On The Map: Fresno

On The Map: Originals

When people invent something, they often name it after themselves. But this invention was named after a place... on the map.

Irrigation… you gotta have water to raise your crops.

In the Central Valley in the 1880s, getting water to your crops by an irrigation canal was only possible if you had the right equipment to do the job.

James Porteus, a Scottish immigrant and blacksmith, was the inventor who beat out the competition.

This is the device we’re talking about. An animal would be on the front and a person could walk behind. It would scrape the dirt and it would go into this catch. And if you wanted to dump the dirt out, you simply pulled up the lever.

This device was instrumental in the creation of the Panama Canal. It was used extensively in Europe by the United States during World War I for trench digging. And the Caterpillar Company actually took this and put it on the front of one of their tractors and called it a “bulldozer”.

Mr Porteus made a lot of money from this invention.

The device’s offical name was “The Fresno Scraper”. But most folks just called it The Fresno… On The Map of Fresno County.

Oh, by the way, James Porteus had become so wealthy selling his Fresno Scraper invention that he bought this house. At the time it was the northern-most residence in all of the City of Fresno. That’s funny because it’s on Van Ness just south of Olive. Since that time it’s been many different things. It’s was the original home of Fresno Pacific University and for a time it was the Fresno office of the Boy Scouts of America. And now it’s home to Angels of Grace Foster Famiy Agency.

With Emily Lucas behind the camera, I’m A.J. Fox.

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