Caterpillar, Then and Now
While many things have changed since our early days, the heart of
Caterpillar remains the same.
In 2020, Caterpillar celebrated 95 years since the Holt Manufacturing Company and C.L. Best Tractor Co. merged to form the Caterpillar Tractor Co. Since that time, our business has grown tremendously, expanded globally and played a role in projects that have shaped the world’s history. While many things have changed since our earliest days, our commitment to safety, quality and customer success has remained foundational.
Slideshow: Take a closer look at Caterpillar’s business then and now.
Dealers have been distributing our products around the world since before Caterpillar even became a company. After the merger in 1925, one of the first obstacles the new company faced was selecting dealers from among the former Best and Holt organizations. By the end of 1925, when work was nearing completion, the list included 89 dealers, many of whose names would still be familiar 95 years later. Names still seen today included Yancey, Ziegler, Quinn, Fabick and others.
Dealers remain a vital link to our customers, providing not just equipment but services and expertise. Today, there are 161 Cat® dealers around the world with teams dedicated to supporting and repairing technology equipment, rebuilding machines, and providing training in the field, online and in the classroom.
Caterpillar debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in 1929 with a share price of $56.25. Despite going public at the start of the Great Depression, innovation kept Caterpillar alive and thriving. By the end of the 1930s, we were the largest diesel engine manufacturer in the world.
With 2020 sales and revenues of $41.7 billion, Caterpillar’s business portfolio includes more than 20 brands and over 300 Cat® product and service offerings. Since 1991, we’ve been a part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), which is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks on the NYSE and the NASDAQ, and we have been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices 21 times (DJSI) since its creation in 1999.
Tractors were once built only with round wheels, but when one of Caterpillar’s founders, Benjamin Holt, tried to use one in the soft soil of California’s San Joaquin River Valley, the machine sunk. He realized that a more even distribution of weight was needed—and soon the track-type tractor was born. This machine became part of Caterpillar’s original product lineup.
Today’s Cat® machines deliver industry-leading fuel efficiency and accessible maintenance features that reduce owning and operating costs. Next generation models include factory-integrated Cat Grade technology and available features like Cat Command for dozing, increasing operator safety, comfort and productivity and making remote and semi-autonomous operations possible.
The steam tractor replaced literal horse power on farms and made farmers more productive. Before long, our customers expanded beyond the farm to include the builders of iconic infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Panama Canal. Our generator sets helped provide power for the Apollo 11 mission.
We have customers around the world doing the work to build a better world. Like hospitals that need reliable power for life-saving equipment. Or landowners working to restore wetland ecosystems that are threatened by climate change. Our aftermarket services help our customers be more successful—no matter what challenges they face.
Holt and Best initially used “parts books” with hand-written descriptions and dimensions of every part in a machine to reproduce worn-out parts for customers on request. When a piece of equipment went down while working in a farm field, Caterpillar Tractor Co. dealers would deliver the needed part using another new technology—the airplane.
Caterpillar’s Aftermarket Parts Distribution and Integrated Logistics team use the latest digital, analytics and data forecasting tools to predict parts demand and optimize shipping and delivery. Today, the majority of parts orders are on the shelf of either Cat® dealers or the Caterpillar network and can be on their way to customers in 24 hours or less.
Our founders were a pair of curious inventors, fascinated with their day’s innovations like the airplane and the automobile. The Holt and Best families were known for dreaming up new ideas and were awarded nearly 200 patents.
Team Caterpillar remains a team of makers, problem-solvers and world-builders who pursue operational excellence in all that they do. Today, we hire skilled engineers and technicians and a diverse and global team of digital experts, finance and marketing professionals, Environment, Health and Safety professionals and customer support agents.
A Changing World: Then
Holt sold tractors to the U.S. Army during World War I, while C.L. Best won over the domestic market and built a dealer network. Following the war, the two companies needed each other, leading to the merger that created Caterpillar. We developed new technologies, such as the motor grader, that helped the country rebuild during the Great Depression. When automobiles created a demand for a better road system, we expanded our product line to customers’ needs.
A Changing World: Now
Cat® equipment is on the ground for some of the 21st century’s most significant infrastructure projects, like the new Istanbul Grand Airport and the Belt & Road Initiative. And we’re there in the aftermath of natural disasters such the California Wildfires in 2020. Cat dealers, our factories and distribution centers work together to get generators, machines and work tools to the right places.
The videos and photos shown here were captured before the COVID-19 pandemic. Caterpillar follows stringent measures – including wearing masks and social distancing – to continue working safely.