Forest Grove Trailer Park, Ontario, New York 14519
Story written by Mr. Dan Parks of Iowa State University and we
thank the newsletter folks of The Pioneer Engine Bugle for letting
us use it.)
The beginnings of the J. I. Case Company began in Williamstown,
N. Y. It was there that Jerome Increase Case was born to Baleb and
Deborah (Jackson) Case. Williamstown is located in Oswego County.
His mother was a descendent of Andrew Jackson. Jerome was the
youngest of four sons.
Jerome read about the ground hog thresher in the ‘Genesee
Farmer’ magazine. This later became the ‘Country
Gentleman’ magazine and is now the ‘American
Agriculturist.’ He soon talked his father into becoming the
local agent for the manufacturer. The ground hog thresher had been
patented by Andrew Meikle in England in 1788.
J. I. Case attended Rensselaer from January 1841 till the
Threshing season opened. He bought six ground hog threshers on
credit. He then traveled from Oswego by way of the Welland Canal
and Lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan. It cost him $60 freight to
ship his threshers. When he arrived in Chicago, he bought two
horses and a strong wagon. He then started north.
He sold five of his threshers along the way to Rochester,
Wisconsin. When he arrived in Rochester, he stayed at a tavern
owned by Levi Godfrey. He made enough money through the sale of the
five threshers and custom threshing to keep him through the
His plan was to improve the ground hog thresher during the
winter. It needed improving very much. All it did was beat the
grain out of the heads and drop both grain and straw in a pile. It
still had to be winnowed. He wanted a device, a machine which would
stop the winnowing job.
After arriving in Rochester, Case rented a bench from Stephen
Thresher, a local carpenter, to work on his improved ground hog
thresher. He soon heard about Richard Emerson Ela, who had been
building fanning mills for about three years to winnow the grain.
Case decided that the way to improve the thresher would be to
combine the ground hog thresher and the fanning mill into one
In the spring of 1844, Case finally finished his first thresher.
He took it to the farm of Henry Cady, who tried it for awhile and
it worked. He next went to another of Cady’s farms; Cherry Hill
Farm. One windy day in May, he proved to nearly every farmer in
Racine County that his idea worked.
All that summer Case worked on further improvements and also did
much custom threshing. He soon found that there was quite a market
for such a machine. It was then, he decided to build a small
factory and begin manufacture of such a machine.
Case soon found that the good people of Rochester weren’t
willing to share their water. He then moved to Racine and rented a
small shop on a river bank.
In 1847, Case had to build a new factory to handle all his
orders. It was a three story brick building, eighty feet long, and
thirty feet wide. It was built along the Root River, but Case had
installed a steam boiler and an iron furnace.
In 1848, he put out his first ‘wall hangers’ to the
farmers. It contained the following: Racine Threshing Machine
Works, J. I. CASE, Proprietor, open for business in its new and
He informed the public of the following: he had purchased from
Hiram Pitts the right to manufacture his ‘Patent revolving
apron in my improved Wemple machine.’
The cost of the Case thresher varied from $290 to $325 at the
shop: $50 was the down payment, to be followed by $75 on the next
November 1, $100 on January 1, and the balance on the next October
1 with interest.
In 1849, Jerome I. Case married Lydia Ann Bull. They set up
housekeeping in a house he rented for $5 a month.
In 1850, Case hired Massena Erskine to be head of the Case
Mechanical Department. In 1857, he hired his brother-in-law,
Stephen Bull, as his personal assistant. In 1860, he hired Robert
Baker to handle collections. In 1854, the Crimean War broke out.
This caused wheat prices to jump from 72 a bu. to $1.43 a bu. They
really sold machines until 1857.
In 1857, the country was in a depression. Case had thousands of
un-collectable dollars on the books. It finally got to the point
that Case resorted to a barter system for collecting on his
machines. He took wagons, horses, hogs, cattle, land, sawed lumber,
and even gold watches, but he was just happy to survive. The Civil
War came to Case’s aid just in time. In 1860, he sold 300
threshers; in 1865, 600.
