How Did Caterpillar Thrive in Past Challenging Times?

Less than five years after the C.L. Best Tractor Company and the Holt Manufacturing Company merged to form Caterpillar, the company faced incredible adversity. The Great Depression began, and that meant many companies were fighting for their survival during the worst economic conditions.  

Through strong leadership and an aggressive strategy, Caterpillar was able to not only survive the Great Depression but emerged at the end of that era a changed company. Despite posting its first loss during that timeframe, Caterpillar was seen as a best-in-class company that was revolutionizing the earthmoving business. Caterpillar’s product line expanded to focus more on roadbuilding and construction rather than agriculture. 

October 29, 1929: Stock market crashes

December 2, 1929:  Public trading first began on the New York Stock Exchange

1930:

  • Caterpillar began selling tractors and combine harvesters in Russia

1931:

  • First diesel tractor manufactured in San Leandro, California
  • First motor grader manufactured in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • December 7, 1931 Gray to yellow; trademark logo changes (will have both to give to Eric)
  • First diesel tractors work on a major global project, the King Albert Canal in Belgium.

1932:

  • June: First diesel engine sold for commercial use
  • Caterpillar records its first financial loss of $1.6 million

1933:

  • Caterpillar machines begin work on constructing the Golden Gate Bridge

1936:

  • Hoover Dam completed using Caterpillar equipment
  • As the company’s focus shifts more to construction and roadbuilding, Caterpillar sold its combine harvester line.

1938:

  • Caterpillar machines help begin construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike

1939:

  • Caterpillar manufactures the first diesel truck engine, the D468
  • Caterpillar creates its first genset 

infographic infographic

Combining Today’s Work With The Past

Not every job at Caterpillar is focused on the production line or set in an office environment. Lee Fosburgh works in heritage services, as a corporate archivist, in a climate controlled space which hosts years of Caterpillar history, artifacts, equipment and memorabilia. 

Read More

From Our Vault

Each week we open our vault to share stories of our people and products over the last 90+ years.

Explore Our History