Co-Chairman, Communications International J. I. Case Heritage Foundation 204 East Melbourne Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland 20901
A three-day happening, which will probably live in the memories of the participants organizers, exhibitors and attendees for as long as they live, ushered Jerome Increase Case into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame on October 20-22,1989.
It was the culmination of an effort by the International J. I. Case Heritage Foundation and the J. I. Case Company working in cooperation with the Ag-Hall of Fame that had its genesis with a quietly offered suggestion by L. Don Kabrey of Overland Park, Kansas, during the first Case Heritage Expo in the spring of 1987 at Pawnee, Oklahoma. At Expo #1, he said maybe the time was overdue for J. I. Case to be nominated and inducted into the Hall of Fame.
'The Ag-Hall of Fame? Where's that? I didn't know there was one,' some replied.
'Bonner Springs, Kansas, and Deere and McCormick are already in there,' Don replied. 'Old J. I. deserves to be there with them.' All who heard him agreed, and there was work to be done.'
Especially responsive on behalf of the then-new Case Heritage Foundation was Secretary-Treasurer Helen Case Brigham, a great-granddaughter of J. I. Case, who visited the Ag-Hall of Fame a few months later and prepared a detailed portfolio in support of her great-granddad's nomination.
1870 Case #25 portable from Sauder Farm and Craft Village, Archbold, OH. It was operated at the Celebration by Mahlon Detter, the Farm's restoration engineer and was a big attraction.
In spite of a few false starts, J. I. Case was not officially approved as an inductee by the Ag-Hall's National Board for many months and the date of the induction wasn't finally set until late spring of 1989. It was short notice to accomplish what Foundation Charter Member Don Kabrey, a long-time supporter of the Ag-Hall, J.I. Case dealer Jim Coleman, Rick James, Manager of Corporate Affairs for the J. I. Case Company, Ag-Hall President Frank Corbett, and Helen Brigham then set out to accomplish. It was to be a celebration worthy of the man being honored.
Traditionally, inductions at the Ag-Hall have been relatively quiet and formalized ceremonies, covering an hour or two on a Friday afternoon.
The induction of J. I. Case involved a three-day outpouring of unselfish participation by the sponsoring organizations, by exhibitors from as far away as Ohio, South Dakota, Colorado, and Wisconsin (most of them active members of the Case Heritage Foundation), by both active and retired employees and dealers of the J. I. Case Company, and by many other people who attended the event from as far away as Canada and England.
For just about everybody who was there, Helen Brigham summed it up late Sunday while talking to some of the participants from Oklahoma, Ohio, and Colorado:
Smiles and congratulations all-around as a symbolic ribbon has been tied by Tenneco Chairman Jim Kettelsen, Case Co. President Jim Ashford and Helen Case Brigham to join the old (Groundhog Thresher) with the new (Magnum Tractor).
John Hall of Cape Girardeau, MO came to compare his smoke box door of his Case portable #435 with Sauder Farm's #25. Hall believes his #435 may be the third oldest surviving Case steam engine.
'This has almost been like a religious experience,' she declared. 'People have given so very unselfishly and happily in order that everyone, including themselves, can enjoy this celebration in honor of the man who means so much to all of us. It has been a beautiful experience, such a great reunion of wonderful people.'
The Ag-Hall auditorium, which a veteran observer said had never been even a quarter-filled at previous inductions, was packed to standing room only for the induction on Friday afternoon, October 20. Friday night's Honorary Farmer's Banquet, an Ag-Hall event that has attracted 35 to 50 people in the past, was another packed house of more than 250 people. The Saturday morning program opening the special J. I. Case Celebration played to another standing room only crowd after 300 chairs were filled, and the Saturday night Case Feast and Good-Time Get-Together drew such a crowd (about 300) that the food ran a little short at the end.