In 1863, J. I. Case and Company was formed. In so doing, Jerome
Case took into partnership Erskine, Baker and Bull. The year
before, Jerome had come out with his first ‘name’ threshing
machine. He called it the ‘Sweepstakes’ and added a much
improved sweep power, the Mounted Woodbury. In addition to the
threshing machines, the company was now making straw stackers and
In 1861, Case was in Eau Claire when Company C of the 8th
Wisconsin was being mustered. He was immediately impressed by the
company mascot, a massive bald eagle, alive and screaming when the
band played. The bird was named Old Abe. It had been captured by a
young Chippewa Indian of the Flambeau reservation, and traded for a
bushel of corn to Daniel McCann, who in turn gave it to the
After the war, Case decided on Old Abe as the company trademark.
In 1869, the Case Eclipse Threshing Machine was put into
production. Its main selling point was that it had no apron.
The apron was a canvas belt to which was attached a series of
cups made of wooden strips. While the belt slowly revolved, it
carried the grain and straw as they came from the cylinder. The
grain and small chaff settled onto the cups. When the belt made a
sharp turn at the highest point in its circle, the grain and chaff
were emptied onto the sieves below. The straw, being too long to
make the turn was carried out of the machine by a raddle.
The Eclipse replaced the apron with an open straw rake, with a
grain rake under it to carry the grain up to a separating shoe on a
tight floor. This eliminated the littering of grain under the
While building the Eclipse, the conventional apron machine was
still being built. Case also built attachments for threshing flax,
which was a far cry from the 300 bushels a day of the first models.
Case thought this should be upped to 2,000 bushels a day.
When building the Eclipse, Case was also searching for some
better method of running his threshing machines.
In 1869, the first of 36,000 Case Steam engines rolled off the
line. This first steam engine was nearly 15 years ahead of its
time. It had eight horsepower. It was not self-propelled. It was
portable however, through the use of horses.
It took Case from 1869 to 1876 to sell 75 steam engines in one
year. In 1876, a steam traction engine was developed and it was
awarded a gold metal of excellence at the Centennial Exposition in
Philadelphia. In 1877, 109 engines were sold; in 1878, 200, at
which time Case was building both 8 h.p. and 10 h.p. machines. The
10 had a 26′ boiler, 117 inches long. The cylinder bore was
7′ and the stroke was 12′. The flywheel was 42′ in
diameter and developed 180 r.p.m. The engine contained a fusible
plug which melted and extinguished the fire if the water got below
a certain level.
By 1878, Case had added spark arrestors to the stacks of their
engines. The first engines burned wood or coal. Later on, the straw
burners were built. These were successful in mechanizing the
Western prairies where there was little or no wood or coal.
Between 1869 and 1879, the threshing machine had kind of fallen
along the wayside at the Case Company. Everyone was interested in
the newfangled steam engines. Soon the industry had bypassed Case
with a new vibrator type thresher. Finally it was decided something
had to be done. In 1878, Case started exporting his threshing
machine. One was sent to France.
In 1880, the company changed its corporate setup and name, and
came out with a threshing machine of revolutionary design. The J.
I. Case Threshing Machine Co. came into being with capital of over
$1,000,000. They also announced a new type thresher, the Agitator
and the Improved Dingee Sweep. The Agitator used no apron or
conveyor. It replaced these with a shaking rack balanced by a
similar shaking grain pan, both driven by the same crankshaft. It
shook the wheat from the straw and the chaff from the wheat.
This thresher made Case the undisputed leader in the threshing
machine trade. At this time, Old Abe was moved to a perch on top of
the globe. This machine was built until 1904 when Case built the
first all steel thresher in the world. The agitating technique was
retained, however, and is still used today in combines.
In 1878, Case built a special order machine for Dr. Hugh Glenn.
It was a 48′ cylinder and was used on Glenn’s 45,000 acre
wheat farm. It took six 16 wooden headers, 18 header wagons, 150
horses and 50 men to feed this thresher. It threshed wheat at the
rate of 10 bushels per minute. One July day in 1879, they made a
count of all the bags which had been threshed that day. They had
done 6,183 bushels.
