Alonzo Pawling and Henry Harnischfeger formed a partnership and established a machine shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Dec. 1, 1884 that grew to become P&H Mining Equipment, a global leader in the manufacture and service of large, pace-setting excavating and drilling machines for the mining industry. Pawling and Harnischfeger were young when they started. Pawling was 27 years old, and Harnischfeger was 29. However, they were already veterans in the manufacturing industry and had worked together at the Whitehill Sewing Machine Company in Milwaukee.
During the early years of their business, Pawling and Harnischfeger supplied parts to local manufacturers and established a reputation for innovation and dedication to customer value. Among their early customers were Nordberg, Rex Chain Belt, and Allis-Chalmers—companies that, along with P&H, would establish Milwaukee as a leading center for the manufacture of equipment for the mining industry.
In 1887, Pawling and Harnischfeger built the first machine of their own manufacture—a simple and reliable overhead traveling bridge crane for use in factories—and they established P&H as a brand name that would become one of the most famous brands ever attached to a line of mining equipment.
A financial panic in 1893 convinced Pawling and Harnischfeger—by then referred to more often as P&H by their growing number of customers—to expand their product line to include digging machines. The first P&H digging machines included ladder-type and wheel-type trenchers needed for installing water, gas, and other pipelines. As with all the other machines and devices that their manufacturing operations produced, Pawling and Harnischfeger stood by their products and became well-regarded for the service support they provided to their customers. By 1911, the P&H digging equipment line included small shovels and draglines. In 1912, P&H rolled out their first highly popular excavator, the P&H Model 206.
During the 1930s, P&H Mining Equipment became one of the first U.S. manufacturers to adopt all-welded design for all P&H excavators, thus ending reliance upon heavier, rivet-design machines and making possible digging machines of far greater strength and endurance. P&H Mining Equipment would continue to introduce new technology, from drives and controls to improved-geometry dippers and excavator platforms, all aimed at increasing excavator productivity and reliability, over the ensuing decades.
Today, the P&H trademark continues to be recognized throughout the world mining industry as a symbol of quality and service associated with cost-reducing P&H electric shovels, drills, and walking draglines for use in even the harshest of mining environments. The guiding principles of Alonzo Pawling and Henry Harnischfeger, who started their partnership on a cold December day in 1884, remain alive and well.