The Big Car Database


Case Corporation
Industry heavy equipment (construction), agricultural machinery
Successor CNH Global
Founded 1842; 177 years ago (1842) (as J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company)
Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.
Products tractors, threshers, combines, backhoes, others
1936 Case Model CC Tractor
A Case row-crop model, circa 1940s
Case Model 830
Case Model 2090

The Case Corporation was a manufacturer of construction equipment and agricultural equipment.

Founded, in 1842, by Jerome Increase Case as the J I Case Threshing Machine Company, it operated under that name for most of a century For another 66 years it was the J I Case Company, and was often called simply Case In the late 19th century, Case was one of America's largest builders of steam engines, producing self-propelled portable engines, traction engines and steam tractors It was a major producer of threshing machines and other harvesting equipment, The company also produced various machinery for the US military (combat engineer equipment for the USMC, full-tracked tractors and scoop loaders for the US Army, etc) In the 20th century, Case was among the 10 largest builders of farm tractors for many years In the 1950s its construction equipment line became its primary focus, with agricultural business second

Case's corporate entities and brands changed repeatedly in the 1980s and 1990s. When its corporate parent, Tenneco, bought International Harvester's agricultural equipment division and merged it into Case, the J. I. Case Company continued, but it began using the Case IH brand. In the 1990s it changed names several more times (each name including "Case") before its merger into CNH Global ended its history as a distinct entity. Various CNH brands continue to make use of the Case name, such as Case CE and Case IH.

Name details

Founded by Jerome I. Case in 1842 as the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company, the company operated under that name for most of a century, until 1928. In some of its advertisements the name was styled J. I. Case T. M. Co. for short. Another business founded by Jerome I. Case, the J. I. Case Plow Works, was an independent business. When the Plow Works was bought by Massey-Harris in 1928, the latter sold the name rights to the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company, which reincorporated as the J. I. Case Company. That company, which became majority-owned by Tenneco in 1967 and a wholly owned subsidiary in 1970, was often called by the simple brand name Case.

In 1984, Tenneco bought International Harvester's agricultural equipment division and merged it into Case, and the farm equipment brands were combined as Case IH, although the corporation legally remained the J. I. Case Company. It continued as such until 1994, when Tenneco divested it as the Case Equipment Corporation. Case Equipment became Case Corporation and later Case LLC.

In 1999, Case LLC merged with New Holland Agriculture to form CNH Global, a Fiat Group division, which has since been demerged into a corporation that is majority-owned by Fiat Industrial. The name Case lives on in two CNH brands: Case CE (from "Construction Equipment"), which is the world's third largest brand of construction equipment, and Case IH, which is the world's second largest brand of agricultural equipment.



"Old Abe", the famous eagle of the Wisconsin 8th Infantry, was the J. I. Case mascot.
State Street, Racine, Wisconsin, looking east toward Lake Michigan. The Case building is on the left with the statue of Old Abe on the front.

Jerome Increase Case (1819–1891) was born to a Williamstown, New York farming family. As a young child, Case read about a machine that could cut wheat without people needing to use their hands. He developed an interest in agriculture at that point.

Case took small, hand-powered threshing machines to Wisconsin in 1842, where he improved the design and established a company to manufacture them. In 1843, Case moved the business to Racine, Wisconsin, in order to have better access to water power, and opened the Racine Threshing Machine Works. In 1863, Case partnered with three of his top employees, Massena Erskine, Robert Baker and Stephen Bull. Case was also involved in politics and horseracing. Over time, the company grew.

Competition in the farm business

Case traction engine "Black lady".

J. I. Case introduced an eagle logo for the first time in 1865 based on Old Abe, a Wisconsin Civil War Regiment's mascot. Case constructed his first portable steam engine in 1869, an engine used to power wheat threshers. This engine is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Case won first place at the 1878 Paris Exposition in France for his thresher. This was the first thresher sent abroad by the Case company and was the first of thousands which would later be exported internationally. It is at this time that Case created his first self-propelled traction engine, with a drive mechanism on one of his portable engines.

Meanwhile, in 1871 the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the McCormick factory. Despite Case's offer to help McCormick with the manufacturing of their machines, McCormick Company refused the offer and a new facility, called the McCormick Works was built, in southwest Chicago. The McCormick company introduced the first of many twine binder machines in 1881, leading to the so-called "Harvester Wars" that gained the attention of the farm industry during the 1880s.

