Some pictures could tell the story of Byron Williford’s life.
He was an avid photographer, always tinkering with his cameras. That was second nature for an engineer. The pictures, though, sometimes don’t do it justice. If the camera was a metaphor for his life, not many were witness to what he saw.
Best Manufacturing Company
Holt Manufacturing Company
C.L. Best Tractor Co.
Caterpillar Tractor Co.
Byron was one of the few people to work for the four companies that helped define modern day Caterpillar, working with the likes of Caterpillar inventors such as Daniel Best, Benjamin Holt and C.L. Best.
But first, he had to leave the farm.
In the early 1900s, Byron was tired of his life as a farm boy and decided to see what work was available in Northern California.
He made his way to the Best Manufacturing Company in San Leandro, and got his first "city" job in the Best shipping department. Soon he was working in the parts department by day and attending school at night. Through correspondence courses and diligent study, Byron became an electrical engineer.
When Daniel Best sold his business to Benjamin Holt, Byron followed and for a short time worked for the Holt’s manufacturing combine harvesters and round wheel tractors.
Around 1910, opportunity called and Byron was talked into taking a new job working for his old friend C.L. Best, who would eventually become Caterpillar’s first chairman. In the earliest days of the C.L. Best 60 Track-Type Tractor, Byron was closely associated with its development and testing. He spent many months in the field, living in small towns as the model proved itself in numerous farm tests. When the C.L. Best 60 was put into production, the man who knew it best – Byron – was named superintendent of the Best machine shop.
When Best and Holt merged to form the Caterpillar Tractor Co. in 1925, Byron became factory manager of the San Leandro plant. His experience as an engineer played an important part in the development of the diesel engine. For 18 years, Byron directed the activities of the factory, identifying himself with progressive movements and accomplishments.
After his retirement in 1943, Byron has served Caterpillar with his engineering know-how as a special advisor on manufacturing problems.
In 1954, Byron said, "In 49 years of association with Caterpillar and Best, I have been amazed at the strides of progress made by the company. Caterpillar has been built solidly on the best principles of business, with the best men, money and machinery any industry could possibly have in the world."
He has the pictures to prove it.