Holt Caterpillar

Caterpillar Restoration

Restored Holt Caterpillar at Beacon Mens Shed Community Workshop

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Restored Holt Caterpillar

Crawler Arrives
Holt Caterpillar Arrives
Restored crawler

Restored Caterpillar

The Holt Manufacturing Company began with the 1883 founding of Stockton Wheel Service in Stockton, California, United States. Benjamin Holt, later credited with patenting the first workable crawler tractor design, incorporated the Holt Manufacturing Company in 1892. Holt Manufacturing Company was the first company to successfully manufacture a continuous track tractor. By the early 20th century, Holt Manufacturing Company was the leading manufacturer of combine harvesters in the US, and the leading California-based manufacturer of steam traction engines.

Holt Manufacturing Company operated from Stockton, California, until opening a satellite facility in Walla Walla, Washington, to serve the Pacific Northwest. In 1909 Holt Manufacturing Company expanded by purchasing the facility of defunct farm implement maker Colean Manufacturing Company in East Peoria, Illinois. Holt changed the name of the company to Holt Caterpillar Company, although he did not trademark the name Caterpillar until 1910. 

The company’s initial products focused on agricultural machinery and were distributed internationally. During World War I, almost all of its production was military materiel. Its tractors were widely used by the Allies to supplant horses pulling haul heavy artillery and tow supply trains. Holt tractors also played a part, to varying degrees, in the development of military tanks in Great Britain, France, and Germany. Holt’s equipment was credited with helping the Allies to win the war.

As the war ended, the Holt company was left with huge surplus inventories of heavy-duty tractors ill-suited for the agricultural market, which had been dominated during the war by the Holt Company’s primary competitor, C. L. Best. The company decided to focus instead on heavy construction equipment and sought to capitalize on the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921. Laden with debt and needing more capital to switch its product line, the company struggled to move forward.

Both the Holt Manufacturing Company and C. L. Best were hurt by the depression of 1920–21 which further inhibited sales. Both companies streamlined their over-lapping product lines. The two companies had spent about US$1.5 million (about $20,931,689 today) in legal fees fighting each other in various contractual, trademark and patent infringement lawsuits since 1905. On the advice of investors, the two companies merged in 1925 to form the Caterpillar Tractor Co. As of 2010, Caterpillar Inc. was the 229th largest company in the world.

Farm equipment and tractors

In the late 19th century, there were companies globally striving to build a practical horse-drawn combine harvester and other farm equipment. They soon progressed to steam-powered farm machinery and, later, designs for crawler-type tractors. More than 100 patents were issued for various crawler designs. Holt began manufacturing horse-drawn combine harvesters in the 1890s and converted to steam-power types around the early 20th century. Over the next few years, Benjamin Holt designed and manufactured the first successful crawler-type tractor and designed a gasoline engine.

In California, the Best Manufacturing Company of San Leandro and the Holt Manufacturing Company were competitors. In 1905, they resolved a patent infringement lawsuit when Daniel Best retired and gave one-third of Best Manufacturing Company to his son, Clarence Leo (“C. L.”) Best. He sold the remaining two-thirds to Benjamin Holt for US$325,000 (roughly equivalent to $8,852,037 today).:C. L. Best was made plant manager of the new concern, but Holt retained effective control. C. L. did not stay long, and left in 1910 to form the C. L. Best Gas Traction Company to replace his father’s firm, resulting in further difficulties between the two men. Holt registered “Caterpillar” as a trademark in 1911.

Caterpillar trademark

Holt was credited with producing the first practical continuous tracks for use with tractors and he registered “Caterpillar” as a trademark in 1910.  Since Holt had trademarked Caterpillar, Best named his tractors Tracklayers In 1911, Holt began building the “Holt Model 60 Caterpillar” in its Stockton plant and a “Holt Model 40-60 Caterpillar” at its East Peoria factory. Additional models followed, including the “Holt Model 60-75 Caterpillar”, which sold very well, eventually renamed as the “Holt Model 75 Caterpillar”, their best-selling front tiller-wheeled tractor.

 “Holt Caterpillar.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 May. 2018.