different states. They are also suited for highway ditching, sand and gravel pit work, large drain tile ans sewers and irrigation canals.

Barrel and Box and Packages, Vol. 21 – March, 1916.


It is reported from Bay City, Mich., that the Bay City Dredge Co., has acquired the property of the Bay City Box & Lumber Co., of that place and that the factory will again manufacture boxes. W. S. Ramsey and M. S. Babcock will be identified with the box factory.

The Package, Vol. 19 – Sep., 1916.


The Bay City (Mich.) Box & Crate Co. will employ as soon as all of its machinery is placed, at least 60 hands and will probably increase that number to 100 or 125 within a few months.

John F. Butcher, who has operated the Butcher Folding Crate Co., of Vassar, is the head of the new concern. He recently bought from the Bay City Dredge Works the plant of the Bay City Box & Lumber Co., which has been idle for the past two years, and he then organized the box and crate company with a capital of $60,000.

Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Vol. 252 – July, 1918.

1,271,010. DITCH-DREDGING MACHINE. William W. Billington and William Burnett, Bay City, Mich., assignors to Bay City Dredge Works, a corporation of Michigan. Filed September 25, 1913. Serial No. 791,728. (Cl. 105-11)


1. In a ditching machine, the combination of a machine frame adapted to span the ditch, chairs supported in cross beams of said machine frame and axles clamped in said chairs and longitudinally adjustable to vary the width of the machine, said axles carrying the supporting wheels at the ends thereof. 3. In a dtching machine, the combination of a machine frame having the cross beams set close to each other, axle chair castings fitting within said beams and having axle seats formed on their inner faces, an axle fitting within said chairs and means for clamping the chairs around said axles, and supporting wheels at the ends of the axle, substandially as and for the purpose set forth.

(Claim 2 not printed in the Gazette.)

Municipal Journal & Public Works, Vol. 49 – Nov. 20, 1920


The land dredges, built by Bay City Dredge Works, are designed for all kinds of work, from narrow, shallow trenches t ditches with a top width of 50 feet, for cleaning out those ditches, and to provide a strong, light-weight, easily portable, economically operated machine efficient for a large variety of work. The dredges are of steel construction, light, strong, easily and quickly dismantled, moved and reassembled. All of them are equipped with an oil-burning engine and can be handled by one man, who is able to dig to the exact required cross-section.

The dredges span the ditch up to a width of 55 feet, excavate to a uniform bottom and side slope, and give wide clean berms. They can be worked either up stream or down stream, and are provided with a quick-operating self-propelling device.

The walking dredge, which moves ahead under its own power without loss of time, will walk over rocks, swamp or slippery ground and among close-cu stumps where other types of earth excavators find it difficult to work. They are built of ½ – yard and 1-yard capacity with clear spans or widths of 14 feet to 38 feet and booms 26 feet to 45 feet long. The walking motion is accomplished by lifting the dredge and shifting its weight from skids that support it while digging to auxiliary skids and then pulling the dredge ahead on rollers on tracks on the auxiliary skids. It requires from 25 to 40 seconds to move the dredge up to the work. It can be moved from ditch to another at the rate of 16 to 25 feet per minute. It can readily be steered right or left and can move forward or back.

The track type land dredges are of the same general constrution as the walking dredges but are carried on steel swiviling trucks operated on track sections that are shifted by the dredge from front to rear as the machine advances. They are built of 1/2-yard and 1-yard capacity with booms of 14 to 66 feet. Bay City dredges can easily be converted into floating dredges mounted o a single scow or on multiple pontoons. The different types of dredges and their installations on important jobs of varying character are illustrated in Catalog C, which contains testimonials from users of this plant. It also illustrates and describes the Bay City gravel loader, of the same general design and construction as the land dredge, which is used for stripping and grading, loading sand, gravel and clay from banks or pits int wagons. They are built of 1/2-yard and 1-yard capacity. The former machine has loaded from 400 to 600 yards of gravel from banks to cars in 10 hours.

Highway Engineer and Contractor, Vol. 6, - Dec., 1921.

