Benjamin Holt

Benjamin Holt (January 1 1849, Concord, New Hampshire – December 5 1920, Stockton) was an American inventor who developed David Roberts' design for one of the first practical caterpillar tracks for use in tractors. The caterpillar type track is used to spread the weight of heavy agricultural and engineering vehicles out over a large area to prevent the vehicle from sinking into the mud. He acquired the patent from Richard Hornsby & Sons of Grantham in 1914.

Early life

He was the youngest of four brothers with his family owning a sawmill. His his older brothers moved to San Francisco in 1864 to form a timber company. Benjamin stayed in Concord to help run the business from there. The Stockton Wheel Co. was formed and Benjamin moved to California in 1883.

Sinking into the mud was a common problem on farmland surrounding Stockton, California where Holt made his residence. Caterpillar tracks allowed practical cultivation on an industrial scale on the rich farmland. Holt's tractors had a conventional wheel on the front which was used to steer and caterpillar-type wheels on the back, and looked very similar to traction engines.. Hornsby's design incorporated a steering clutch that varied the speed of each set of wheels.

Holt patented the caterpillar track on December 7 1907, having first invented it on November 24 1904.

Formation of Caterpillar

Holt formed The Holt Manufacturing Company in the early 20th century five years after Holt's death in December 1920. Caterpillar tracked tractors were credited as providing some inspiration for the invention of the tank. Later, after Benjamin Holt's death in 1920, the Holt Manufacturing Company of Stockton, California, merged with C.L. Best Tractor Co. of San Leandro, California, to form the Caterpillar Tractor Co., which is now Caterpillar Inc. of Peoria, Illinois, USA. The Holt tractor was constructed under the Caterpillar banner as the Caterpillar 60.


A street in northern Stockton, California is named "Benjamin Holt Drive" in his honor. There is also a school named after him.

The Holt Memorial Hall, dedicated to his contributions to the mechanizations in agriculture, opened at The Haggin Museum in Stockton, California in 1976. It includes the oldest combine harvester on display in the United States (a 1904 Haines-Houser harvester) drawn by a circa-1918 Holt '75' Caterpillar track-type tractor. Both pieces are fully-restored.

His wife lived until 1952, being the Regent of the University of the Pacific, based in Stockton, for twenty five years. His son was William Knox Holt.

See also

* Daniel Best
* Civil Engineering
* Bulldozer
* Warren Atherton

External links

* [ Biography]
* [ Invent Now Hall of Fame]

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