Over the last century we’ve grown with our customers. We’ve changed together as the world has changed: creating, building, problem solving, innovating, testing, servicing and improving. When customers choose our products, services and solutions today, they also gain nearly 100 years of experience and expertise.
Early on, Holt and Best were competitors. But, together, these innovators led to the success of Caterpillar and track-type tractors of today.
In a time when horses powered infrastructure and agriculture, Caterpillar co-founders Benjamin Holt and C.L. Best created products that transformed the way our customers worked. Holt invented a steam tractor in 1890 to keep farmers working longer than horses could. Best responded to customer needs with a focus on early gasoline technology.
C.L. Best is considered one of Caterpillar’s founders and our first chairman of the board.
Benjamin Holt owned over 45 different patents and his greatest invention was the first commercially successfully track-type tractor – still part of our product line today.
The “Best” Legacy: C.L. Best, Caterpillar’s first chairman, helped create one of the most significant tractors in our company’s history – the Sixty.
The Caterpillar Sixty track-type tractor was one of the company’s most successful track-type tractors. Its innovations in engineering can be found in the DNA of today’s lineup of Cat dozers.
Pioneer, innovator and genius, Benjamin Holt’s legacy of innovation helped define the company we are today.
In 1904, Benjamin Holt replaced the rear wheels from a Holt steam tractor with a pair of tracks to help Caterpillar farmers deal with soft soil. During a field test in 1905, the company photographer exclaimed that the machine crawled like a big … Caterpillar.
Following World War I, the Holt Caterpillar Co. and C.L. Best Tractor Co. combined their strengths to provide customers with innovative products and a strong dealer network. Today, our dealer network operates on the same principles to help our customers do the work. The old saying remains true — buy the iron, get the company.
The need for better visibility on road construction sites led to our colorful change from gray to hi-way yellow in 1931.
A historic innovation started as an experiment, this time involving paint and color. The goal was to find the color that would be visible at the furthest distance by day and night — yet be pleasing to the eye. Yellow was chosen, and paint specialists created the distinctive Caterpillar yellow for exclusive identification of our machines.
On December 7, 1931, gray paint and red trim were replaced with hi-way yellow and black trim. Today, we call our paint color Caterpillar Yellow.
The first production Caterpillar diesel engine, the D9900, was manufactured in October 1931 after 18 months of design and testing. Over $1 million (U.S.) was spent on research and development — a considerable investment in those days. Originally designed to power the Caterpillar Sixty track-type tractor, this engine cemented the company as a pioneer in building vehicular diesel engines. In 1931, Caterpillar created a separate engine group and expanded its engine development to areas like generator sets and marine power.
Today, Cat engines are commonly found in electric power generation. Other uses for Cat power include engines for the petroleum industry, marine, locomotives, agricultural equipment, industrial power, construction equipment and many more. The diesel engine's virtues of efficiency, dependability and simplicity were what prompted Caterpillar to pioneer its use in mobile equipment sixty years ago. These same attributes are characteristic of the Cat engines of today.
Dating back to Holt & Best, we’ve continued to bring innovative solutions to help our customers succeed.
Since the very beginning, we have made a name for ourselves by developing innovative solutions. In fact, Holt and Best had over 100 patents. The track-type tractor and the first diesel engine “Old Betsy” are just a few of our early solutions that changed the industries we serve. Even our iconic yellow paint is an indirect nod to the history of innovation.
Customers continued to rely on us to develop innovative solutions to get the work done. Since our earliest days, Caterpillar has provided products and services that benefit our customers, continually improving the quality of the environment and communities where we live and work while helping build a better, more sustainable world. From early autonomy with remote-controlled machines to today's fully-autonomous vehicles, we have continued to bring innovative solutions that have helped our customers succeed.
To help our customer build a better world and meet the needs of a global population, we focused on growing our business through a series of acquisitions to further diversify our products and service offerings.
Caterpillar’s first acquisition dates to 1928, with the buying of the Russell Grader Company. Throughout our history, we’ve acquired companies and technologies to grow our capabilities and expand our product line. Beginning in the 1980s, we purchased several companies to expand our ability to offer innovative solutions for customers in the industries we served. For years, we were providing solutions beyond the tractor line, and in 1986 we formally changed our name from the Caterpillar Tractor company to Caterpillar Inc.
Caterpillar continues to innovate and help our customers create jobsites of the future.
Innovative products and services aren’t anything new. Our founders, Holt & Best, were innovators, and that’s continued throughout our history. Early on, we supported our customers by delivering parts by airplanes. Today, as we work to help transform jobsites with technology solutions, we are bringing decades of expertise. We delivered technology like remote control dozer and track loaders decades ago—all to help our customers improve their business.
Evolving isn't new for us. We’ll continue to work hard to provide products, services and world-class technologies that enable our customers' success. We’ve been doing it for over 95 years and are committed to keeping that focus in the future.