Case in point
ALBERT CITY – While hundreds of vintage tractors convene on Albert City each August for the annual Threshermen and Collectors Show, Case equipment was the star 2011 attraction last weekend.
“I admire what the people here have done to preserve all these pieces of ag history,” said Helen Case Brigham, the great-granddaughter of farm implement entrepreneur Jerome Increase Case. “J.I. and the men who worked with him were visionaries, and it’s fun to see their legacy here at the show.”
Case collectors from across the U.S. and Canada exhibited and demonstrated a large selection of Case steam engines, early- and late-model tractors, and Case automobiles during the 41st annual Threshermen and Collectors Show.
More than 12,000 were expected to attend the event, which also includes the feature parade for Case exhibitors, the threshermen parade, an antiques appraisal, live music from the Clutterbilly Band, field demonstrations of corn shelling, baling, threshing and more.
One of the most popular attractions included the incline ramp, which Carl Tuttle of Howell, Mich., climbed with his 1919 40-horsepower Case steam engine.
The incline ramp hearkens back to the early 1900s, when the J.I. Case company used the incline as a way to promote the power of their steam traction engines.
“Case was the leading farm equipment manufacturer in the world when steam was king, from the 1890s to the early 1920s,” said Chady Atteberry, a long-time Case enthusiast and J. I. Case Heritage Foundation member who traveled to the Threshermen and Collectors Show from his home in Blackwell, Okla.
Demonstrating the power of the equipment was important in an era when farmers often had to ford creeks with their steam engines.
“The wooden bridges that were common then were built to handle horses and wagons, not heavy steam engines, which could cause a wood bridge to collapse,” said Atteberry, who noted that the incline on display at the Threshermen and Collectors Show featured nearly a 50 percent grade.
While Case is best known for its farm equipment, the company also manufactured high-end automobiles from 1911 to 1927. Harold Musolf Jr. enjoyed visiting with people about his 1913 Case touring car, which he brought to Albert City from his home near Seattle, Wash.
“I can’t tell you how many people tell me, ‘I didn’t know Case ever made cars,'” said Musolf, who estimates that there are only about 100 Case automobiles in the world today.
Seven of the vintage vehicles were exhibited at the Threshermen and Collectors Show, making it one of the largest gathering of Case cars since the 1920s.
Musolf’s touring car, which features right-hand steering like many vehicles of the era, would have cost approximately $2,300 when it was new, making it much pricier than a 1913 Model T Ford, which would have sold for $400.
“Case didn’t have dealerships back then, and you could only buy a Case automobile at a factory branch,” said Musolf, who noted that many of these luxury automobiles were purchased by farmers in the Midwest.
“Case didn’t start a dealer network until 1917 and 1918, but by then they had gotten into this market too late.”
Since the cars are so rare today, they often command high prices. Musolf noted that a 1913 Case touring car similar to his that recently sold had been listed for $135,000.
“Everything that Case made was top quality and you can still see it in these cars.”
These glimpses into the past make the Threshermen and Collectors Show a not-to-be missed event, said Dennis Powers, a retired farmer from Ogden who has been coming to the show since 1976.
This year he exhibited his 1912 Case 30-60 gasoline-powered tractor, which he purchased in 1993 and later restored. “This is such an active show, and it’s a great place to learn about our farming heritage.
“Since there’s always a variety of equipment and activities here, there’s something for everyone.”
You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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