Of all of the speakers, Case Heritage Foundation Vice President W. C. 'Chady' Atteberry probably came closest to summing up why there was such an outpouring of admiration for J. I. Case at the Saturday morning program. He expressed the view that the man who had such a reputation for square-dealing and created a company that produced more threshing machines (over 100,000) and more steam engines (more than 36,000) than any other company, all of high quality and backed by good service, deserves to have a lot of friends and to be honored by us all.
Del Seuser and his wife Viola of Leavenworth, KS, visit with Helen Brigham and a Case eagle exhibited by Francis and Marjorie Seart of Gerard, KS.
Accompanying Chady's words were deeds because, as president of the Oklahoma Steam Threshing and Gas Engine Association, he led a contingent of more than a dozen Sooners, bringing two steam engines, an old Case separator, and several vintage tractors to the event. The Oklahomans were among the star performers throughout the weekend, presenting several threshing demonstrations each day.
In accepting the Hall of Fame medallion on behalf of J. I. Case's descendants at the Friday afternoon induction, Helen Brigham surveyed the crowd, which included many people who had participated in the development of Case equipment over the years and farmers who had put it to use, as she stated:
'J. I. would want me to express appreciation and thanks to each and every one of you for your part in making the tremendous improvements which he felt were paramount in his company in order to make work lighter for the farmer, provide food for the world, enjoy the God-given right to be free and serve others well.'
After reciting the qualities of J. I. Case as an innovator and a hard-working man, J. 1. Case Company President James K. Ashford used the true story of the time J. I. Case left his office and went to the field to see about a separator the Company had sold a farmer who couldn't get it to work properly. J. I. worked most of a day trying to fix it, then doused it with kerosene and set it on fire, saying he would not allow a Case machine that didn't perform to exist and sent the farmer a new machine in its place.
'Along with his vision and commitment to progress, J. I. Case had this third crucial ingredient so essential to progress (in the farm equipment business),' Ashford declared at the Friday night banquet. 'He had an unchanging commitment to quality.'
Quality of product and service also was the theme of James L. Ketelsen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Case Company's parent corporation, Tenneco.
The Oklahoma 'Gang' poses with Chady Atteberry's 'Elgin Watch' 40 HP Case at the Celebration. Left to right, back row: Steve Dunn, Ed Larson, Dottie Fry, Amos Rixmann, Dale Wolf, Chady Atteberry and Pam Bennett (holding Kathy Bennett); front row: Kenneth Kelley (with Minerva standing behind him), Pat Atteberry (with Daniel and Becky Bennett in front of her), David Bennett, Lyman Urban and Don Messing. Don Blosser and John Fry missed the photo, which appears courtesy of the Atteberrys.
Kenneth Kelley's 18 HP portable supplies power for an old Case hand-feed steel separator. Engineer Ed Larson, 'assisted' by Daniel Bennett. Photo courtesy Chady & Pat Atteberry.
The Oklahoma Threshers brought a lot of vintage Case pieces to the Celebration: Dale Wolf and Chady Atteberry stand next to John Fry's load which includes two Fry tractors and Kenneth Kelley's 18 HP portable.
Noting that the spirit of the Case Company is 'still the same as it was' when J. I. Case was around, Ketelsen pointed out that under Jim Ashford's management, an employee can still stop the assembly line if he or she detects a problem as far as the quality of the product is concerned.'
He added: 'The Case Company is continually working to make the farmer's job easier . . . there has been a reaffirmation of the same principles which made the company's founder so successful. Those principles involve production of a quality product through technological improvement and standing behind that product with quality service.'
Exhibits at the celebration included a magnificent display of the J. I. Case Company's modern line of Case-IH agricultural equipment, plus a line up of vintage pieces that ranged from the Groundhog Thresher (brought to the celebration by the Case Company) like the one J. I. originally modified to begin his quest for the modern separator, and the 1870 'No. 25' Case portable engine shown by the Sauder Farm and Craft Village of Archbold, Ohio, up to and including a representative string of old Case crossmotor and standard-mount tractors reaching from the early 1900s into the 1930s and 1940s. A trio of Case Eagles were on hand to watch over the proceedings.
