The 1925 Holt Manufacturing Company and C.L. Best Tractor Co. merger may not have happened if it wasn't for World War I and an evolving customer-base focused on infrastructure development as a result of the automobile. During the war, Holt had a contract to sell tractors to the government. This contract allowed Holt to sell a significant number of machines and required a focus on production over innovation. While Holt focused on the war effort, companies like C.L. Best captured the domestic market with new and innovative designs.
Following the war, the two companies needed each other. The war left a surplus of machines, which was depressing the market for new tractors, and both companies needed an extra edge to remain successful. Best had the domestic market, an advanced dealer network and expanded product line while Holt had a worldwide reputation, the "Caterpillar" name and modern manufacturing facilities.
In 1925, the two companies decided to merge to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company. The merger provided the company with funds and technological resources to invest in diesel technology to provide customers with more economical horsepower.
After the merger, the newly formed Caterpillar Tractor Company established a key partner, a dealer network, to support customers around the world. Today, our dealer network operates on the same principles to help our customers do the work. Just like all those years ago, our customers wanted more than just buying a product. They wanted an ongoing relationship with someone to help them get the job done. The old saying remains true today — buy the iron, get the company.
The former Holt plant in East Peoria became the company's largest manufacturing center after the 1925 merger.
Holt made several track-type products for the U.S. military during the war.
The first Caterpillar product line was a combination of Holt and Best machines. Here you can see a rare photo of the entire product line at an early CONEXPO (then known as The Road Show) in 1926.
Our dealer network has always been a vital link between our customers and us. This dealer advertisement from the 1920s helps customers understand that the new "Caterpillar" company is the successor of the old Holt and Best Enterprises.
Many of our first dealers were former Holt and Best dealers. Ziegler, for example, was a Best dealer for many years before joining the Caterpillar organization.
Footage of Holt Caterpillar tractors being field-tested by the U.S. military for use in World War I.
The Caterpillar Twenty, the first tractor designed by Caterpillar after the merger, goes head-to-head against a custom-built Twenty … with wheels! See which tractor is harder to pull and which tractor does more damage as it moves.