Ed Malzahn, founder of The Charles Machine Works and its iconic Ditch Witch brand, has passed away at the age of 94. Armed with a mechanical engineering degree, in the late 1940s Malzahn began investigating a better way to install residential utility services, which then involved slow pick-and-shovel labor. Both he and his father Charles spent months working the family’s Perry, Oklahoma, machine shop to create the DWP, or Ditch Witch Power, prototype.
Malzahn with an early trencher prototype. At 28, Malzahn saw the realization of his dream, the first production trencher, a mechanized, compact service-line trencher. Today, more than 1,300 employees “bleed orange” as the company calls the fierce loyalty it generates within its personnel, producing a variety of underground construction equipment, from trenchers to vibratory plows to horizontal directional drilling systems. Twice Malzahn saw the Ditch Witch compact trencher named “one of the 100 best American-made products in the world” by Fortune magazine.