Case IH: The real story of a machinery giant

Case IH celebrates its 175th anniversary this year, at its HQ in Wisconsin, USA. It was there that founder Jerome Increase (JI) Case established the Racine Threshing Machine Works to produce a novel machine to speed up the separation of grain after harvest.

“I find it amazing to see just how far the farming industry and our company have come during the last 175 years,” Case IH Brand President, Andreas Klauser, said.

Case IH Optum CVX 300 tractor
A Case IH Optum CVX 300 in action.

The company’s beginnings were closely linked with those of the American economy, as pioneers moved west and new farms were established there to feed the growing population centres in the east.

In 1869, Case went on to manufacture its first steam engine tractor. Though mounted on wheels, it was drawn by horses and used only to power other machines. In 1876, the company built its first self-propelled traction steam engine. As steam engines quickly replaced horses for threshing, JI Case Threshing Machine Company had become the world’s largest producer of steam engines by 1886.

Case IH (JI Case) historical steam engine tractor
JI Case manufactured large numbers of steam engines.

In 1902, five companies merged to form the International Harvester Company in Chicago. The deal was brokered personally by JP Morgan, the American banker who dominated corporate finance at the time.

International Harvester produced its first combine harvester in 1915. In 1923, the Farmall – the world’s first row-crop tractor – was introduced. More than five million Farmall tractors were sold.

Fast forward to 1977, when the unique single-rotor Axial-Flow rotary combine harvester came on the scene. This machine made a significant impact on farming across North America.

Case IH was formed in 1985 when JI Case acquired the agricultural division of International Harvester, uniting Case and IH under a single brand.

Case IH’s first product, the Magnum series (160hp to 240hp), was introduced in 1987 and became the first tractor to win the Industrial Design Excellence Award. Now producing up to 380hp, the Magnum continues to be one of the most recognizable Case IH products. More than 150,000 have been sold.

The heavy-duty Quadtrac tractor, with its articulated frame and distinctive rubber track drive units at each corner, powered onto the scene in 1996. The Quadtrac line-up now includes the most powerful series production tractor in the world – the Steiger Quadtrac 620 (with up to 692hp).

In 2000, Case IH (in conjunction with Steyr) was an early adopter of continuously variable transmission (CVT) technology.

These transmissions are becoming increasingly popular on Case IH’s larger tractors. In fact, the CVT-equipped Magnum 380 CVX was voted ‘Tractor of the Year 2015’. More recently, the Optum CVX tractor was named ‘Machine of the Year 2016’ and ‘Tractor of the Year 2017’.

Perhaps the most interesting Case IH innovation of recent times has been the autonomous tractor concept. Able to operate autonomously (without a driver) with a wide range of field implements, this promises big savings in countries with suitable farms and fields.

“The Case IH 175th anniversary is a testament to many years of progress,” Mr Klauser said.

When I look at the enormous transformation which has taken place in agriculture over the last 175 years, it is very exciting to think about what might be achieved during the next 175 years.