Case IH celebrates 175 years in agricultural equipment production

24 Jul 2017

2017 marks a century and three-quarters since creation of founding element of Case IH business / Innovations include first successful steam tractor for agriculture, first single-rotor combine and first four-tracked articulated high-horsepower tractor

In 2017, Case IH celebrates the 175th anniversary of its foundation as an agricultural equipment business, and has marked the occasion with a number of product upgrades at a summer press launch in Slovakia.

In 1842, in the US town of Racine, Wisconsin, where the worldwide headquarters of the Case IH agricultural business remain today, Jerome Increase Case founded his eponymous farm equipment company. Having worked extensively with farm equipment, he established the Racine Threshing Machine Works on the shores of the Root River, focusing on the manufacturing of machines to speed up the separation of grain after harvest.

The company’s beginnings were closely linked with those of the American economy, as American pioneers moved west and new farms were established there to feed the growing population centres of the eastern US. As demand grew for mechanised ways to help improve other aspects of agriculture, in 1869 Case introduced the industry’s first successful steam tractor. This initial design was still horse-drawn, and used to power other machines, but in 1876 the company built its first self-propelled steam traction engine. As steam engines quickly began to replace horses to provide threshing power, by 1886 the JI Case threshing Machine Company had grown to become the world’s largest producer of steam engines.

Sixteen years later, in 1902, separate developments saw five companies all involved in the production of grain harvesting equipment merge to form the International Harvester Company. The new entity was based in Chicago, and the deal was personally brokered by JP Morgan, the American banker who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation at the time. In 1915, IH produced its first combine, and eight years later introduced the Farmall, the world’s first rowcrop tractor. Providing greater productivity, reliability and safety, it was part of a revolutionary unified system of tractors and implements for all major farm tasks. The firm went on to sell more than five million Farmall tractors.

In 1977, IH launched a new combine design that was to revolutionise high-output harvesting, bringing with it more thorough yet gentler threshing than had previously been possible. Doing away with a drum-and-concave and straw walkers, and replacing them with a single longitudinal rotor and concave that handled both threshing and separation tasks, the Axial-Flow was revolutionary in its simplicity and crop adaptability, and produced significant advances in grain quality and grain savings.

Case IH was formed in 1985, shortly after the-then parent of JI Case acquired the agricultural division of International Harvester, uniting the legacies of Case and IH in a single brand. The first product to be developed by the merged team of designers and engineers was the Magnum tractor, a clean-sheet design introduced in 1987 and spanning 155-246hp. It became the first tractor to win the Industrial Design Excellence Award. Today, after sales of more than 150,000, Magnum retains its core characteristics, but has been completely redesigned, with models of up to 419hp available, and with a unique Rowtrac rear track option. 

In 1996, Case IH launched the revolutionary Quadtrac, the industry’s first articulated high-hp rubber-tracked tractor, featuring oscillating tracks on each corner for maximum ground contact at all times, and with pivot steering for smooth, scuff-free turning.

During the same period, Case IH also launched its first Advanced Farming System technology, enabling farmers to begin to benefit from developments such as auto-steering and yield mapping. With levels of repeatability down to as little as 2.5cm, AFS has helped to maximise the efficiency of inputs by minimising wastage.

In 2000 came the introduction to mid-range Case IH tractors of CVT continuously-variable transmissions that have since become widely recognised for benefits ranging from stepless travel to the ability to work at set engine or forward speeds.

Today. Case IH continues to focus on innovative developments to help make farming more productive. Tractors such as the Magnum 380 CVX and Optum 300 CVX have won a raft of awards acknowledging the benefits their design brings to agriculture. And Case IH continues to focus on the future, as evidenced by developments such as the Autonomous Concept Vehicle, revealed at the 2016 Farm Progress Show in the USA and designed to help address labour shortages and produce food as efficiently as possible.

“The 175th anniversary of Case IH is a testament to many years of quality, perseverance and progress,” says Peter Friis, who has recently been appointed to the role of Case IH marketing director for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

“It also allows us to reflect on our guiding principles of innovative engineering, efficient power and agronomic design, which create a philosophy that will continue into the future.

“Reflecting on the enormous transformation that has taken place in agriculture over the past 175 years makes it very exciting to look forward to what might be achieved during the next 175.”

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