By Jennifer Kotila
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN This year’s featured tractors at the Wright County Fair, which takes place Thursday, Aug. 4 to Sunday Aug. 7, will be J.I. Case.
The Northland Case Collectors have been invited to show off their tractors for the first time at the fair, and are organizing the tractor and equipment display on the Machinery Hill area.
Visitors can expect to see all sorts of Case tractors and equipment, ranging from old to new. There will also be caps, t-shirts, and other Case-related memorabilia for sale at the display.
Those interested in displaying a tractor or piece of equipment should register before Sunday, July 31. Forms are available at the Wright County Fair website. A link to the site can be found on the Herald Journal website, www.herald-journal.com
Tractors and equipment for display should be brought to the fairgrounds Tuesday, Aug. 2 or Wednesday, Aug. 3.
Tractors and equipment can be picked up Sunday, Aug. 7 beginning at 6 p.m. through Monday, Aug. 8. All owners of Case tractors are welcome to participate and show their collections.
“We are hoping for a lot of collectors at the show,” said Northland Case Collectors president Chuck Molitor.
The Northland Case Collectors club was started in 2000 in Redwood Falls by John Ahlers of Bigelow, Earl Butenhof of Owatonna, and Gary Ahlbrecht of Brownton.
The three men had met at a threshing show in Madison, SD and began to talk about there not being any Case collector clubs in the area.
Although there were two national clubs, they were located in Ohio and Illinois, making it difficult for those from the upper Midwest to participate.
The men decided to start their own club, contacting every Case collector they knew. The first meeting took place, and 25 members signed up.
The club includes Case collectors from Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
Today, there are about 250 members, said Chuck Molitor, club president. Most of them also belong to the two national clubs.
Membership fees are $15, and include quarterly newsletters.
Annual meetings take place each April, moving from state to state. Members tour local Case collections and other points of local interest during the annual meeting, as well.
Northland Case Collectors members try to attend tractor shows that feature Case, and help organize the feature summer show of the national clubs when it’s in Northland Case Collector territory.
History of Case
According to the Wright County Fair website and the Racine history website, Jerome Increase Case left Oswego County, NY in 1842, on his way to Rochester, Wisconsin Territory.
He had read that Rochester was the wheat center of the Midwest, and planned to begin his career as a thresherman there.
Before leaving New York, Case purchased six “ground hog” threshers on credit and left for Wisconsin, selling five of them before reaching his destination.
Case had kept the sixth machine to earn a living and use as a model for a new, better thresher he wanted to build.
After many months of experimenting, Case developed a machine that would beat out the kernels of wheat and separate them from the straw.
Because he was refused permission to install another millrace and wheel at the dam in Rochester, WI to build a plant to manufacture his improved threshing machine, Case moved to Racine, WI.
Case rented a small shop and began to build crude threshers, which he improved as new models were made.
The business grew each year, and Case erected a three-story brick shop in Racine in 1847, that became the hub of his farm equipment manufacturing business.
Case formed a partnership, J.I. Case and Company, in 1863, with Stephen Bull, Robert Baker, and Massena B. Erskine.
The company began to work to manufacture a steam-powered thresher that would be faster and outperform existing threshers, powered by treadmill horsepower.
The first Case steam engine was produced in 1869, more than 15 years before the demand for more farm power brought on a steam engine boom.
The engine was a nine-horsepower portable model still operational today, owned by Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.
Continuing to build steam engines until 1936, the last one manufactured was a 65-horse-power engine and is still at the factory, taken out only for parades and local shows.
Case built more steam engines than the following two competitors combined.
In the early 1900s, Case began manufacturing gas-powered tractors, and its first diesel tractor was developed in 1953.
Over the years, Case has changed, along with management of the company.
It has been known as Case-IH (International Harvester), and Case-NH (New Holland), after different mergers and acquisitions.
Although Jerome Case died in 1891, the company that he started continues to live on today, providing farm equipment to farmers worldwide.