A Partial History of J.I. Case & Co.

History of the J.I. Case & Co. from its origins in the 1840s to the late 1800s

| March/April 1954

  • Jerome Increase Case
    Jerome Increase Case, founder of J.I. Case Co., in 1842. Director and President, March 1, 1880. He died December 22, 1891. Mr. Case was born December 11, 1819.
  • Early Case factory at Racine
    Early Case factory at Racine about 1857.
  • Case traction steam engine
    Copy of wood cut of a Case traction steam engine.
    Courtesy an 1885 Case catalog
  • Case Steam Engine
    Case Steam Engine No. 1. Traction steam engines were made about 1876. These early models required a team hitched in front for steering. By 1885 this was changed by the use of steering chains wound about a shaft and turned with a hand wheel.
  • Early model Case Steam Engine copied from almanac and guide book printed in 1885
    Early model Case steam engine.
    Courtesy an 1885 almanac and guide book
  • First Case steam traction engine
    First Case steam traction engine.
  • Case horsepower used for driving threshers in the early days.
    Case horsepower used for driving threshers in the early days.
    Courtesy an 1886 catalog
  • The Case Apron Thresher of 1870
    The Case Apron Thresher of 1870.
  • An illustration of the Eclipse Thresher as it first appeared in 1871 catalog. The first machines of this kind were built in 1869. This illustration is the first one of record showing the use of a bagger.
    An illustration of the Eclipse Thresher as it first appeared in 1871 catalog. The first machines of this kind were built in 1869. This illustration is the first one of record showing the use of a bagger.
    Courtesy an 1871 Case catalog

  • Jerome Increase Case
  • Early Case factory at Racine
  • Case traction steam engine
  • Case Steam Engine
  • Early model Case Steam Engine copied from almanac and guide book printed in 1885
  • First Case steam traction engine
  • Case horsepower used for driving threshers in the early days.
  • The Case Apron Thresher of 1870
  • An illustration of the Eclipse Thresher as it first appeared in 1871 catalog. The first machines of this kind were built in 1869. This illustration is the first one of record showing the use of a bagger.

Humble beginnings

About a hundred years ago, western New York state was the center of our wheat producing area. Among the many industrious farmers in the area were Caleb and Deborah Case who had taken up a homestead at Williamstown in 1811. Eight years later their fourth son was born and named Jerome Increase.

Mr. Caleb Case was not too fond of the hard work involved in flailing out his grain as this occupied he and his sons for the most of the winter, and only let up in the spring in time for them to start their field work. Small wonder then that Caleb Case was one of the first in his community to purchase one of the “Groundhog” threshers. His son Jerome took the greatest interest in the operation of this thresher and soon became the family thresherman. The efficiency of the “Groundhog” thresher as compared to the flail also enabled the Cases to do a bit of threshing for their neighbors hence we see Jerome I. Case as a custom thresherman at an early age.

The custom threshing trade

By the time that Jerome I. Case was 24, he had acquired a small amount of money from his custom work. He now felt that he was ready to go and make his own way in the world, and it was only natural he should choose the trade he liked – threshing.

A number of improvements having been made in threshing machines by the Pitts brothers and others were now proving to be successful in operation by the farmers and threshermen.

Wishing to go west, and hearing of the wonders of the western regions adjacent to the Great Lakes, he picked Wisconsin, and finally came to Rochester late in the fall of 1842. He brought with him six of the latest types of threshers, for he had heard they would have ready sale out here on the frontier. These machines were bought on credit and five were sold at a profit which gave him a bit of capital with which to get started, and also marked him as a shrewd business man.

With the remaining machine, he resumed his trade of custom threshing. When not occupied by this, he was busy keeping his machine in repair. Working as he did, with and on his thresher, he discovered many of its shortcomings, and by discussing them with farmers, found that there was a need for an improved machine.



Racine Threshing Machine Works

It was with this need in mind that he moved to Racine, then but a village located directly on the lake front and, therefore, assured necessary transportation facilities. Here he rented a small shop and started to build what was his idea of a good thresher. Success was his, for three years later he built a shop of his own located on the river. Sweep and tread powers were added to the line of goods. Case, wishing to keep his threshers in the front rank, also added improvements of other prominent thresher builders, such as Pitts, Wemple, Farquhar, Russell and others.

The threshers he built found ready sale in this new country which was rapidly being settled. In making business and collection calls, Case was taken from his shop more and more, so in 1852 he obtained the services of M.B. Erskine who he placed in charge of his shop. The shop grew with the increased demand for threshers till in 1855 it was necessary to add steam power to run the machinery and a foundry to insure a dependable supply of good castings.

The business soon grew to the point where it was necessary for Mr. Case to spend more of his time on company administration, and he was also interested in local and state government, as behooved the successful businessman, therefore he employed a Mr. R.H. Baker as general agent and collector for the company.

Freda Wilson
9/10/2009 2:39:39 PM

Can you tell me where I could find a DVD, or Tape of the History of Case ASAP??????