In 1876, J. I. Case organized a separate concern, the J. I. Case
Plow Works in Racine. They built walking plows and also sulky
plows. In 1890 the Plow Works built the Price Plowing Engine, a
monster weighing 9 and 1/3 tons. It looked like a three-wheeled
fire engine of the period.
In 1882, The Case Company began marketing a sawmill. They also
began building water tenders for the steam traction engines.
In 1885, Case expanded to South America with W. R. Grace and Co.
as distributors. In 1886, the steering was added to the Case
steamer thus dropping the need for horses.
On December 22, 1891, J. I. Case died. At this time, Stephen
Bull became President of the J. I. Case Threshing Co. When J. I.
Case died, his will disposed of all his interest in the Threshing
Machine. Company and bequeathed the Plow Works to his family, which
included his son-in-law, W. H. Wallis, who was to take charge of
the Plow Works.
The J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co. continued building
threshing machines and steam traction engines.
In 1892, the first Case gasoline traction engine was built. D.
P. Davies had much to do with building this tractor. It developed
16-20 h.p. It was mainly designed by William Patterson and was
called the Patterson tractor. It used a large tank on the front of
the tractor for a carburetor. Atomization was obtained by drawing
air through the fuel to pick up gasoline vapor before entering the
engine. The engine was a two cylinder horizontal balanced type,
with single throw crankshaft which connected directly to the
pistons in the open end of the near cylinder by the connecting rod
and the far piston through the pitman, rocker arm and shart
connecting rod. Ignition was make and break, a bolt in the piston
head contacted a stationary insulated electrode on compression
stroke, and spark occurred just after dead center on outward
stroke. The chassis with exception of the main frame consisted
largely of parts such as were used on the Case steam traction
engine. It was a good try but it lacked proper carburetion and
ignition so they scrapped the idea for a while.
While Stephen Bull was president of Case, he introduced the
self-feeder for the Case Threshers. He also started manufacture of
the Farmers Friend Windstacker in 1895. In 1905, Case introduced
their first hay baler. It was a stationary model and was hand fed
and belt powered.
In 1910, the Case Threshing Machine Co. began producing a car.
They had lent money to the Pierce Motor Company of Racine. They had
been building wagons for many years. They had also built gasoline
engines for boats. When they were unable to repay this loan, Case
took over. The Case car was a well built car with speed, looks and
stamina. The only problem was a cost three times that of the Model
T. Another problem was that of doing custom work on the cars. A
customer could order it any way he wished and they would build it.
This kept production down to around a dozen cars a day. They built
touring cars, sedans, coupes and even sporty models. They also
built two racers, the ‘White Streak’ and the
‘Jay-Eye-See.’ The last racing car was built in 1913 due to
expense. The prices ranged from $2,500 to $3,000.
In 1911, Case finally entered the tractor market with a 30-60.
It took the Gold Medal in the Winnipeg Plowing Contest. Within a
year, the Case Tractor Works were built in Racine. In 1912, the
2040 was introduced. It was followed by the 12-25 in 1913. The
30-60 ran at 365 r.p.m. It had a two cylinder twin-horizontal
engine. The engine was cooled by a pump and cooling tank with
inducted draft from the exhaust. It had a Sumter magneto, a
mechanical oiler, an expanding shoe clutch and a ball gear and
pinion for the final drive. It had one forward speed of two miles
Until 1913, engines used by Case were produced by the Davis
Motor Company of Milwaukee. In 1913, Case started building their
own engines. Case redesigned their tractors into a smaller, faster
tractor with a 4-cylinder cross-mounted engine. One of these was
the 12-25 h.p. This one did have a 2-cylinder engine. It had
kerosene tank mounted on the right fender and a water tank on the
left fender. It had two forward speeds, one of 1 m.p.h. and one of
In 1915, Case started production of the 10-20. It ran at 800
r.p.m. The right rear wheel drove the tractor except in severe
conditions, when the left rear wheel could be coupled to the drive.
