Iron Age Ads

The Need for Speed

| June 2007

In these ads, the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co., Racine, Wis., set itself apart from the car-making pack by stressing price, quality and service. Those were practical concerns, to be sure, but far removed from the company's latent interest in speed.

In 1871, Case and Dr. J.W. Carhart, a physics professor at Wisconsin State University, collaborated in the creation of a working steam car that won a 200-mile race.

During the last 20 years of his life, company founder Jerome Increase Case built a stable of racehorses and was a well-known and successful owner. His black gelding Jay-Eye-See (with a name corresponding to Case's initials) set world records in two gaits in the 1880s and 1890s, said to be the only horse to do so.

In 1911, just after entering the automobile business, Case (then run by Case's son, Jackson) was already a serious contender in auto racing, entering multiple cars - including the Jay-Eye-See - in the Indianapolis 500. The company's line of automobiles (touring models, sedans, coupes and luxury cars) moved at a more sedate speed.

That passion for speed and technology led the company into development of airplanes and bi-planes. Experimental models were built in about 1910, but none went into production.

By 1927, Case reined itself in. The company ceased car production and concentrated on tractors and farm equipment. The only enduring tribute to Case's "need for speed" is a quiet street on Racine's south side named Jay-Eye-See.