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Case Tractors: Innovation Beginning with Steam

The J.I. Case Company was founded in 1842 and is known for the famous Case steam tractors. These machines were impressive and brought power into the farming picture. Case got its start in the threshing machine business by the founder and inventor Jerome I. Case. Mr. Case was known as a top leader in the threshing machine business but with the advent of portable steam tractors he soon became just as powerful in that industry as well. In fact, he is known as the first in America to create steam engine tractors. The Case name still exists today as Case International Harvester after purchasing International Harvester in 1999.

Case began to experiment with a gasoline traction engine in 1892. However, gasoline tractors were not produced for sale for another 20 years. In 1912, the first of the Case tractors known as the 30/60 and 20/40 models were released for sale. As demand increased for smaller tractors, he followed with the introduction of 12/25 tractors in 1914. Later, in 1915, he introduced the 10/20 tractors which sported a three-wheel design that allowed for greater maneuverability in the field.

The Crossmotor series tractors were probably the most popular line released by Case at the time. These were known as the model 9/18 tractors and sported a solid design along with engines mounted transversely. The L models followed the 9/18 models in 1929 and were produced for both industrial and standard use. The model C tractors were also produced at the same time and were very similar to the model L tractors except smaller. The model C tractors were intended for use in vineyards, orchards, and cane fields. Both the model C and L tractors were the first to have three forward speeds.

In 1935, the first of the Case row-crop tractors were introduced. These tractors were known as the model RC line and were later followed by the model R in 1938. In 1939, Case introduced a new line of model R tractors which were painted with a color resembling a torch flame along with a more streamlined design. Case named these new tractors the “Flambeau Red Series” and they had improvements in visibility along with optional electrical starters and lights. They also were the first Case tractors to have four-speed drive trains. Also released in 1939 were the V series which was a one-plow tractor and the D series which was a replacement for the C having new styling and paint. The D series tractors had a three-plow design and four forward speeds.

1941 saw the introduction of the S and LA series tractors. The S series was actually a smaller version of the D and replaced the R. The V series tractors were also released in one or two-plow designs producing a little over 18 horsepower on the drawbar and a little over 24 horsepower on the belt. The V series tractors were the entrance into the small tractor market for Case. Subsequent tractors released three years later were the VC (row crop version) and the VA. The VA proved to be a best-seller for Case during this time as it had increased horsepower and the ability to pull a two-bottom plow.

By 1963, the Case brand could be found in 125 distributorships across the world. 20 percent of Case tractors produced in the U.S. were shipped to global markets. The company had subsidiaries in South Africa, France, Brazil, Australia, and the U.K. It was also licensed in 15 other nations. In 1985, Case purchased International Harvester. This would put the new Case International Harvester among the largest farm equipment manufacturers in the world.

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