Farm Horizons, August 2011

Northland Case Collectors featured at Wright County Fair’s machinery hill

By Jennifer Kotila

Northland Case Collectors were invited to display their tractors at this year’s Wright County Fair, Aug. 3 through 7. While at the fair, members were able to meet a lot of people as they transported them back and forth across the fairgrounds.

“The whole fair was great,” said Northland Case Collectors president Chuck Molitor. “The fair board treated us like celebrities, and we met a lot of people pulling the people movers with our Case tractors.”

One of the highlights for some club members was pulling the reigning Fairest of the Fair ambassadors and this year’s candidates during opening ceremonies, after which was the combine derby. “We greatly enjoyed the combine derby,” Molitor said.

“The club was a pleasure to work with,” said Wright County Fair Board Member Troy Beise. “We were happy they pulled the people movers with their tractors – people enjoyed that. They also took part in the tractor pull. It was nice that they took part in the events going on.”

There were about 25 Case tractors on display at machinery hill. “We expected more, but that’s what we got, and we’re happy with it,” Molitor said.

Not only did the club help at the fair by pulling the people movers, but it also sold Case merchandise, such as hats, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other collectible items. Memberships for the Northland Case Collectors were also sold, and the club gained six new members from the Wright County area.

Northland Case Collectors history

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 Molitor. 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 Collectors’ territory.

History of Case

According to the Wright County Fair website and the Racine history website, Jerome Increase Case came to Rochester, WI territory in 1842, after leaving Oswego County, NY. He had read that Rochester was the wheat center of the Midwest, and planned to begin his career as a thresherman there.

He left New York with six “ground hog” threshers he had bought on credit, selling five of them before reaching his destination, and keeping the sixth machine to earn a living. Case also used the sixth one as a model for a new, better thresher he wanted to build.

After months of experimentation, Case developed a machine that would beat out the kernels of wheat and separate them from the straw.

Case moved to Racine, WI 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. 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.

J.I. Case and Company was formed in 1863, in partnership with Stephen Bull, Robert Baker, and Massena B. Erskine, and the company began to work to manufacture a steam-powered thresher powered by treadmill horsepower that would be faster and outperform existing threshers.

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 and owned by the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.

The last steam engine manufactured by J.I Case and Company was a 65-horsepower engine which is still at the factory, taken out only for parades and local shows. Case built more steam engines than the following two competitors combined.

Although Jerome Case died in 1891, the company that he started continues to live on today, providing farm equipment to farmers worldwide. Over the years, Case changed to keep up with farmers’ needs, manufacturing gas-powered tractors in the early 1900s, and developing its first diesel tractor in 1953.

The Case logo

Even though the Case name and logo have changed due to different mergers and acquisitions, its most famous logo was that of ‘Old Abe.’ J. I. Case Company adopted the Civil War eagle as its logo when the Civil War was over in 1865.

Jerome I. Case was in Eau Claire, WI in 1861, when Company C of Wisconsin’s eighth regiment was being mustered. The company carried an eagle named Old Abe, after the president, as its mascot. The eighth regiment would become known as the eagle regiment after Old Abe saw it through 38 battles and skirmishes.

After the war, the Case Company adopted the eagle as its trademark, as a way to symbolize their excellence in the world. The eagle first appeared on a plain perch, but was later shown perched on a globe of the world, becoming the most famous bird in agricultural history.

The symbol of Old Abe was used for 104 years as the J. I. Case Company trademark, until J. I. Case introduced a new series of agricultural tractors christened the “Agri-King” in 1969. The eagle trademark was retired and replaced by a new corporate symbol, the Casemark. This mark was used until the acquisition of International Harvester, when IH was added to the symbol.

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