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How Caterpiller got it's name

Notes taken from "Classic Farm Tractors" by Randy Leffingwell

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 crawing along.

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.

 

 

   

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