When one thinks about the history and development of heavy duty farm equipment and machinery, rustbelt states such as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania generally come first to mind as the leaders. So where do you think arguably the biggest breakthrough in tractor design and innovation came from? Would you believe California - Stockton California to be precise? Sure enough, on November 24, 1904, Benjamin Holt debuted the world's first track-type steam powered tractor, followed by a gasoline engine version two years later. For years, Holt sought to improve performance of conventional tractors by making the wheels wider and less susceptible to sinking in wet peat based soils common to the Sacramental and San Joaquim river valleys. No luck with that. However, replacing rear wheels altogether with "tracks" resulted in a major breakthrough - jump shifting tractor design technology to a whole new level.
Image in the public domain
To quote from Farm Collector magazine: The familiar round drive wheels had been exchanged for a pair of tracks 9' long and 2' wide. Track shoes were wooden 2"x4" slats bolted to endless link chains, driven by sprockets. The machine's weight was supported by rollers that rode on top of the lower loop of chain. Wooden slats were made of redwood, known for it's ability to stand up in weather. How is that for thinking outside the box. Apparently the financial world agree and in 1910, the name Caterpillar Tractor was trademarked.