Caterpillar Machinery Makes Tracks

75th Anniversary Caterpillar Machinery Show draws rare machines and rave reviews

| November 2000

What's big, and yellow, and seen all over? If you were anywhere near Chillicothe, Ill., Aug. 25-27, you'd know the answer to that question: Caterpillar machinery. 

But Caterpillar aficionados know that Caterpillar equipment wasn't always yellow. At first, the standard color was gray, usually trimmed with red, or sometimes black. The change to yellow came officially Dec. 7, 1931, but even today, Caterpillar Inc. will paint its equipment any color, if the customer is willing to pay an additional fee.

The Old Fashioned Threshing Show and Caterpillar Power from the Past shows were combined to assemble the largest collection of antique Caterpillar machinery ever gathered in the Peoria area. Peoria, of course, is the international headquarters of Caterpillar Inc. Sponsors of the event included the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club (ACMOC) and the River Valley Antique Association.

Ted Holton, president of ACMOC, said the organization was founded in 1991 to foster the exchange of information and ideas about the restoration of antique Caterpillar equipment, and to preserve Caterpillar history. Today, the club has more than 2,000 members.

"One does not have to be an owner of old machinery to be a member," he said. "Some members collect literature. The club wanted to have its general meeting in the Peoria area this year because it is the 75th anniversary of the merger of Best and Holt tractor companies and the formation of Caterpillar Tractor Company."

In 1926, Holt Manufacturing Company and C.L. Best Tractor Company merged to form Caterpillar Tractor Company. Benjamin Holt, founder of Holt Manufacturing Co., had invented a tractor with self-laying tracks in 1904. He called it the "Caterpillar" and that was the name chosen for the company created by the merger.