At the beginning of the century, an inveterate inventor and industrialist made a lasting contribution to the construction industry. A "shirt-sleeve engineer," Benjamin Holt developed a successful track-type tractor which he dubbed the "caterpillar." Holt's technological breakthrough capped centuries of experimentation. The track shoes consisted of 2x4 inch wooden slats bolted to an endless chain. The track-type tractor distributed the weight of the enormously heavy steam engines, which would frequently mire in the soft earth. First used to farm soft delta lands, the tractor quickly found its way into construction.
Absorbed in the mechanics and improvement of his products, Holt's office was an experimental shop where he continually sought ways to improve his equipment. Though Holt did not live to see the merger of his business with C.L. Best Tractor Company, he did see the use of almost 10,000 Holt crawlers by the Allies in World War I. As he guided the fortunes of the Holt Manufacturing Company, he laid the foundation for the development of modern-day construction machinery.