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Jerome I. Case

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Born on December 11, 1819, in Williamstown, New York, Jerome Increase Case was a successful farming equipment manufacturer and banker. His ambition and business savvy led him to form the Jerome Increase Case Machine Co., which changed names several times until it finally became Case Corp., a company still in existence today. One of the most successful farming equipment companies, it became so because of Case’s threshing inventions and his hands-on involvement in the company. Case’s ability to change with the times, as evident in being one of the first farm equipment manufacturers to adopt steam power and gas power secured the company through good times and bad.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Birth and Early Years

Jerome Increase was born into an affluent Southern farming family. His ancestor, John Case, an Englishman, came to America in 1633 and settled in Massachusetts Bay. His father, was a farmer named Caleb Case; his mother, Deborah Jackson.

Jerome Case was well acquainted with farming developments from an early age. When Caleb visited a demonstration for a groundhog thresher that could perform more work in one hour than a farmer could in a single day, he became so enthralled that he not only purchased the machine but he also became a dealer.

As a boy, Jerome Case would provide threshing services to neighboring farms with the novel machine. Case grew up with the notion that further modifications could be made to this machine to improve farming techniques.

At 23 years of age, Case packed up six of his father’s groundhog threshers and headed west. The machines garnered interested and Case sold five of them before settling in Rochester, Wisconsin. Working in Rochester afforded him the time to develop a thresher-separator machine. He soon traded in the service business to focus on manufacturing a new threshing device that he invented, but encountered problems when the city council refused to grant him water-power rights. Instead of fighting, Case moved his new business to Racine, where it is still based today.

Two years later, he married Lydia Ann Bull. The couple had seven children, just four of whom survived past childhood.

[edit] Jerome Increase Machinery Co. and Case Corp.

The Jerome Increase Machinery Co. was founded in 1847 and, within a short period of time, was producing about 100 threshers a year. The company thrived but it did not come without some major challenges.

One of these challenges was the lack of efficient transportation for delivering the machines. Case had become so successful that farmers from all over the U.S. were ordering his machines and, as there were no railway system, delivering the machines was costly and lengthy. On one occasion, he sold six threshers to a farmer in Iowa and they were not received until well after the end of threshing season.[1]

By 1863, Case teamed up with three partners: Stephen Bull, Robert H. Baker, and M.B. Erskine. Together, they formed the J.I. Case Co. They adopted a Wisconsin Regiment logo, the bald eagle, as the trademark for the company. It was used for more than a century.[2]

In 1869, Case transformed agricultural machinery with the use of steam to power his machines. Mounted on wheels and pulled by horses, the Old No.1 was the first steam-powered thresher. It didn’t become commercially successful until almost a decade later, but Case’s ideas put him well ahead of other manufacturing companies. Case sold 36,000 of this model in the years to come. The use of steam power made Case’s the largest manufacturer of farm equipment in the U.S.[3]

In 1878, the sale of his steam equipment had doubled. Case’s machines had even won the first prize at an exposition in Paris.

In 1880, the company was incorporated as the J.I. Case Thresher Machine Co.

Case developed a reputation for being a hands-on man in the sense that he handled many of the sales and repairs for his company. In one event, when even Case mechanics could not repair a faulty thresher from a farmer in Fairbault, Minnesota, Case himself paid the farmer a visit. When he could not repair the machine, he doused it with gasoline and set it alight, providing the farmer with a new thresher machine the next day. Even at the age of 65, Case was very much involved in his company.

[edit] Life Outside the Company

In 1871, Case founded the Manufacturers’ National Bank of Racine, as well as the First National Bank of Burlington.

Case, not only a thriving businessman, also developed an interest in politics. He ran for mayor of Racine twice, and succeeded. His political involvements also saw him on the state senate as a republican between 1865 and '66.

When Case left the business behind, he bred horses for racing; one of his famous horses was known as “Jay-Eye-See”.

[edit] Death

Case died at the age of 73 on December 12, 1891. Case Corp. is still in existence today, having merged with one of the biggest names in the agricultural industry, International Harvester.[4]

[edit] References

  1. Hallett, Anthony and Hallett, Diane. Entrepreneur Magazine Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurs. John Wiley and Sons, 1997.
  2. Case IH. 2008-09-08.
  3. Balousek, Marv. Inventors & Entrepreneurs. Badger Books Inc., 2003.
  4. Jerome I. Case. Wisconsin Historical Society. 2008-09-08.