In the late 19th century and a time when horses powered agriculture projects, California farmers sought new and better ways to do the work. Inspired by innovation in transportation, Benjamin Holt invented a steam tractor in 1890 to keep farmers working and more productive longer and cheaper than horses ever could. As steam-powered machinery became more accepted in agriculture applications, Holt continued innovating to address customer challenges. The wheels of the giant steam behemoths created by his company would sink into the soft California soil. To solve the program, Holt put tracks on one of his old wheel tractors in 1904, and the first true “Caterpillar” was born.
While Holt was famous for the development of the first commercially successful track-type machines, the rival C.L. Best Tractor Company took a different approach and responded to customer needs with a focus on early gasoline technology. Their technological improvements made products more reliable and increased performance. Best’s revolutionary undercarriage design was so ahead of its time that some of the features remain part of today’s Caterpillar tractor DNA.