Building the Best

The Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition was a worldwide exposition held in Portland, Oregon, in 1905 to celebrate the centennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Though it attracted exhibits and visitors from around the world, it was not an official World’s Fair. From opening day on June 1 through closing day on October 15, the exposition attracted around 1.6 million visitors and featured exhibits from 21 countries. 

Exhibits of technological advances included moving picture shows, motorized blimps and electrical lighting. The first transcontinental auto race concluded at the fair. A variety of exhibits and special buildings on the 400-acre fairgrounds highlighted foreign trade, agriculture, forestry, transportation, manufacturing and machinery.

Included in the machinery exhibits was a machine built by Daniel Best and his son C.L. (also known as “Leo”), of the Best Manufacturing Company of San Leandro, California. Leo started working for his father at the age of nine and would go on to even greater fame serving as Caterpillar’s first chairman.

The Best Steam Traction Engine #183 was used to transport machinery to the exposition grounds as shown in the photo. The tractor was then put on display at the exposition along with several other machines manufactured by the Best Manufacturing Company.

Much like the World’s Fairs, there was a judging system for the products and inventions on display, and the Best Manufacturing Company took home three gold medals – one for its sidehill combined harvester, one for its combined steam engine tractor and combined harvester, and another for its logging and lumber trucks.

To learn more about the Best family, go to or check out the new exhibit at the Caterpillar Visitors Center.

1905 - The Best Steam Traction Engine #183 was used to transport machinery to the Lewis and Clark Exposition grounds.