Caterpillar Tractor Company (Working Proof)

Caterpillar Tractor Company (Working Proof)
Item# 4287cat1

Caterpillar Tractor Company (Working Proof)

This item is an extremely rare American Bank Note Company working proof for a Caterpillar Tractor Company stock certificate.

Reference:   Working proofs were used during the American Bank Note pre-production process. Each piece details the intricacies of the old fashioned cut-and-paste method in which the designs were developed. The proof was subsequently circulated amongst American Bank Note Company officials and the executives of the customer (in this case Caterpillar Tractor) for editing and approval. The markings from this process are evident on the layers of the proof and the distribution board as detailed by the images below. Once the approval and editing process was completed, the mass production of the certificate occurred for distribution to eventual shareholders. This unique item offers a glimpse into the bank note approval and printing process.

Item Contents:   Working proof (1 piece), mounted on a cardboard backing.
Presentation:   This item is presented on an oversized, rigid hard board that measures 12 1/2" (w) x 9 (h).
Proof Sheet:   The main proof (pictured above) is a xerox of an original specimen, and is covered by a clear layer (tissue sheet) with the working markings from the editing process. Other original markings appear directly on the proof sheet.

Cardboard Backing:   The outside of the cardboard backing also contains approval notations as shown below:

Company History:   In the late 1890s and early 1900s, competitors Daniel Best and Benjamin Holt individually experimented with ways to improve the traction of steam tractors used in farming California's Central Valley. The steam tractors were extremely heavy, sometimes weighing 1,000 pounds per horsepower, and often sank into the rich, soft earth of the San Joaquin Valley Delta farmland surrounding Stockton, California. Holt attempted to fix the problem by increasing the size and width of the wheels up to 7.5 feet tall and 6 feet wide, producing a tractor 46 feet wide. But this also made the tractors increasingly complex, expensive and difficult to maintain.

One solution considered was to lay a temporary plank road ahead of the steam tractor, but this was time-consuming, expensive, and interfered with earthmoving. Holt replaced the wheels on a 40 horsepower (30 kW) Holt steamer, No. 77, with a set of wooden tracks bolted to chains. On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1904, he successfully tested the updated machine plowing the soggy delta land of Roberts Island. Company photographer Charles Clements was reported to have observed that the tractor crawled like a caterpillar, and Holt seized on the metaphor. "Caterpillar it is. That's the name for it!" Some sources, though, attribute this name to British soldiers in July 1907. Two years later Holt sold his first steam-powered tractor crawlers for $5,500. Each side featured a track frame measured 30 inches high by 42 inches wide and were 9 feet long. The tracks were 3 inches by 4 inches redwood slats.

Holt received the first patent for a practical continuous track for use with a tractor on December 7, 1907 for his improved "Traction Engine."

In March 1909, Holt opened up a plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota, led by his nephew Pliny Holt. There Pliny met farm implement dealer Murray Baker who knew of an empty factory that had been recently built to manufacture farm implements and steam traction engines. Baker, who later became the first executive vice president of what became Caterpillar Tractor Company, wrote to Holt headquarters in Stockton and described the plant of the bankrupt Colean Manufacturing Co. of East Peoria, Illinois. On October 25, 1909, Pliny Holt purchased the factory, and immediately began operations with 12 employees. Holt incorporated it as the Holt Caterpillar Company, although he did not trademark the name Caterpillar until August 2, 1910.

Holt's track-type tractors play a support role in World War I. Even before the U.S. formally entered WWI, Holt had shipped 1,200 tractors to England, France and Russia for agricultural purposes. These governments, however, sent the tractors directly to the battlefront where the military put them to work hauling artillery and supplies. When World War I broke out, the British War Office ordered a Holt tractor and put it through trials at Aldershot. The War Office was suitably impressed and chose it as a gun-tractor. Over the next four years, the Holt tractor became a major artillery tractor, mainly used to haul medium guns like the 6-inch howitzer, the 60-pounder, and later the 9.2-inch howitzer. Holt tractors were also the inspiration for the development of the British tank, which profoundly altered ground warfare tactics.

Holt tractors had become well-known during World War I. Military contracts formed the major part of the company's production. When the war ended, Holt's planned expansion to meet the military's needs was abruptly terminated. The heavy-duty tractors needed by the military were unsuitable for farmers. The company's situation worsened when artillery tractors were returned from Europe, depressing prices for new equipment and Holt's unsold inventory of military tractors. The company struggled with the transition from wartime boom to peacetime bust. To keep the company afloat, they borrowed heavily.

C. L. Best Gas Tractor Company, formed by Clarence Leo Best in 1910 and Holt's primary competitor, had during the war received government support enabling it to supply farmers with the smaller agricultural tractors they needed. As a result, Best had gained a considerable market advantage over Holt by war's end. Best also assumed considerable debt to allow it to continue expansion, especially production of its new Best Model 60 "Tracklayer". Both companies were adversely impacted by the transition from a wartime to a peacetime economy, which contributed to a nationwide depression, further inhibiting sales. On December 5, 1920, 71-year-old Benjamin Holt died after a month-long illness.

The banks who held the company's large debt forced the Holt board of directors to accept their candidate, Thomas A. Baxter, to succeed Benjamin Holt. Baxter initially cut the large tractors from the company's product line and introduced smaller models focused on the agricultural market. When the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 funded a $1 billion federal highway building program, Baxter began refocusing the company towards building road construction equipment. Between 1907 and 1918, Best and Holt had spent about $1.5 million in legal fees fighting each other in a number of contractual, trademark and patent infringement lawsuits. Harry H. Fair of the bond brokerage house of Pierce, Fair & Company of San Francisco had helped to finance C. L. Best's debt and Holt shareholders approached him about their company's financial difficulty. Fair recommended that the two companies should merge. In April and May 1925, the financially stronger C. L. Best merged with the market leader Holt Caterpillar to form the Caterpillar Tractor Co. The new company was headquartered in San Leandro until 1930, when under the terms of the merger it was moved to Peoria.

    - from:
State Affiliations:   CA-California | IL-Illinois

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All certificates are sold only as collectible pieces, as they are either canceled or obsolete. Certificates carry no value on any of today's financial indexes and no transfer of ownership is implied. Unless otherwise indicated, images are representative of the piece(s) you will receive.