Jerome Increase Case was born on December 11, 1819 to Deborah and Caleb Case in New York state. The founder of what would become Case IH and CASE Construction lived during a pivotal period of growth in the agriculture and construction industries. Growing up, Case read about McCormick's mechanical reaper and another machine which would change the course of his life: the threshing machine. He convinced his father to enter the equipment business by importing a thresher from England. In his teens and twenties, J.I. Case gained expert knowledge of equipment by working as a thresherman for six seasons in New York before setting out west to earn his fortune in 1842. With him he took 6 threshing machines bought on credit. He stopped in Chicago and sold 5 of the machines on his journey before temporarily setting in Rochester, Wisconsin in Racine County.
At this time, Wisconsin was the heart of America's breadbasket and Case had carefully selected this location to start his threshing business. Case worked the 1842 harvest in Rochester and over the winter 1842-3 he set about rebuilding the thresher with a number of improvements in mind based on his firsthand experience earning his living with the machine. He planned to establish a machine shop in Rochester, but when he could not get the water rights necessary for manufacturing at that time, he moved to Racine Wisconsin, settling on the shores of the Root River. The location was a key driver of his long-term success: he was surrounded by the market for his machinery on one side, with Lake Michigan on the other providing transport for raw materials to come in and harvested grain to make its way eastward to the bulk of America's population on the eastern seaboard.
Case grew his business in the 1840s and 1850s. He was elected mayor of Racine 3 times during the 1850s as the reputation of his threshing machines grew with each advancement. In 1849 Case married Lydia Ann Bull, the sister of his business partner, Stephen Bull. They had three daughters named Henrietta, Jessie, and Amanda between 1858 and 1862. A few months after the end of the Civil War in 1865, Case's youngest child was born: a son who shared his father's initials and whose first name referenced the familial tie to Andrew Jackson: Jackson Irving Case. He would go on to be elected mayor of Racine when he was only 26, making him the youngest mayor in America at the time, and shared his father's passion for horse-racing.
In the 1860s, Jerome Increase Case served two terms in the Wisconsin State Senate. During this time, he encountered the Wisconsin 8th Regiment and their bald eagle mascot Old Abe, named after American president Abraham Lincoln. Case was so impressed by the tales of the majestic bird's bravery in battle that he decided to use it as part of the company's emblem where it remained for over 100 years and features on Case Construction Equipment again today. By 1869, threshing machines were reaching the limit of literal horsepower and the company started experimenting with steam engines. Today Old No. 1 is housed at the Smithsonian Museum. Once steam engines evolved to providing mobile power, they could be used for pulling plows through fields instead of just stationary tasks such as threshing or lumber milling. The "threshing machine king" became the world's largest manufacturer of steam engines as their uses diversified.
Case served his industry as president of both the Racine County and Wisconsin State Agricultural Societies. In the 1870s he helped found the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, as well as the Racine Manufacturers' National Bank and the First National Bank of Burlington. In addition to his business, his community, and philanthropy, J.I. Case loved horses and owned a ranch called Hickory Grove on the south side of Racine. Case's most famous horse was named Jay-Eye-See, a pun on his owner's initials. The horse was a national champion in 1884, but it was his later incredible comeback after an injury that made him a household name nationwide.
When Case died in 1891 aged 72, he left behind a legacy which has grown extensively since his time. The brands that bear his name celebrated the 175th anniversary of their founding in 2017 and today do business in more than 160 countries. His legacy can be seen on every piece of equipment that bears his name and in the towns where the machines are built. In Sorocaba, Brazil, our plant sits on Avenida Jerome Case. In Racine, the Jerome I. Case High School bears his name and four streets have names referencing his life: Jerome Blvd, Case Ave, Hickory Grove Ave, Jay Eye See Ave.