Bob & Tom's Excellent Adventures: Caterpillar Heritage Center

MOSSVILLE - When you walk into Detweiller Park, you may wonder why there's a huge redwood tree log there. To answer that question, Bob Larson and Tom McIntyre went to the logical source: Caterpillar.

The Caterpillar Heritage Center is inside the Mossville facility. It's where CAT's history and legacy are kept ... and there's lots of it. 

"We have six to eight football fields of records," says Lee Fosburgh from the Caterpillar Heritage Center. "Over a million photographs, thousands of artifacts." 

Some of the items are kept there for legal reasons, other items tell a part of the Caterpillar story - like a drafting table, used in the earliest days of the comany. In some cases, it's the story of Central Illinois as well. 

Ever wonder why Rt. 116 through East Peoria is called "Caterpillar Trail"? Because the Holt Company - Caterpillar's predecessor - built that 5-mile road in 1916 to demonstrate its machines could be used for highway construction, not just agriculture. The idea for the road came from a fellow named Murray Baker. 

Bob and Tom were curious about which article in the collection was the most rare. 

"It's a basketball," says Fosburgh. "Caterpillar sent a team to the 1952 Olympics. They'd defeated the University of Kansas. And that team beat the Soviet Union to win the gold medal. The basketball from that game is in the archives, signed by the team."

The Caterpillar Heritage Center posts videos on the web about Caterpillar history and people. There's even a video of that big redwood tree log. It was hauled from California to Peoria in 1934 and used for testing equipment. In 1937, it was stood up in front of the Caterpillar showroom in East Peoria. Finally, in the 1940's, the 28 ton log was donated to the Peoria Park District.

Since the Caterpillar Visitors Center opened, there are more ways to display items from the Heritage Center. Two or three exhibits a year are shown. Those exhibitions have a way of turning up more donations to the Heritage Center. Fosburgh sees the exhibits and videos on the Internet as a way of showing the inventiveness of the company's founders and successors. 

"We've been doing innovation really from the beginning. Our two founders are people that were inventors who created the things which became what Caterpillar is today."

Bob & Tom got a first look at a collection of early Holt and Best machines at Mossville. But even with all the heavy machinery, the one item Lee Fosburgh really wants is really small.

"One of our father's founders was Daniel Best who invented a washing machine. I know there's one out there still in existence." 

 


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