Founder of ‘cherry pickers’ dies
02 July 2012
Jay Eitel, the founder of Telsta Corp. in Sunnyvale, CA, passed away June 10 in Palo Alto, CA. The 94-year-old is well-known as one of the first producers of aerial lifts for the utility industry.
As some know, Eitel spent long hours during the summer of 1944 picking cherries. After positioning and repositioning his ladder numerous times, Eitel was provoked to design a device he called the "cherry picker." The maneuverable, telescopic steel structure was mounted on a truck chassis and had a one-lever control. The man-carrying bucket lift became popular after Eitel founded Telsta Copr. and it wasn't long before the Bell Telephone Company started using the machine.
Eitel went on to design and build a "Lamplighter" lift that allowed the operator to step from the driver's seat to the lift platform, then safely elevate the unit for utility maintenance. In the course of developing these industry-changing devices, Eitel claimed 65 patents. He sold Telsta to the General Cable Corp. in 1965.
The Telsta product line became part of General Cable which was later incorporated into American Financial Corporation, Cincinnati, OH. American Financial sold the company to the employees in 1995 and it became Mobile Tool International. MTI included Holan and later, the acquisition of Teco and Ameriquip. Telsta products are still produced by Altec Industries, Inc. who purchased the assets of MTI in 2003.
In 1954, Telsta Corporation received initial orders from Southern California Edison, PG&E, Portland General Electric, Arizona Public Service, Davey Tree Surgery, and other arborists for its street light service unit and truck mounted telescopic lift. At the time, Telsta's competitors included Don Will Company, Portland, OR (Industrial Monkey), Tey Manufacturing Company, Milford, CT (Sky Worker), Stemm Brothers Inc., Leavenworth, WA (Hi-Tender), and Mobile Aerial Towers Inc., Fort Wayne, IN (Hi-Ranger). Other aerial lift manufacturers were getting ready to release their products including Holan, Pitman, McCabe Powers, Baker Equipment and Utility Body.
Eitel was always active in the industry even though he retired in 1976. He continued to work on his personal hobby of building hot rods including a Corvair with a V12 Jaguar engine, a Pontiac Tempest with a 427 engine and a 3/4 scale 1937 Ford Roadster with a supercharged Ford Flathead V8 60 motor. He was a lifetime member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and was requested in 1981 by the World Bank to consult on manufacturing problems in South Korea. He returned a year later to further assist the Korean Government in solving problems in their automotive development.
Eitel is survived by his wife of 48 years, Esther Eitel of Palo Alto, his son John and many nieces and nephews. He leaves behind a long legacy of innovation and service with his remarkable inventions.