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History of Allis Chalmers

Allis Chalmers imageThe firm that became Allis-Chalmers had been in business 67 years before farm tractors were added to an extensive line of capital equipment. Founded by Decker and Seville in 1847 to make French burr millstones, their Reliance Works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, grew to a thriving young company that made shafiing, water wheels, castings, and a long list of other equipment. Everything went well until the panic of 1857 led to bankruptcy. The operation was acquired by Edward P. Allis in 1861 at a sheriffs sale.

Allis grew the company rapidly by adding a broad line of capital machinery, induding stationary steam engines, pumps, sawmill tools, and flour milling equipment. When he died in 1889 there were 1,100 persons on the payroll. His family and Edwin Reynolds, a long time associate, continued to operate the company. In 1901 the E. P. Allis Company merged with Fraser and Chalmers and Gates Iron Works, both of Chicago, Illinois, and Dickson Manufacturing Company of Scranton, PennsyIvania, to form Allis-Chalmers.

By 1910 the company was again in financial trouble, and in 1913 General Otto Falk was appointed one of the receivers and became president. Seeking diversification, he saw that power for the mechanization of agriculture was complimentary to existing products and an opportunity for growth.

Early attempts included the rotary plow, the tractor-truck, and the Bull tractor, none of which proved successful. The monoculture rotary plow was licensed from a Swiss firm for $10,000 and a 6-percent royalty. After extensive redesign it was offered in 1915 but there is no record of sales. The tractor-truck, a predecessor of the millitary half-track, was offered to farmers but its $5,000 price tag was prohibitive. A few were sold to Russia during World War I. Lyons, Knoll, and Hartsough of Minneapolis, Minnesota offered their Bull tractor in a joint venture but this project was dropped. General Falk preferred an in-house design and in late 1914 engineering rolled out the Model 10-18, a three-wheel concept that appeared to meet farmers needs and have market potential (Peterson 1976).

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