Caterpillar Inc. is one of the world's top manufacturers of construction equipment and machinery. While it is a Fortune 100 company today, its beginnings were much more humble. Below, you'll be able to find out more about the history of Caterpillar Inc. and how the company grew into the powerhouse it is today.
The company was founded by two men that were initially rivals: Benjamin Holt and C.L. Best. Holt was a Californian inventor that was passionate about new technology. While he was a highly successful inventor, he was not an engineer. Instead, he was an ideas man that shared his vision with people that transformed it into a reality.
Holt was a co-founder of the Holt Manufacturing Company, which operated in Stockton, California. The company created several successful products, including a combine harvester that was drawn by horses and the tractor with the first workable crawling tread. These tractors were named "Caterpillar" because the way they moved was reminiscent of a crawling caterpillar.
C.L. Best, on the other hand, was an engineering expert. Best was the founder of the C.L. Best Gas Traction Co., a company that specialized in producing tractors. While many of Best's early designed were failures, he was persistent, redesigning his tractors until he created models that were efficient and effective.
How did these two companies, which were helmed by rivals, wind up becoming part of the same company? Holt and Best had had several legal disputes, which had taken a toll on both companies. Both businesses also found them in a difficult position after World War II.
In order to minimize losses and strengthen the position of both companies, it was agreed that they would merge. The 1925 merger led to the formation of the Caterpillar Tractor Company. The company's name was taken from the popular series of tractors produced by the Holt Manufacturing Company.
After the merger went through, the company was initially headquartered in San Leandro. In 1930, headquarters were moved to East Peoria, Illinois, where Holt had built a manufacturing plant. Like many businesses, Caterpillar Inc. struggled during the Great Depression, and its line of products was consolidated to just five tractor models.
Thankfully, it wasn't long before the business began to recover. Caterpillar chose to replace its diesel engines with gasoline engines during this time. Caterpillar products saw a surge during World War II thanks to military contracts.
In the 1950s, Caterpillar Inc. began to move beyond farming equipment, creating new machinery that was suitable for construction projects. In 1952, the brand introduced its first tractor loader. In 1954, the popular D9 tractor was also introduced. Caterpillar sought to expand its operations, adding manufacturing locations in Europe, South America, and Australia.
Throughout the 1960s, Caterpillar machinery was a park of several historic projects. Caterpillar machinery was used in the construction of Pakistan's Mangala Dam, and Caterpillar equipment was also used to widen the Panama Canal. Caterpillar engines even helped to send man to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.
While Caterpillar had long sold yellow-colored machinery, they adopted the famous Caterpillar Yellow shade. Throughout the 70s, global sales for Caterpillar products also surpassed domestic sales. Caterpillar had become a worldwide powerhouse, and the brand is still famous across the world to this very day.
From that point on, Caterpillar began to make more acquisitions, allowing the company to expand its reach and offerings even further. For example, in 1981, Caterpillar acquired Solar Turbines. Some of Caterpillar's other acquisitions include Balderson, Inc., Barber-Greene Co. Inc., and Perkins Engines. Acquisitions have been the primary way that Caterpillar has expanded its operations for the last few decades.
Today, Caterpillar Inc. brings in approximately $54.7 billion in revenue annually. The company was founded more than 95 years ago, and it is still growing and expanding. Caterpillar is also still making exciting innovations. For example, the company introduced the world's first high drive electric dozer in 2018.
Caterpillar Inc. is one of the biggest names in construction. When you pass by a construction site, it's likely that you'll spot equipment with the familiar CAT logo. Caterpillar is a trusted brand that is known for excellence. Currently, the company is focused on new innovations and sustainability.