Bay City Dredge Works, Bay City, Mich., has issued a large handsomely bound and beautifully illustrated catalog of earth handling machinery. This describes in detail Bay City land dredger of the crawler, walking, track and floating types. It also describes its equipment working under unusual conditions, on road work and highway excavation, sewer tile excavation and ditches constructed by Bay City dredges. The book will prove most interesting to all highway contractors as well as to all general contractors. It will be sent free to anyone making application for it to the company.

Brick and Clay Record, Vol. 59 – Dec. 27, 1921.


For the small plant where the daily capacity is little and where the expenditure of a large sum of money is unwarranted, the excavator, recently introduced by the clay industry, is worth while. The following letters indicate the success that Bay City excavators have had on some plants.

“The excavator we purchased last summer from the Bay City Dredge Works has been very satisfactory and is giving excellent service. Our bank is 20 to 23 feet high at the present time and as we will work back it will be higher. It will dig a fairly hard clay.

“At the present time we shoot our clay but we are convinced that it would work a 10 or 12 fool bank without shooting. Ours is operated by one man, who loads the car, lets it run on a track to our clay chute, dumps the car and then by means of pulleys hauls the car back to the excavator point. On some days we have two other men on the bank cleaning up but not regularly. It will dig 250 yards of clay in ten hours, the engine is easily handled and fuel consumption is five gallons in eight hours.”

Digs Clay for 32,000 Brick on 6 Gallons Gas.

Leonard J. and Charles E. Scholl, Clio, Mich., have the following to say:

“We have been working in a nine-foot bank of hard, tough clay, and have delivered the brick machine sufficient clay for a daily run of 32,000 brick with the excavotor in operation about 50 per cent. of the time, with a fuel consumption of about six gallons of gasoline, and with a crew consisting of the operator and two cart drivers.

The Densmore Brick Co., Lebanon, N. H., in a letter signed by A. J. Densmore, manager, states:

“We have operated the machine since last August, and as far as the machine is concerned we are entirely satisfied. We have had some difficulty in holding the machine up on soft clay, but of course this is no fault of the machine. It will operate on an 8 to 12 foot bank, will dig a hard clay, requires one man to operate and one man as a handy man about the machine. It will dig enough clay easily to make 50,000 brick a day, and if a suitable method is used to take the cars away from the machine we have no hesitancy in saying that it will dig close to 100,000 brick in nine hours. The cost of running is very small, about one gallon of gasoline per hour, and a small amount of oil. The gasoline engine is a good one, has plenty of power and is as good as any gasoline engine that we have seen in this vicinity.

Engineering and Contracting, Vol. 57, 1922

Page 88.

Self Cleaning Shovel Dipper.

A dipper having several new features has been placed on the market by the Bay City Dredge Works, Bay City, Mich., in dumping this dipper tips forward thus assuring, it is stated, a clean dump. The dipper was patented by Michael J. Zabawa and has been in service, since the spring of 1918, on his dredge and others in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It will be known as the Bay City Type Z shove dipper. It will be manufactured for capacities ranging from ½ to 2 cu. yd. Although it will be used as standard equipment on Bay City land dredges, it is also designed for floating dredges and for steam shovels.

Engineering News – Record, March 2, 1939.

Page 113.

Bay City Shovels, Inc., Bay City, Mich.

Early last year, Bay City introduced a light ½ yd. full revolving convertible shovel, Model 25, which has met with wide acceptance and is reported to be turning out remarkable performance for a light machine of this capacity. This machine (illustrated) while weighing only 12 ½ tons, has a high crane rating and follows heavy-duty construction throughout, employing unit cast nickel manganese lower car bodies and revolving table. Reduction of dead weight while still retaining all the advantages of one-piece steel castings is achieved by the use of alloy steel. The machine is fully equipped with anti-friction bearings and helical gears. An electric dipper trip on the shovel adds from 10 to 15 per cent to the output. Chain crowd is stand on all Bay City machines; an automatic chain adjustment is a feature. (photo on file)

Page 117.

Bay City Shovels, Inc., Bay City, Mich.

Bay City has met the demand for a heavier truck-mounted shovel with its new Model 18 unit (illustrated) rate at Ύ yd. as a shovel and 16 ½ tons as a crane. It is full revolving, designed form mounting on a truck of gross rating of 50,000 lb. and equipped as a six wheeler with dual drive. The upper revolving turntable and large roller path with internal ring gear are of unit-cast nickel manganese steel. Other features include liberal use of anti-friction bearings, helical gears, external contracting band-type clutches and brakes, swing locks, electric dipper trips, and self-locking boom hoists.

