CATERPILLAR, INC. – EARLY PIONEER IN TRADESHOWS, STAGING AND AUDIOVISUAL

by Nicholas Voss

My name is Nicole Thaxton and I am the Corporate Archivist for Caterpillar Inc.  I am responsible for collecting and preserving information and materials relating to the history of Caterpillar Inc. and its product lines.    

Caterpillar and its predecessors – The Holt Manufacturing Company and the C. L. Best Tractor Co. – have a long history of putting together shows, exhibits and equipment demonstrations.  

On April 22, 1918, British General Ernest Dunlop Swinton publicly honored the Holt company's contributions to World War I.

The Holt Manufacturing Company (1892-1925), one of the first companies in the US to adopt the use of photography and film to protect its intellectual property and machine designs, held many small local demonstrations both at its plants and out in the public where company representatives would run the tractors through their “paces.”  The Holts also participated in state fairs, the annual Good Roads national equipment trade shows (today known as ConAg), participated in contests around the world, and set up special (and often elaborate) exhibits at special events such as the Panama-Pacific Exhibition held in California in 1915.  We also have references to motion picture films that the Holts produced to showcase their machines and what they could do, but none of these films have survived.  

The C. L. Best Gas Traction Co. (1910-1921)/C. L. Best Tractor Co. (1921-1925) also participated in fairs and held small demonstrations – but not to the same extent that the Holts did.  

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Caterpillar (May 1925-present)
        – participated in its first national Road Show equipment trade show in January 1926
        – held a major equipment demonstration at its demonstration area at its plant in East Peoria, Illinois, in the fall of 1930
        – opened an equipment showroom in 1930 – reported to be the largest of its kind anywhere in the world at the time – which held one piece of every machine and attachment Caterpillar built and offered along with attachments built for Caterpillar machines by other manufacturers.  This showroom was open to customers and the public and even offered a movie theater which, of course, featured films about Caterpillar machines.  This showroom had over 15,000 visitors a year.  
        – held many regional dealer meetings since 1925
        – held its first world-wide dealer meeting in 1935

From the onset, the Caterpillar dealer network took over responsibility for participating in exhibits and fairs at the local level.  Caterpillar would eventually replace its East Peoria demonstration area with larger demonstration and training facilities – first in Illinois then expanding to 17 other locations around the world.  Caterpillar would also continue the tradition of participating in large trade shows from a corporate level – ConAg, MINExpo, Bauma, etc.

For more information, you could look through one of our recent corporate histories, All in a Day’s Work, published during our 75th anniversary which your local library would be able to obtain for you through interlibrary loan.  If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Kind Regards,
Nicole

Nicole Thaxton, Certified Archivist
Corporate Archivist
Caterpillar Inc.

[Go to the Caterpillar history page on their website]

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