#3 Benjamin Holt's Track Designs
Another California-based company, The Holt Manufacturing Company, also developed influential track-type tractors. Benjamin Holt saw the potential of track-type tractors, and coined the term “caterpillar” to describe the track design. The Holt tractors on display here show how The Holt Manufacturing Company contributed to the development to track-type tractors.
Benjamin Holt was an inventor whose family manufactured combined harvesters. Although the Holt family successfully sold combined harvesters, Benjamin Holt was interested in further developing the idea of using a continuous track on a tractor. Holt saw the usefulness of the track design in creating floatation or helping tractors to stay on top of soft soil instead of sinking into them. Using chains and sprockets, Holt experimented in replacing the wheels of steam traction machines with a “crawler” track. Holt instructed workers at his plant to replace the rear wheels of a steam traction engine with his chain crawler. This chain and sprocket design seemed to be a success, and after a couple years of experimenting The Holt Manufacturing Co. began producing crawler tractors.
Whether or not Benjamin Holt and C.L. Best developed the first track-type tractor in the United States was the subject matter of a law suit between the two companies. The two men engaged in many battles that were settled only when the Best company absorbed Holt and formed Caterpillar Tractor Co. in 1925.
By 1909, Benjamin Holt wanted to expand his tractor company to the Western United States, and began experimenting with tractors that had a continuous track, or track-type tractors. Over the years, Holt built three very different 45 tractors, which include a very early gasoline powered track-type tractor. The Holt 45 H.P. tractor replaced horse power, mule power and steam power and was one of the first track-type tractors produced by Holt. The Holt 45 is notable for its lack of a front tiller wheel. This model was not very successful and only two of these Holt 45 tractors were ever fully assembled.