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In 1849 Benjamin Leroy Holt was born, one of eleven siblings, he was raised in Concord, New Hampshire. His father, William Knox Holt owned a sawmill and made hardwood for wagon and coach construction.
From an early age Benjamin helped his father in the sawmill and by the age of 23 he had acquired an interest in it, and he was managing the shipping of lumber to the West coast.
In 1864 Benjamin’s older brother had moved to San Francisco to set up his own company C H Holt to produce wagon wheels from the wood his father and brother shipped to him. By 1871 two of Benjamin’s other brothers, William, and Ames, had left Concorde and joined Charles in San Francisco to help build the business which had now started to produce steel wheels for the use on streetcars.
Not long after moving to San Francisco Charles and Ames had started a new company together, Holt Brothers Company, primarily selling hardwood, lumber, wagon, and carriage materials such as wagon axles, wheels, and frames.
The company went from strength to strength and after both William and Ames returned to New Hampshire to get married they built a factory in Concord to manufacture, wheels, bodies, running gear and wheel components.
In 1892 the companies amalgamated and formed a subsidiary called The Stockton Wheel Company. Charles and Benjamin bought their bothers out eventually with Charles running the business side and Benjamin running the manufacturing operations.
During their first year Stockton Wheel Company produced 6,000 wagon wheels and 5,000 carriage bodies.
In 1878 Clarence Leo Best was born in San Francisco, California, better known as C. L. Best, he was a pioneering tractor company executive. He had started his working life at Best Manufacturing Company owned by his father. The company’s initial product was a portable grain cleaner, but with the introduction of steam power it was not long until the company purchased the rights to the Remington steam engine, and they were soon manufacturing steam tractors as well as combine harvesters.
Best Manufacturing Company had also moved its location and had set up its growing plant in Stockton which had easy access to trade and transportation links and was a growing new city full of opportunities.
Holt and Best were rivals. Both companies were striving to corner the market and improve the new steam powered machinery and this also extended to producing a crawler type tractor.
In 1905 C L Bests father retired and gave a third of his company to his son, the other two-thirds he sold to Benjamin Holt. Best became plant manager but Holt now had control of the company.
Best didn’t stay for long and decided to start afresh forming his own company the C L Best Gas Traction Company.
In 1911 Holt registered the Caterpillar after being persuaded to use the name by his family.
The Holt 75 model gasoline-powered Caterpillar tractor used in the beginning of World War 1 as an artillery tractor.
Holt took on big contracts at the beginning of the war whilst Best concentrated on supplying the smaller market for agricultural tractors.
When the war ended so did the contracts and Holt realised that his expansion plans were no longer needed, leaving the company in a difficult situation. To keep the company afloat Holt had to borrow heavily and diversify into road building machinery.
Harry H Fair was a bondage broker with the company Pierce, Fair & Company and were involved in the funding of C L Best company, when he was approached to reconcile the finances of Holts Caterpillar company, he realised that both companies’ futures were in jeopardy and suggested a merger that could be beneficial to both sides.
The Caterpillar Tractor Co. was formed.
In 1920 Benjamin Holt died, he had always been a well-liked man and had set up a dedicated trust fund to help any of his employees who had found themselves in financial difficulty.
C L Best became CEO in 1925 and continued in this role until 1951.
The first Caterpillar dealership was formed in 1920 in Mexico by Benjamin’s son William K. ‘Bill’ Holt.
For over a century Caterpillar Inc as it is now known have been supplying the World with innovation led products, at one time Holt and Best had around 100 patents between them. A global leader CAT is synonymous with the quality, excellence, power, and heritage.
They set and achieve goal after goal, expanding but never compromising. Progression driving them forward from decade to decade to century to century.
Passionate about their people, product, process, and service they excel at excellence.