1102 Peach Street, Abilene, TX 79602
(This article is a condensation and rewrite from Stewart H. Holbrook's Machines of Plenty, copyright 1976 by J. I. Case Company.)
There was a bumper wheat crop in Rice County, Minnesota, during the mid 1880's. One farmer had purchased a new Case traction engine and thresher to harvest the grain. The traction engine with its gigantic flywheel was working well, but the separator would not clean the grain and was consuming far too much power.
The farmer complained to the local Case dealer who came out and tinkered with this and adjusted that trying to make the separator perform right. Still it failed to perform satisfactorily. Exasperated, the dealer wired the Case Company about the poor performance. The company sent out their chief troubleshooter certain that he could make the thresher do the job right. After a period of tinkering, adjusting, and swearing, he, too, was unable to fix the thresher. In desperation, he wired headquarters to refund the farmer's money or replace the thresher.
The telegraphed reply was indeed astounding. J. I. Case, himself, wired: 'Am taking next train. Meet me at Faribault.' The old man himself was coming!
Jerome Increase Case was sixty-five years old. His beard was white from ear to ear. From beneath brows black as coal, peered steel-blue eyes. His erect frame was encased in a frock coat. He commonly wore a square-cut derby hat, but on this occasion it pleased him to sport a white tile called the Blaine hat. This was Jerome Increase Case, the founder and head of the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company. The Threshing Machine King was on his way to Minnesota to help a single Rice county farmer. J. I. had NEVER had a piece of Case machinery that he could not fix.
Word got around in Rice County that old J. I. Case in the flesh was coming to tinker with his thresher. When he arrived at the farm, a crowd of farmers had gathered to see him make the thresher clean that grain.
J. I. lost no time. He removed his frock coat and hat and fell to work. An hour or so later, Case straightened up and gave orders to start the thresher, and he, himself, fed grain into it for a few a minutes. Then he had it stopped. Case worked on it and tried it out repeatedly, all to no avail. It began to get dark. The thing that had stumped his experts had now stumped him.
He turned to the farmer. 'Have you a sizeable can of kerosene handy?' he asked. 'Yes,' the farmer replied. And away he went to fetch it while Case eyed the thresher with coldly venomous regard.
Once the kerosene was brought, J. I. Case doused the thresher from one end to the other. He struck a match and set her off. The falling night was lighted by the flames of that brand-new Case thresher being burned to the ground! In the light of the flames, a defeated and chagrinned Mr. Case put on his frock coat and his Blaine hat, bowed to all present, and took off for Racine.
Case was sadly disappointed and angered that a defective machine had been allowed to leave his factory. What seemed to have been a tragic affair, however, turned out not so badly after all. True to the Case Company guarantee, the farmer got a new threshing machine within twenty-four hours. Also, the effect of the dramatic destruction of the imperfect thresher was indeed memorable, for that act might have been the greatest advertisement of a thresher warranty that J. I. Case ever wrote.