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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:537 1927-1932 C359

Caterpillar Tractor Company Photograph collection


This collection includes black and white photographic prints that document the history of the Caterpillar Tractor Company and provide information about methods of farming, road building and construction in use in the early part of the twentieth century.


  • 1927-1932


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.


5 linear feet (6 boxes)

The collection contains approximately five hundred black and white photographic prints that depict the manufacture of Caterpillar machinery and the use of Caterpillar equipment around the world in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The main activities depicted include farming, logging, mining, road building, and construction. The photographs portray jobs ranging from large construction projects to the individual farmer proudly demonstrating the power of his Caterpillar Tractor. The collection documents the history of Caterpillar Tractor and provides information about methods of farming, road building and construction in use in the early part of the twentieth century. Some images also contrast older methods with the “newer” methods made possible by the use of new equipment. Labels on the verso of the photographs provide descriptive information, including the source of the image.

The collection is organized into two series, the first containing photographs of Caterpillar’s plants and the manufacture of equipment. The second series contains photographs of Caterpillar equipment in use in the United States and numerous other countries.

Historical Note:

The Caterpillar Tractor Company was formed in 1925 when the Holt Manufacturing Company of Stockton, California, and Peoria, Illinois, merged with the C.L. Best Tractor Company of San Leandro, California. In the years before World War I, Benjamin Holt invented the “caterpillar tractor,” which moved on heavy, belted-metal tracks rather than wheels. The tracks prevented the vehicle from sinking in the mud. Both the Holt and C. L. Best companies manufactured track-laying tractors for construction and earth moving, and Holt also made combined harvesters for farming use. The company grew steadily from 1925 to 1930. In 1928, Caterpillar Tractor Company added road-building equipment to its product line when it merged with the Russell Grade Manufacturing Company of Minneapolis. The Caterpillar Tractor Company’s headquarters were located in Peoria, Illinois.

Caterpillar Tractor Company mounted extensive marketing campaigns during the period documented by these photographs. The company advertised products for a wide variety of industries, including farming, lumbering, quarrying, road building, and engineering. Caterpillar commissioned photographs of its equipment at work for use in a variety of advertisements and other publications. Caterpillar Tractor Company donated these promotional photographs to Harvard Business School in 1932 for use in the classroom and for display in Baker Library.

Physical Location



Gift of Caterpillar Tractor Company, 1932

Processing Information

Processed: August 2001

By: Maggie Hale, assisted by Naomi Singer

Processing Note:

The photographic prints were organized as a single collection during the Historical Collections photographic survey project. The photographs were previously a part of the Historical Collections PM (Pictures of Manufacturing) and PG (Pictures Geographic) files. They were reviewed and identified based on date, subject, and provenance. The collection was refoldered and reboxed. Individual photographs were placed into Mylar sleeves. The original industry numbers assigned to the images were retained in most cases and used in arranging and describing the collection. Photographs were rehoused in acid and lignin-free buffered folders and boxes.

Baker Library
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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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