Case tractor.

In 1884, Case made a visit to a farm named after him in Minnesota upon receiving news that one of his thresher machines was not working. Infuriated by the fact that he could not fix the machine himself, he set it ablaze the next day, and sent the owner a brand new thresher machine upon return to Wisconsin.

In 1890, the Case Company expanded to South America, opening a factory in Argentina. In 1891, the company's founder died. By this time the Case company produced portable steam engines to power the threshing machines, and later went into the steam traction engine business. By the start of the 20th century, Case was the most prolific North American builder of engines. These engines ranged in size from the diminutive 9 HP, to the standard 15, 25, 30, 40, 50, 65 HP and up to the plowing 75 and 80 HP sizes. Case also made the large 110 HP breaking engines with its notable two story cab. Nine massive 150 HP hauling engines were made, in addition to steam rollers. Case engines were noted for their use of Woolf valve gear, feedwater heaters, and the iconic "eagle" smokebox covers. Case built 36,000 steamers in total when it switched to gas tractors in 1927.

By 1902, five major American agricultural manufacturing companies decided that a consolidation was needed, and so the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, the Deering Harvester Company, the Plano Manufacturing Company and two others merged their companies, rebranding the new company conglomerate as International Harvester Company, which became one of the giants of industry.

Internal combustion tractors

By 1895, the Case Company had begun to produce gasoline engines. By 1899, the Case Company entered the Russian market.

In 1904, Case introduced the first all-steel thresher machine. Case sold their first gasoline tractor that year, and established a continuous presence in Europe when the company won the first place in a plowing contest held in the so-called "old continent". Case at this time developed a wide line of products: threshers, binders, graders, water tanks, plows, buggies, and even automobiles.

Case manufactured automobiles for a few years. A Case 1920 7-passenger touring car.

The advent of oil engines by the start of the 20th century, suggested a change on the horizon. From Froelich's first tractors to Hart-Parr products, oil tractors seemed the way ahead. Case hired Joe Jagersberger, and he tested a motor by racing in the 1911 Indianapolis 500. Case began production of the 30-60 oil engine in 1912. Case also produced kerosene tractors in the teen years, similar to the Rumely oil pulls. During World War I, Case's sales and demand grew dramatically in Europe. These increases were directly connected to the war; as many farm laborers became soldiers, each remaining farmer needed to become more productive, and machinery was the way to make this happen.

In 1919, John Deere entered the harvester business, and International Harvester's reply to their new competition was to purchase P&O Plowing of Canton, Illinois, and the Chattanooga Plowing company of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Henry Ford also entered the tractor business with his Fordson Tractor produced at the massive Rouge River plant. An economic downturn during the early 1920s dampened tractor sales; price-cutting to stimulate demand sparked a price war in the tractor industry (called the tractor war). Ford, with a massive advantage in manufacturing capacity and distribution, had the upper hand, producing an estimated 73 percent of all American tractors, with IHC in a far away second place at nine percent, and several other companies sharing the rest of the percentages. In 1923, the IHC Farmall entered the agricultural industry, and Ford's stranglehold began to slip. That same year also, the 100,000th thresher machine produced by Case made its way out of the assembly line, marking an important milestone for the Case company.

In 1927 the J. I. Case Company ceased building its legendary steam engines. Case steam engines, of which over 30,000 were produced, were painted in black with green machinery, while the gas tractors were painted grey. In 1939, Case changed its color scheme to Flambeau Red, with the excavators being a ruddy yellow. By 1929, Case had expanded to Australia, Mexico, Sweden, and other countries. Also that year, the J. I. Case Company produced its first crawler tractor. S and V tractors were introduced in 1940.

Automobile production

Automobiles produced by Case during the period 1911-1925/1927 include: the Case Jay-Eye-See Brougham (named for Case's horse) and Case Touring-Y.

