Co-Chairman, Communications International J. I. Case Heritage
Foundation 204 East Melbourne Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland
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
‘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
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
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
‘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
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
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
‘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 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 &
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.