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How Caterpillar got started

Notes taken from "Classic Farm Tractors" by Randy Leffingwell

Anybody know how caterpillar got started? Well ! Caterpillar wasn't always the name of the Cat tractor or the Caterpillar factory. Way back in the very early 1900's there were two men that had an interest in the brand new farming event that had emerged out of the gold rush of 1848 in California. When the gold ran out very quickly, at sutters mill, all the men had to find something else to do. Since many of the ones that migrated to California to seek their fortune in gold, were farmers, the only fall back experience they had was farming. And since the center of California was a very rich soiled territory, it became a major farming state in short time. The first main product to be raised was wheat. When a man named Daniel Best moved to California in 1858, to get rich, and found no gold for his pockets, he started wheat farming with his brothers, in 1869. Wheat farming in any part of the US was practicaly the same and that was very labor intensive and, with horses and mules. In these large wheat fields in central California it began to cost to much to import machinery from the factories in the midwest and eastern parts of the US. There were no roads or railroads yet so all had to travel around the horn of South America to reach california and that meant money and lots of time. They were starting to get that machinery but it was very conventional and was not able to clean the grain as it was cut and seperated it from the stalks. The grain had to be hauled to town to be cleaned, at considerable cleaning expense. Mr. Best started to manufacture a cleaning machine that could be adapted to the harvestors, already out there, in 1870, and then later manufactured the whole combine unit including one that was a hillside machine, meaning that the cutting head followed the lay of the ground and the seperating part stayed level. But, all these machines were pulled by horses or mules and usually no less then 12 to 20 animals in one pulling unit. besides that, the ground was "lowland". Meaning it was soft dirt.

Steam traction engines were starting to make the scene in the eastern and central parts of the US and since that was the most modern type of pulling power thus far. (gasoline or diesel power was not widely utilized yet) In 1889 Best bought the patent rights from a company that was supposed to be the first steam powered tractor built on the west coast, from the family name, "Remington", the same that were the gun builders. They were called, "steam traction engines". (the word tractor had not been thought up as yet either) Best built his first steam engine that same year and it was designed with an upright boiler, that was centered over the rear wheels, and weighed in at 22,000 thousand pounds with 60 hp at 150 lbs of steam. Mr. Best went on to manufacture steamers that ranged from, 50hp to 150hp with the biggest ones weighing as much as 50 tons.
Another man was building machines at the same time, for the same market, was Charles Holt. He was in direct competition with Best in building combines and traction engines and both were located in California. The only difference was, Best consentrated on building engines to pull a combine and Holt built a self propelled combine powered by steam engine. However, both were very much on the innovative trail for the wheat farmers in California. Best produced 1,351 steam powered combines while Holt produced 8,000. Both also made the steam traction engines to pull combines and that is what Mr. Best consentrated on. But, in all this intensive and masive persistance to get the wheat in, it was somewhat futile for the very heavy steam powered machines to not sink in the soft river bottoms of the San Joaquin Valley.
So a quest for another type of machine would be called for, the track type crawler tractor.

How Caterpiller got it's name

 

 

   

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