The mechanization of Agriculture

| September/October 1953

  • Steam Shovel
    Hauling a 50 ton steam Shovel across the desert.
  • Steam Caterpillar
    A steam Caterpillar Freighting Outfit
  • Special dump wagon
    Special dump wagon.

  • Steam Shovel
  • Steam Caterpillar
  • Special dump wagon


The Holt Manufacturing Company pages 5 and 6 form 'Bulletin No. T.E. 31, Jan., 1909, Steam Caterpillar Engines, Farming, Freighting.' Pictures show that Holt Steam job at work on the Los Angeles Aqueduct.- (From the collection of F. Hal Higgins)

'We pulled some un-godly loads over those mountains. they could not have been handled in any other manner. We took those big Marion steam shovels and Ingersoll-Rand compressors up those steep grades and across deserts without their having to be torn down and re-assembled, as would have been done without this new Caterpillar power. We had our troubles too, of course, on such a revolutionary job. It was hot in the summer, that Harvey House where I lived being the only livable spot and I enjoyed its food and bed as a spot of civilization on the frontier. You asked about reports by old timers who were there as to the toughness of Mojave at that time. It certainly was rugged, though as to whether it was tougher than Gold-field, Tombstone, and such mining frontiers I couldn't say. I just saw those spots that Holt sent me to. I do recall that on one 11-week period at Mojove, an average of 8 murders a week took place. Both the Sante Fe and the Southern railroads had stations there and the construction crews and materials made it an important spot though the population normally was scarcely a handful of people. I think there were 12 to 15 saloons. The one that stands out in my memory was Smitty's. This one had a feature I never saw anywhere else. If and when some greenhorn wandered into the place and offered to buy a drink for the house, Smitty had a big bell that was immediately rushed into the street and the bell shaken. That tumbled the entire population out for a rush to the Smitty bar.

'I had two different autos down at Mojave that time One was a Mitchell, and the other a Pope-Toledo. Maybe you think car service wasn't a real problem'.

At this point the interview shifted to other steam Holts. Weston recalled the first steam Holt Cat he delivered for farm work. The visitor reached into his files and brought out a photo copy of a Holt contract that had a longhand notation inked at top:

'Shipped Dec. 21, 1906 Eng. No. 111. A52387.' Contract read '$5500.00 Holt Brothers Improved Traction Engine.' The filled-in form calls for the manufacture of one 'Paddle Wheel' Traction Engine with 91/2' by 12' cylinder. A 600 gallon water wagon and one plow cart was also included in the order. The outfit was consigned to Golden Meadow Developing Co., Ltd., at Lockport, La. One line is interesting today: 'All payments to be made in Gold Coin, San Francisco or New York Exchange, to the Holt Manufacturing Company at its office, Stockton, California.' Signatures at bottom of contract, 'Golden Meadow Dev. Co., by J. M. Jeffrey, Pres. The Holt Mfg. Co., by P. E. Weston, 21st February, 1907, Lockport, Lafourche County, La.'


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