1925: American Pioneering Spirit – how Caterpillar started out

Caterpillar’s history begins in the 19th century. Back then the focus was on one thing above all else: putting food on the plates of the growing American population. There was plenty of farmland, but cultivating it was an energy-draining challenge that involved a lot of human labor.

That’s why both Benjamin Holt as well as the Best family dedicated themselves to developing machines that would simplify agricultural and other applications. Daniel Best got his first patent in 1871 for a mobile harvester, while Benjamin Holt brought his first steam-powered tractor on the market in 1899 and in 1904 tested his first steam-powered track type tractor prototype. Both families started out as competitors but decided to merge forming what would become modern day Caterpillar in 1925.

Piny Holt operating model no. 77 in 1905
© Courtesy of Caterpillar Inc.

With the increase in automobile and air traffic, there was a growing demand in the following years for more and more powerful machines and equipment for earthmoving and construction. Caterpillar’s broad range of products was also used for infrastructure projects and contributed to the expansion of the company. In addition, the company decided in 1931 to start producing diesel engines. Caterpillar’s triumphant international success finally began in the 1950s with the opening of a branch in Great Britain. Today the company generates more than half of its sales outside of the U.S.

Zeppelin and Caterpillar’s partnership started in 1954.

Caterpillar advertisement dated 1928
© Courtesy of Caterpillar Inc.


1890 Holt builds first steam engine tractor

1910 C. L. Best produces first track type tractor

1925 Merger of Holt & Best into “Caterpillar Tractor Company”

1954 Caterpillar and Zeppelin begin collaboration

1962 Caterpillar introduces its first off-highway truck

1969 Cat engines are used on the Apollo 11 flight to the moon

1972 Caterpillar launches first hydraulic excavator

1997 Caterpillar acquires MaK production plants

2008 Caterpillar brings first track type tractor with electric drive onto the market

Further information:

From the Vault – Stories from Caterpillar’s archive

1950: Metalwork and technical expertise – foundation of the Zeppelin Group

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