Page 128.

Bay City Shovels, Inc., Bay City, Mich.

A new line of trailers, designed particularly for transporting the Bay City shovels, but adaptable to any heaving hauling, has been announced by Bay City. These units (illustrated) are completely electric welded and are available in six different types to meet various state laws, and, except for the heavier trailer, deck and wheels have been kept within the limiting maximum width of 8 ft. for use on state highways without permit. They are made in both the deck and skeleton design, and are available with four or six wheels, with straight tandem or oscillating rear axle. They are also available as semi-trailers, and the deck type is made with either straight or drop frame deck.

The Milwaukee Journal, Mar. 16, 1960.


The Unit Crane & Shovel Corp., West Allis, Tuesday announced it has acquired Bay City Shovels, Inc., of Bay City, Mich., through the purchase of its 100,000 shares of outstanding stock.

A. R. Corbett, Unit Crane vice president, estimated the purchase price at $2,100,000 in announcing the move at Bay City.

Bay City Shovels, which employes 370 persons, will continue operations as a subsidiary of Unit Crane. It produces cranes, shovels, backhoes and draglines, as does Unit Crane.

All officers of the Bay City firm have resigned and new officers have been named from the Unit Crane staff.

S. S. Sherman, Unit Crane president and treasurer is Bay City president and David Emmerman is secretary-treasurer. Vice presidents are C. L. Nelson, Corbett, A. B.Ty, W. P. Matschke and E. F. Rueter.

A spokesman said the new Bay City officers would also continue at Unit Crane.

The latter firm also recently acquired manufacturing rights for Coles Cranes from Steels Engineering Product Co., Sunderland, England.

The Milwaukee Journal, Nov. 9, 1966


Unit Crane and Shovel Co., West Allis, has sold its Bay City line of cranes, power shovels and other construction equipment to Manitowoc Co., Inc., Manitowoc.

Manitowoc Co. also has leased with an option to purchase, the Bay City (Mich.) plant where the construction equipment line is manufactured.

Unit Crane, which turns out similar construction equipment, acquired the Bay City operations in 1960. Manitowoc Co., through its Manitowoc Engineering Co., also makes construction equipment.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. When Unit Crane bought the Bay City company, however, in 1960 a price of 2.1 million dollars was put on the deal.

The Bay City plant has about 200 employees. Its plant has 150,000 square feet of floor space, on a 16 acre site.

A new Manitowoc Co. subsidiary has been formed to operate the Bay City plant. It is Bay City-Monitowoc Corp.

Additional notes:

    1893 - Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Bay City Dredging Co. (Charles B. Curtiss, Joseph J. Forcier), 504 Phoenix blk.
  • Curtiss, Charles B. (Bay City Dredging Co.), res. 709 N. Grant.
  • Forcier, Joseph J. (Bay City Dredging Co.), res. 311 23d.
Related Pages/Notes

Dredging Machine.

Dredging shovel.

BC Dredge #48, Collier-Seminole State Park, Florida.(pdf)
Related Pages:
Moritz, John B.
Kaiser, Julius
Young, Walter D.
People Referenced
Babcock, M.S.
Billington, wm. W
Burnett Wm.
Butcher, John F.
Corbett, A.R.
Curtiss, Charles B.
Densmore, A.J.
Emmerman, David
Forcier, Joseph J.
Matschke, W.P.
Nelson, C.L.
Ramsey, W.S.
Rueter, E.F.
Scholl, Charles E.
Scholl, Leonard J.
Sherman, S.S.
Ty, A.B.
Wilson, Carl F.
Subjects Referenced
American Soc. of Mech. Engr.
Bay City, MI
Bay City Box & Crate
Bay City Box & Lumber
Bay City Dredge Co.
Bay City Manitowoc Co.
Bay City Shovels
Butcher Folding Crate Co.
Clio, MI
Collier Seminolle St. Pk.
Densmore Brick Co.
Lebanon, NH
Manitowoc Co.
Manitowoc Enginering
Mechanical Eng. Landmark
Steels Eng. Product Co.
Sunderland, England
Unit Crane & Shovel
Vassar, MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.