Work in the Second World War

Case evolved as World War II arrived by becoming involved in the manufacturing of shells for the United States and allied forces military, as well as airplane parts for the B-26s, bombs, and doors for the Sherman Tank. Three new plants were opened across the United States during that year, and, in 1942, the company produced its first self-propelled combine. That same year, Case released the company's first cotton picker, which is currently preserved by the Smithsonian society. A protracted 440-day strike in Wisconsin of the Case factory weakened the company.

For the next 31 years, the company went through more globalization, becoming a well-known company in the agricultural markets of Australia, Japan, and other places. Many other companies joined Case during this period.

Modern mergers

In 1957, Case bought out the American Tractor Corporation (ATC). ATC was founded in 1950 and was a producer of small crawler tractors. Their production of dozers (marketed as Terradozers) and development of an integrated backhoe was of particular interest to Case. Case dropped the ATC name in 1959 only retaining the Terratrac name for the drive trains. This led to a hybrid tractor being rolled out of the Burlington Plant in 1957. This model, the 320 Construction King, would become synonymous in the United States to the name backhoe loader. Since then Case has released other models such as the T-Series which includes the 580T, 580ST, 590ST and 695ST. In 1998, a jury awarded a construction worker over $17million in damages after a defect in the design of the 580 backhoe led to him being crushed and being paralyzed from the waist down while operating the machine.

In 1961, Case Corporation signed a deal with RyCSA and Metalúrgica Tandil (in Buenos Aires), to make Case tractors and agricultural implements under licence in Argentina. The models built were the 830 and the 831, made until 1964 when RyCSA closed down.

1964 brought the acquisition of Colt Garden Tractors. This was the first garden tractor powered by 'Hy-Drive", a form of hydraulic propulsion that allowed for various heavy duty attachments and eliminated the need for transaxle drive belts. The Kern County Land Company, using oil money, bought the Case Company. In turn Kern County sold Case to Tenneco Company of Texas.

In 1972, Case bought the British tractor builder David Brown Ltd. At this time Case was repositioned as a construction business, with the expansion of the construction arm and repositioning of the company away from agricultural machinery. American farms began to slide into collapse due to interest rates and low prices.

In 1974, Case acquired most of the French construction equipment firm, Poclain.

In 1983, during purchase of International Harvester assets, Case sold its garden tractor division to Ingersoll Power Equipment. Ingersoll tractors would continue to carry the Case brand name until 1987.

In 1984, Case parent Tenneco bought selected assets of the International Harvester agriculture division and merged it with J. I. Case. All agriculture products are first labeled Case International and later Case IH. They used the 94 Series Case Utility, two- and four wheel drives for Case IH's first tractor together as a company. The first tractor developed by the new corporation was the Magnum. Introduced in 1985, the Magnum began production and the 94 series line was dropped.

When Case IH bought out Steiger in 1986 they also continued the Steiger branding, and still do today.

In 1996, Austrian tractor builder Steyr Tractor was purchased.

Case IH Combine circa 2006.

The Case Corporation joined with New Holland N.V. to become CNH, now CNH Global, in November 1999. Because of the merger, CNH was forced to release its production plants in Doncaster, England and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Doncaster site was bought by the ARGO-group, owner of tractor builder Landini, and brought back the McCormick brand. The plant in Winnipeg was taken over by the Buhler family to start Buhler Tractors.

In Europe the merger with New Holland (including the former Fordson and Fiat tractor lines) was the success Case IH expected. In 2006, Case IH came with a plan to bring back the "International" feel to their products. They brought back the old International Harvester logo, and made more technical difference between the two brands. Montgomery Design International redid the industrial design and styling of the MAGNUM and several other new Case IH products as well as the New Holland "Cat's Eye" styling on all New Holland tractors and the revised Steyr tractor styling. These styling themes continue to this day.

Further reading

  • Erb, Dave, Eldon Brumbaugh, and J. I. Case Company (1993). Full Steam Ahead: J. I. Case Tractors & Equipment 1842–1955. St. Joseph, Michigan: American Society of Agricultural Engineers. ISBN 0-929355-42-3.
  • Stonehouse, Tom, and Eldon Brumbaugh (1996). J. I. Case Agricultural & Construction Equipment 1956–1994, Vol. 2. St. Joseph, Michigan: American Society of Agricultural Engineers. ISBN 0-929355-76-8.
  • Wendel, Charles H. (2004). Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements & Antiques. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87349-568-3.