Although Rollin Henry White's inventions in crawler tractor design date back to the beginning of the 20th century, his contributions are still widely used by manufacturers today. Of White's 100 patents, his invention of controlled differential steering was the most significant, making tractors stronger, safer, and more maneuverable. This invention was adopted by the U.S. Army for use in all its tanks during WWII , making them more agile and easier to operate than those from other countries.
A mechanical and electrical engineering graduate of Cornell University, White established the Cleveland Tractor Company (Cletrac) in 1916, which grew to become one of the largest crawler tractor manufacturers in the 1920s and 30s. The company led the industry in number of new products and sales volume during much of this time. Cletrac and its successor the Oliver Corporation manufactured crawler tractors until 1965.
Although Cletrac and Oliver are no longer in business, concepts developed by White are still in use. In addition to controlled differential steering, these include high-speed rubber tracks, continuous undercarriage lubrication, and streamlined crawler tractor styling. Under White, Cletrac was one of the first U.S. tractor manufacturers to market overseas (in the 1920s).
White fostered a company atmosphere of mutual respect and support to help employees improve their livelihoods. For example, White would underwrite loans for those wishing to establish Cletrac dealerships. White was also a recognized civic and industry leader in Cleveland.