Allis-Chalmers

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Allis-Chalmers and the Bright Orange Tractors

Allis-Chalmers is today an oil field services company in Houston, Texas but it started out in the machinery industry with its most famous machine being a line of tractors famous for their bright orange color. Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company actually started manufacturing machinery in the 1840s with its product lines in waterwheels, sawmills, and grindstones. Allis-Chalmers became a farm equipment manufacturer in 1914 after merging with Fraser and Chalmers who was known as one of the largest manufacturers of mining machinery in the United States. After Allis-Chalmers’ entry into the farm equipment manufacturing business, it began producing its famous line of bright orange farming tractors.

Allis-Chalmers was incorporated in Delaware but would find its main operation in Milwaukee. In fact, it was one of the most prominent manufacturing companies in Milwaukee with several large plants in the area. It has been said that the city of West Allis, Wisconsin was named after the manufacturing giant. The West Allis plant mainly produced tractors for agriculture.

Allis-Chalmers had two other plants in Wisconsin—one in Appleton and another in Port Washington. Simplicity Garden Tractors were produced in Port Washington and crushing and screening equipment were produced in Appleton. Other plants were located in LaPorte, Indiana, Topeka, Kansas, and Independence, Missouri. The Laport plant produced farm implements, Topeka plant produced industrial tractors, and Independence plant produced Gleaner Combines.

The company was a major player in the war effort. One of its major contributions to the allied efforts in World War II was its building of pumps used in the separation of uranium for the Manhattan Project.  Other contributions to the war effort included building electrical motors for American naval submarines and steam engines for Liberty ships.

A number of acquisitions were made by Allis-Chalmers between 1931 and 1983. These acquisitions included Monarch Tractor (1928), Advance-Rumely (1931), Buda Engine Company (1953), Gleaner Harvester (1955), Vendeuvre (1959), and Simplicity (1993). The Vendeuvre Company was French owned. With the acquisition of Monarch Tractor, Allis-Chalmers could produce crawler tractors. In addition to tractors, Allis-Chalmers could produce threshers, combines, and tillage instruments with the acquisition of Advance-Rumely.

Allis-Chalmers was a leader in many aspects of the industry. The first tractors to be fitted with rubber tires in 1931 were built by Allis-Chalmers. Its line of crawler tractors was the first to use positive seal track idlers in 1939. The company introduced on its 1948 WD tractor power-adjustable rear wheels. Its HD-15 crawler model was the first tractor of its kind to be equipped with a torque converter drive. And finally, the Allis-Chalmers D-19 diesel agricultural tractor was the first to use a turbocharger.

Today, Allis-Chalmers is no longer in manufacturing. It has a service business model for the oil drilling industry. Economic changes in the 1980s resulted in struggles for the company and it needed to sell its farm equipment division. The German company Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz AG bought the division in 1985 and it was renamed Deutz-Allis. Eventually, Deutz-Allis was sold and would become AGCO Corporation. AGCO continued to sell tractors under either the AGCO name or ACGO-Allis.

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