Russ' Vintage Iron

Case Equipment and Old Abe

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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In the last few columns, I wrote about some interesting oddities in the vintage iron world. Last month's column featured a look at Pennsylvania farmer Richard Bird's gold demonstrator International 1026 tractor.

I was looking for more examples from readers of these oddities but I did not have anyone respond to my request. So I went looking on my own.

Those of you with vintage Case tractors are likely familiar with Old Abe. The image of the eagle sitting on the globe was Case' logo for many years.

But did you know that Old Abe was indeed a real-life, live eagle. Old Abe was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War, according to Wikipedia.

In 1861 an Indian known as Chief Sky set up camp near Park Falls, Wisconsin. He noticed a treetop nest and cut the tree down to get the eagles. One of the eagles died from the fall but the other one lived and become his pet.

Chief Sky sold the eagle to some white people in the region, who then named the bird "Old Abe" after President Abraham Lincoln. The men became part of the Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the bird became their mascot.

In 1864, after three years in the war, the original members of the regiment returned to Wisconsin with the eagle and they agreed to give the bird to the state. The eagle was housed in the capital building in Madison and became nationally known.

A small fire in the basement of the capital building broke out in Feb. 1881 and the eagle inhaled a large amount of thick black smoke. While it survived initially, a month later Old Abe died.

The bird's stuffed remains were on display in the capital building for years after its death. Ironically enough, another fire in the capitol building, this time in 1904, destroyed Old Abe's remains and the glass display case it was in.

According to an article I found on…, Jerome I. Case first encountered Old Abe in 1861 while on a business trip to Eau Claire, where the regiment was in a parade. Then and there Mr. Case was determined to adopt Old Abe as the symbol of his business.

In 1865, Old Abe began appearing on J.I. Case Company farm equipment. After so many years the company, wanting a more global approach, decided to portray the bird perched on top of a globe.

Another article I found said Old Abe was on Case equipment for 104 years, from 1865 to 1969. In that year, the company introduced a new series of tractors called the "Agri-King" line and the Old Abe emblem and trademark were retired in favor of the new corporate symbol, which was the word "CASE."

I couldn't find this in an online articles but I do remember reading in one of my tractor books years ago that the board of directors, or at the very least some members, wanted to get rid of the Old Abe emblem many years before they finally did get rid of it in 1969.

The chairman of board or maybe it was the company president, whose name I think was Clausen, was a big fan of Old Abe and he wouldn't let the bird be removed from the hoods of their tractors. So the board had to wait several years (I think most of the 1960s) until finally this big boss retired to finally remove Old Abe from being the company emblem.

I really don't have much experience with Case farm equipment as there was very few folks in our home area who had the brand. That was probably because there were no local dealerships in our general area.

But I have been around enough Case vintage equipment to know that Old Abe is featured on both tractors and implements. I believe I have even seen Old Abe as a hood ornament on some Case tractors.

Do you have any additional knowledge about Case farm machinery and Old Abe? I would like to hear from you. Please contact me today.

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