Oliver’s Ted Thornton-Trump, circa 1952, getting a view from above on his invention, the giraffe, as they cruised down the street in the Penticton Peach Festival parade. His invention, now known as a cherry-picker, changed the world. (Photo courtesy of OldPhotos.ca)

South Okanagan inventor lifted the fruit industry to new heights

South Okanagan man was full of ideas

With $200, an old jalopy to his name and a mind full of ideas, Ted Thornton-Trump arrived in Oliver in 1944 after his discharge from the Canadian Army.

He became interested in applying his engineering design ability to the fruit industry and came up with what the modern world now calls a cherry picker or a boom lift.

READ MORE: Vignette: Giraffes and Girettes

The BC Fruit Growers Association history states that Trump acquired the Okanagan franchise for a pneumatic pruning machine and he immediately began brainstorming ideas of how to replace the heavy and slow orchard ladder.

According to Michael Gates, a Yukon historian, Trump was living in Oliver when he came up with the concept of attaching a bucket at the end of a hydraulic arm, which would enable a person to work at considerable height above the ground.

While Trump originally called it the Giraffe, it is now known as the cherry picker, a device found everywhere around the world.

In a 2012 column in the Yukon News, Gates said Trump explained how he came up with the idea.

READ MORE: Klondike experience leads young man to career as inventor

“He imagined a man working in a bucket high above the ground, and he could see the truck down below. He just had to think of some means by which to connect them,” wrote Gates in his column.

The first design of the Giraffe was meant to be towed by an orchard tractor, drawing its power from the tractor’s power take-off. Tested in the summer of 1951, a few months later it was selling for $2,000.

By 1956, he refined the design to a one-man system, powered by an air-cooled motor that he called the Girette.

The BC Fruit Growers Association said a freeze in 1955 slowed his sales to fruit growers and he was threatened with bankruptcy. He worked his way out of the hole by diversifying into production of man-lifters for other industries. By 1962 his factory employed 100 workers and was producing 14 models of the Giraffe, including a truck mounted version that could reach the top of a 12-storey building and another designed for firefighting.

Gates said Trump also invested, developed and manufactured equipment used to de-ice aircraft.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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