It had one speed of 2 m.p.h. and also a reverse. In 1918, Case
introduced the 9-18, the first with channel frame and round-spoked
wheels. It also used the four cylinder cross-mounted engine, and
was the first Case with a brake. In 1919, the 15-27 was
Also in 1919, the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company purchased
the Grand Detour Plow Company of Dixon, Illinois, to become a full
line company. The Grand Detour Plow Company was founded in 1837 by
Leonard Andrus. When Andrus settled in Illinois he was plagued by
the sodded soil which wouldn’t scour. He determined that only
steel would scour in prairie soil. He started design of a steel
plow. While doing this, he thought of a blacksmith friend of his
back in Vermont. He invited this blacksmith to join the group at
Grand Detour, Dlinois. This young blacksmith was John Deere. Deere
and Andrus were soon at work building Andrus’s design into a
plow. They used the only piece of steel available which was a
broken saw. Andrus did the woodwork and Deere formed the plow. The
first of thousands of Grand Detour Plows was finished and tried
successfully in 1837, but only three Andrus-Deere plows were sold
in that year. Ten plows were sold the next year, 40 in the next
year, and four years later, 1842, the output had risen to 400.
Andrus erected a building and on it painted, ‘L. Andrus Plough
Manufactory.’ In 1846, production hit 1,000 plows and John
Deere began to consider the future. He left, moved to Moline and
started his own company.
The Andrus Company was moved to Dixon, Illinois, after Andrus
died in 1867. The name was then changed to Grand Detour Plow
Company. There they built a new 3-wheel type sulky plow called the
In 1919, after 82 years of business they sold to Case. In 1912,
the J. I. Case Plow Works began making tractors. They called this
enterprise the Wallis Tractor Company. The Plow Works was really
getting into tough financial shape even by 1912. The Wallis tractor
was a good tractor, but didn’t help the company much. In 1919,
the company was renamed the J. I. Plow Works, Inc.
The Threshing Machine Company continued calling their plows,
Grand Detour, because of the mixup which would have arisen had
there been two Case plows. This gradually developed into a war
between the two companies. At one time it even became so bad that
the postal officials had to be present when they opened their mail.
This continued until 1928 when Massey Harris bought the Plow
In 1920, the 22-40 tractor was placed in production by the J. I.
Case Threshing Company. It was just a larger version of the 15-27.
In 1920, the 12-20 was built. It had a new style pressed steel
wheel. In 1923, the 40-72 was introduced. Also in 1923, the 100,000
thresher was built. In 1924, the production of steam engines and
cars was stopped. Also in 1924, the 18-32 was built for the first
Late in 1924, Leon R. Clausen took charge as President of the J.
I. Case Threshing Company. The year before Case had introduced the
prairie type combine. He placed much emphasis in the tractor line.
Clausen had previously worked in the railroad industry. In 1912, he
went to work for John Deere. Next he took charge of the Ottumwa
John Deere Plant. He stayed there until 1917, when he was
transferred to headquarters as an acting vice president. In 1919,
he was elected to the John Deere board of directors and made vice
president in charge of manufacturing.
Then in 1924, he went to Case as president. His first actions
were to clear up the confusion between the two companies, remove
‘Threshing Machine’ from the name, discontinue
manufacturing automobiles and purchase Emerson Brantingham.
The Emerson-Brantingham Company was founded in 1852. It was
called the J. H. Manny and Co. The partners were Manny, Ralph
Emerson and Waite Talcott.
Soon after Manny’s death, the company became the Emerson
Manufacturing Co. The chief product was the Manny Reaper and Mower.
McCormick sued Emerson for using his reaper principle. This
resulted in a suit which lasted three years. Emerson was
represented by Edwin M. Stanton and Abraham Lincoln.
Emerson later added the Marsh Harvester. It cut and elevated the
grain to a table on a platform. Two men on the platform could bind
as much grain as five or six men could bind on the ground behind a
Next, Emerson purchased the Standard brand of mowers,
cultivators, planters and a foot lift plow.