A history of Caterpillar

The “CAT” logo with its trademark yellow is one of the world’s most recognisable brands. Its industry-leading technologies and equipment have helped to advance Australia’s mining and construction industries for decades. That’s why our blog series on the history of the greatest mining and construction equipment brands, would not be complete without a feature on Caterpillar Inc.

Proud farming origins

The Caterpillar story begins with the birth of the modern tractor. In the early 1900s, steam tractors were extremely heavy and would often sink in soft, damp soil. To solve this problem, Californian-based manufacturer Benjamin Holt had the idea to replace the wheels with a set of tracks. These new track-type tractors were said to move like a caterpillar; hence the name.

In 1907, Holt received the first patent for a practical continuous track for use on a tractor. In 1910, Holt established a manufacturing plant in Illinois under the name Holt Caterpillar Company. In two short years the company had grown from 12 to 626 employees and were exporting tractors to Canada, Mexico and Argentina.

Use in war time

Caterpillar tractors were sent to the battlefront of World War I, where they were first used to haul artillery and supplies. Throughout the war, this versatile and powerful machine became a major artillery tractor hauling 6-inch howitzer guns, 60-pounders and later 9.2-inch howitzers. Holt’s tractors were also the inspiration for the British tank.

During World War II, Caterpillar products were instrumental to the war effort, in particular to the United States Naval Construction Forces who built bases, airstrips and roads throughout the Pacific.

CAT today and into the future

As recently as 2011, Caterpillar purchased Bacyrus International, a leading manufacturer of underground and surface mining equipment, which signalled their intention to remain at the forefront of mining and construction equipment manufacturing.

Today, Caterpillar has some 400 products ranging from tracked tractors to excavators, backhoe loaders, off-highway trucks and more. Their other business segments include:

  • On-road trucks, such as the CAT CT660
  • Diesel and natural gas engines, and gas turbines
  • Defence products, that provides diesel engines, propulsion engines, transmissions, power generation systems, and more
  • Electronic guidance and control systems
  • Agricultural tractors
  • Financing and insurance
  • Branded consumer goods, such as footwear, clothing, hats, watches, scale models etc.

Moving into construction and mining

With advances in their diesel tractor engine, Caterpillar was perfectly placed to take advantage of the construction and mining boom of the 1960s. In 1963 Caterpillar manufactured their first off-highway construction and mining truck. In the decades that followed Caterpillar became the world’s largest producer of heavy-duty agricultural, material-hauling and construction machinery.

Some of their most celebrated milestones include:

  • 1984: Launch of the first mining production truck, the 785 Truck
  • 1998: Debut of world’s largest off-highway mining truck in Arizona, the Cat 797.
  • 1995: Caterpillar entered the business of underground mining equipment.
  • 2008: Introduced first AC Electric Drive truck, the 795F-AC.
  • 2009: The Company produced its 50,000th off-highway truck.

Buying Caterpillar equipment

We hope you enjoyed our complete guide to Caterpillar. If you’re looking for a trusted alternative to buying Caterpillar products through a dealer, then look no further. Resolute Equipment offers an immense range of parts, attachments and equipment for sale such as Caterpillar service trucks and dozers.

Contact Resolute Equipment today to find an equipment solution to suit your fleet and budget.

For other great histories, check out our other articles in this series: The history of Komatsu, The history of Hitachi and The history of Mack Trucks.