Three Case cars came to the celebration and were on the move around the Ag-Hall grounds much of the time. Tenneco chairman Ketelsen even took a spin at the wheel of Stan and Katy Sill's rare, Aeroquip-sponsored 1924 Model X Roadster, Gary Brott of Akron, CO, with his 1915 30 HP touring car, and Clarence Hoehman of Pittsburg, OK, with his 1925 Model X touring car covered a long of miles right on the show site with plenty of willing passengers.
The Oklahomans' threshing demonstrations featured Kenneth Kelley's old Case portable engine on the belt of a Case hand-feed separator. They were even costumed as a 1890's harvest crew. Chady Atteberry's famous 'Elgin Watch' 40 HP Case steam traction engine, as part of its busy-ness, powered the Ag-Hall's threshing machine, which was watched over by 'straw boss' Don Kabrey. Don Messing, one of North America's best steam engineers, came all the way from Lodgepole, Nebraska to help put Chady's engine through some if its paces. On Saturday afternoon, Case president Ashford joined Jim Coleman aboard the bundle wagon to pitch a half-wagonload of wheat to the thresher.
Two old-time baling crews were on hand; one of them, brought together by Vern Allen, Jr., of Mooresville, Missouri, seemed to have a whole lot of fun. The straw was too finely chopped and hard to bale, but Vernlike old J. I. Case would have donemade a few adjustments in the old baler, adding a few blocks of wood here and a few wires there to make things come outright. The Allen crew baled the straw production of the Ag-Hall's Case thresher, while the Knudsen family of Oskaloosa, KS, handled the output from the Oklahomans hand-feed separator.
There was a lot of pride in evidence among the vintage tractor exhibitors. For instance, Eugene Rogers of Paola, KS, rolled out his grand old 1920 22-40 Case crossmotor for the slow races and won the race; John Fry of Newalla, OK, managed to keep smiling and have a good time with his 1930's C & RC tractors even though his trailer lost two wheels on the way to Bonner Springs, and he was having some headaches getting repairs lined up. And DeWayne Black of Beloit, KS, brought in a very special exhibit, a handsomely restored 1942 LA Case's 'Centennial Tractor.'
Robert Devling and his wife, Lavada, walked away with Sunday's best decorated tractor prize. Not only was their 1935 L's exhibit space surrounded by pumpkins, fall leaves, and other reminders of the season, but Lavada produced a clever sign that was an enlarged Social Security card with J. I. Case's picture on it, tying in with the Case celebration as well as the 1935 tractor's common anniversary with legislation which created the Federal Social Security Program.
In addition to the previously mentioned Case steamers, two other fine old Case steam traction engines came to the Celebration and were on display, even though they weren't able to steam up. They were a veteran 50 HP owned by Marquis Pasley of Shawnee Mission, KS, and a rare (believed to be the only one left) 1912 45 HP 'special,' which belongs to Del Seuser of Leavenworth, KS. Del, by the way, is National Vice President of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association.
The unsung heroes of the Case/Ag-Hall Celebration probably were: Don Kabrey, who worked almost straight-out for six months getting things ready for the big weekend, rounding up volunteer help and encouraging participation by exhibitors in the area surrounding Bonner Springs; Jim Coleman, who did many things to help the program, but was especially helpful in the transportation of a number of large exhibits tractors and steam enginesto the showgrounds; William P. Simpson of Racine, who started very early writing to his many friends from many years at the Case Company to encourage their attendance (most of them came, it appeared!); and Ken Moberg of the J. I. Case Company's Overland Park (Kansas City Area) Office, who was the shepherd of the Case Company's on-site exhibits and arrangements at the Ag-Hall.
From now on, there shouldn't be many people saying 'Ag-Hall of Fame? Where's that? I didn't know there was one.' On October 20-22, Jerome Increase Case and his many friends made the Agricultural Hall of Fame at Bonner Springs, KS, the center of ag-heritage attention.