Holt, Benjamin

Holt, Benjamin
b. 1 January 1849 Concord, New Hampshire, USA
d. 5 December 1924 Stockton, California, USA
American machinery manufacturer responsible for the development of the Caterpillar tractor and for early developments in combine harvesters.
In 1864 Charles Henry Holt led three other brothers to California in response to the gold rush. In 1868 he founded C.H.Holt \& Co. in San Francisco with the help of his brothers Williams and Ames. The company dealt in timber as well as wagon and carriage materials, as did the business they had left behind in Concord in the care of their youngest brother, Benjamin. In 1883 Benjamin joined the others in California and together they formed the Stockton Wheel Company with offices in San Francisco and Stockton. The brothers recognized the potential of combine harvesters and purchased a number of patents, enlarged their works and began to experiment. Their first combine was produced in 1886, and worked for forty-six days that year. With the stimulus of Benjamin Holt the company produced the first hillside combine in 1891 and introduced the concept of belt drive. The Holt harvesting machine produced in 1904 was the first to use an auxiliary gas engine. By 1889 Benjamin was sole family executive. In 1890 the company produced its first traction engine. He began experimenting with track-laying machines, building his first in 1904. It was this machine which earned the nickname "Caterpillar", which has remained the company trade name to the present day. In 1906 thecompany produced its first gasoline-engined Caterpillar, and the first production model was introduced two years later. The development of Caterpillar tractors had a significant impact on the transport potential of the Allies during the First World War, and the Holt production of track-laying traction engines was of immense importance to the supply of the armed forces. In 1918 Benjamin Holt was still actively involved in the company, but he died in Stockton in 1920.
Further Reading
W.A.Payne (ed.), 1982, Benjamin Holt: The Story of the Caterpillar Tractor, Stockton, Calif: University of the Pacific (provides an illustrated account of the life of Holt and the company he formed).
R.Jones, "Benjamin Holt and the Caterpillar tractor", Vintage Tractor Magazine 1st special vol.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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