| August 2000

Comparison to Small Insect's Movement Inspired a Tractor Giant

Big pictures evoke the massiveness and power of Caterpillar crawler tractors over the last century in The Big Book of Caterpillar, a new book from Voyageur Press. The inside cover photo alone (from the Eastman Collection, University of California-Davis) transports one back to a time when huge steam traction engines developed by the Best and Holt family companies ruled the logging industry.

Author Robert N. Pripps, photographer Andrew Morland, and stunning archival photos take the reader through more than a century of developments at Caterpillar - from its family-owned company roots to its status as a multinational giant with a diverse product line.

'Cat' enthusiasts who are also baseball fans receive a bonus: The forward of The Big Book is written by Bob Feller, Baseball Hall of Famer, whose Cat collection now numbers eight tractors.

The first chapter traces the interesting history of the Best and Holt family-owned operations, beginning in the late 1800s. The C.L. Best Gas Tractor Company and the Holt Manufacturing Company would later be consolidated to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company in 1925.

The Best family business actually began when Daniel, C.L. Best's father, established a portable grain cleaning business in northern California in 1871. Daniel later combined a header with the portable cleaner. 'All that was then needed was to add a threshing mechanism,' Pripps writes. This resulted in Best's 'Traveling Combined Harvester,' six of which were sold by fall 1885. This machine was a forerunner of the combine.

The Holt story began with Charles Holt's horse-drawn conveyance business in San Francisco in 1869, which grew into a wooden wheel business and later a combine manufacturing operation in Stockton, Calif. The Holt brothers, including Benjamin (president of the Stockton Wheel Company), sold their first combine in 1886.