After the steam powered machnes made their mark on
the farming frontier there was another milestone for the two guys
in California named Daniel Best and Charles Holt. They already had
their feet firmly planted in the manufacturing and marking of combines
and traction engines but now it was on to something better that
would offer greater stability in the soft ground that the farmers
were dealing with in the San Joaquin Valley. Holt and Best both
were on the cutting edge of a machine that would start a whole new
industry of machines to build the worlds roads, pull the farmers
tools and do the impossible earth moving jobs at a fraction of the
normal cost and time.
The task was to adapt tracks to a machine that would transfer driving
power to the ground and at the same time have a smaller weight per
square foot ratio. This would let the machine travel over the soft
ground and have more traction two. Both men started to build crawler
machines at about the same time but in different factories. Makes
one wonder if perhaps there may have been some spying going on between
the two. Because their machine were very similar in nature. Both
have a pair of driving tracks, one on either side, and a single
wheel in the front to aid steering and support the front weight.
None of the early machines were ever to consider a front blade for
pushing dirt. They were only a drawbar machine for pulling.
These new crawler machines would come at the exact time the nation
was coming alive with growing pains in many different ways. In 1904,
on Nov. 24th, Holt tested the new tracks adapted to his 40hp Jr
steam road machine. As he(Ben Holt, son of Charles Holt) and charles
Clements watched it move along the ground, Charles commented that
it looked like a Caterpillar crawing along. Holt remembered the
remark and added it to the machines as a trademark, not a name.
Caterpillar didn't start as a company name for several years. However,
the name Caterpillar did appear on machines as a logo or trade mark
starting with the machines Pliny Holt (son of Charles Holt)built
in Minneapolis Min. in 1909. The word Caterpillar was written across
the top of the radiator in a up and down pattern to resemble a caterpillar
In 1909 Pliny bought a bankrup business building in Peoria Ill.
and moved there to start building machines for shipment around the
world. He started production in January of 1910 and changed the
name to The Holt Caterpillar Company.(not
The Caterpillar Tractor Company)
By this time Best had sold out to Holt (1908) because of infringments
on patients. (See: I told you there was some hanky-Panky)
The end was near for steam power and the area of gasoline power
was at it's forefront. In 1906 Ben Holt began manufacturing gas
powered crawlers at it's manufacturing facility in California. His
first machine, (sixty) went to a local farmer and the next three
went to the new Aqueduct project to bring water fron the Seirra
Nevada Mountians to Los Angeles. Many more orders followed. Now
there were two Holt manufacturing companies building crawers. One
in California (Ben)and one in Illinois.(Pliny) One for each market.
For two years Daniel Best son, Leo, worked for Holt but in 1911
he moved back to California and started up the old factory producing
machines under a new name(C L Best Gas Traction Company) Here again
I bet he took with him a lot of information gained while working
with Holt. In 1907 Leo Best made a gasoine machine that resembled
his fathers first steamer. It was a large three wheel type gasoline
powered rig which was a very heavy machine and probably didn't work
very well in the soft ground, in California. In 1910 he started
to build crawler machines to compete with Holt. Both machines were
classified by horse power. (example 40 - 60 - 80 - 100 - 120)
In 1925, Holt and Best again merged, because of the
depression following WW1, and the merged company was again renamed,
"The Caterpillar Company" and the machines
were all painted industral yellow. They secured contracts with contractors
to supply crawler machines that were working for the new Federal
Highway Building Fund.
From 1910 till 1925 all of the Holt built machines of Minn. and
ILL. were called Caterpillar but were know as Holt Caterpillar.
They were painted in different color combinations of, sand brown,
brown and black, Gray, and yellow. After 1925 all were industral
yellow as they are today. Their were some sold after 1925 that were
gray but they were made before 1925.