The Allis Chalmers Company as we knew it came about through the merger of the Edward P. Allis Company already famous for its high strength iron castings and steam pumps, Fraser & Chalmers Company an important maker of rock crushing equipment, Gates Iron Works another maker of rock crushing equipment and Dickson Manufacturing Company a builder of steam boilers and tanks. The newly formed company would be called the "Allis Chalmers Company" taking its name from two of the major players in the merger. Financial setbacks led to a reorganization in 1914 as the "Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company" with General Otto Faulk appointed to lead the company out of receivership. General Faulk can be credited with directing the company's efforts into the farm machinery business.
Introduced in 1914 the 10-18, was the first Allis Chalmers designed and built tractor. As new models were introduced Allis Chalmers acquired a well deserved reputation among the farming community for simplicity of design, durability and economical operation.
The successes enjoyed by Allis Chalmers led to a series of purchases that included Monarch Tractor Co., LaCrosse Plow Co. and Stearns Engine Co. These purchases gave Allis Chalmers a firm hold in the agriculture equipment business. The Advance-Rumley Thresher Company came into the fold in 1931 and brought with it an established dealer network that Allis Chalmers had sorely lacked.
By the 1930s Allis, now a leader in engineering and manufacturing of agricultural machinery, focused on a segment of the market that up till now had been overlooked. The small and medium farmer.
Allis Chalmers foundry background with high strength castings would enable the company engineers to come up with new designs that would make possible the most popular series of tractors ever produced. The WC was first built in 1933 as a prototype tractor. Getting favorable test results, Allis Chalmers introduced the WC to the American farmer in 1934. In the ensuing years until 1948 178,000 WCs were sold. Soon to follow was the model B. Prototyped in 1937 the one row model B went into full production in 1938. Enjoying immediate acceptance, the B would be in continuous production for 20 years with over 127,000 examples working on small farms around the USA and overseas. The C was the next in line. The need for a two row tractor for small farms wasn't overlooked and the C came on the market in 1940. Allis produced more than 84,000 Cs before replacing them with the CA in 1950. Like the C, the WC was replaced in 1948 with a much improved tractor, the WD. The WD would be replaced by the WD45 in 1953.
A few more purchases would finish creating the Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company of my teenage years. The Buda Corporation in 1953 and the Gleaner Corporation in 1955 would round out the picture.
To keep pace with competition Allis Chalmers modernized their tractor line in the late 1950s with the D series. But other forces were at work that would take the company on a path that eventually would lead to the breakup of an industrial and agricultural machinery giant.
According to Allis-Chalmers folklore, Tractor Division Manager Harry Merritt was visting California in the late 1920s when he came upon a sight that stopped him in his tracks.
He was amazed by acre upon acre of blooming wild poppies. He could see their vibrant orange color for miles. The story goes that the tractor man brought some poppies back to Milwaukee and asked the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company to match their color. Merritt wanted his tractors painted in that beautiful poppy orange.
Allis-Chalmers made a series of color tests in various locations with different backgrounds. The Persian orange color was adopted in 1928 because it could always be distinguished from the landscape, even though the tractor might be covered with dirt and dust.
Upon their debut in 1929, Allis-Chalmers's Model U became the first in a long line of tractors and farm implements that boasted the Persian orange paint. The orange hue distinguished, and was credited for helping "sell", Allis-Chalmers equipment.
Interestingly, however, some foreign dealers and other organizations chose other colors for their Allis-Chalmers equipment. The distributor in India, for example, preferred a deep red, and African buyers often requested requested tan. Some southern U.S. states preferred canary yellow. And U.S. Army tractors were generally painted olive drab.
Still, it was Merritt's Persian orange color that became Allis-Chalmers' trademark.
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