Walter W. Moe
(1913 - 1997) Walter Moe was a prolific grass-roots inventor and businessman. Born in rural Milan, Minnesota in 1913, he farmed for 10 years before founding the Montevideo Manufacturing and Metal Company in 1947 to produce and sell his inventions. He remained in business in Montevideo for 38 years, until he retired in 1985. In 1937 he patented the automobile air cleaner which is very similar to air cleaners used on today’s automobiles. He made his first prototype in the hayloft with tin snips and a screwdriver. On February 2, 1937, the day the registered letter came in the mail from the United States Patent Office, many roads were blocked because of a snow storm, so he walked 2½ miles to a neighbor’s farm to get the mail and his first patent.
In January, 1942, he was seriously injured in a truck accident, and hospitalized for 13 days recovering from a back injury, punctures to his lung caused by two ribs going through his lung, and other minor injuries. While in the hospital he became concerned about his ability to farm. He want to fence a new alfalfa pasture, and there was a lot of fencing to be done. With a bad back this wasn’t going to be easy. He designed a power driven post hole digger and built it with the help of a local blacksmith in Milan and service station garage in Big Bend. Moe says that as far has he knew, it was the first power driven post hole digger in Minnesota. Afterward, some people called him "Post Hole Moe."
He rented the basement of a garage during the winter of 1946-47, bought a small lathe, a used drill press, arc welder, hack saw, and other small tools. He hired three men who had very little experience, and they began making the post hole digger. He said there were a lot of expenses before he made a sale, so he took money from his farm to pay the bills. He was questioned by the IRS because he paid out more in wages that he collected from sales.
His farm was flooded out in the Spring of 1947, so he decided to quit farming and build the post hole digger and other things. He held a farm auction in October , 1947, and built a shop in Montevideo, which he opened for business in June, 1948. With some advertising, he sold post hole diggers as far away as Texas, Tennessee, and Montana.
His inventions were designed primarily to improve the quality of life in the farm environment with which he was familiar. His many farm-related inventions included a power driven post-hole digger (the first power driven post-hole digger made in Minnesota), a corn stalk cutter, a corn sheller, a power egg washer, wheel-extension hubs for combines, a bolt and drill measuring (over 350,000 were sold), a spring-loaded trailer hitch, a unique 4-point truck box hoist, and a very successful hydraulic tandem truck axle. He was awarded two consecutive grand-prize awards at the Minnesota Inventors Congress, the first for an all hydraulic power-driven front end loader in 1969 (it could be driven sideways, at an angle, or any direction the driver wanted to go), and the other for a snowmobile combination trailer and sled in 1970 (it had skis underneath and could be converted to a sled by moving a spring lever).