Ed Malzahn (R), with his father Charlie alongside one of the early Ditch Witch trenchers.

Ed Malzahn (R), with his father Charlie alongside one of the early Ditch Witch trenchers.

Ed Malzahn, the founder of The Charles Machine Works, which manufactures equipment under the Ditch Witch brand has died. He was 94.

Mr Malzahn was born in Perry, Oklahoma, US in 1921. His father Charlie worked in the family blacksmithing business. In later years the business was called Charlie’s Machine Shop, and would go on to change its name to The Charles Machine Works Inc.

Having graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, the 1940s saw Ed Malzahn start work on a machine designed to mechanise the installation of residential utilities such as electric cables, gas and water pipes. These early prototypes were called Ditch Witch Power (DWP). The first production compact trencher was built in 1949, when Mr Malzahn was 28, and was used to lay underground water lines between street mains and the houses.

This invention arguably created the compact trencher industry, machines which have gone on to play a key role in modern society by not only laying water, sewer, gas and electricity lines, but also fibre-optic cables and other communication networks.

Today the Ditch Witch range includes trenchers, horizontal directional drills, vacuum excavators, mini skid steer loaders and utility locator devices, among other products.

Mr Malzahn remained involved in the business well into his 90s, and it remains a family company headquartered in Perry, with his granddaughter, Tiffany Sewell-Howard, serving as CEO.

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