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By the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, more than half of the farms in the US consisted of less than 100 acres of land. While small farms accounted for only 15 percent of the total land under cultivation, the tremendous number of small farmers indicated a consumer market with enormous potential. Clearly, a smaller, economical, general-purpose tractor would be very attractive to a great number of buyers. Most small farms were still using horses and mules, but as petroleum distribution became more widespread to rural areas, small farmers everywhere were beginning ro consider gasoline tractors.
By the early 1930s, tractors had changed tremendously, too, and automobile technology had made a huge impact on their design, engineering and manufacturing – better carburetors, headlights, and electrical starters were all improvements that began sporadically showing up on tractors. Unfortunately, the crash of the stock market took a heavy toll on the tractor manufacturers, and very few new models of tractors were introduced in the early 1930s.
Finally, in 1935, Case Corporation of Racine, Wisconsin, became one of very few tractor manufacturers to introduced an entirely new model after the depression. Wanting something that would suit the small farmer, Case introduced the model “RC” in 1935 as an “economy-sized” machine. It could pull one plow and was a good machine for the rowcrop farmer, who made up more than 60 percent of the market after the depression. The Case RC weighed about 2,600 pounds and a model like the one displayed here sold new for about $950 (or about $11,500 in today’s dollars).
Although the Case RC sold well enough, considering the economy at the time, two factors conspired against it almost immediately after it was introduced. First, the Case RC earned a reputation among farmers as being one of the most dangerous tractor of its contemporaries for its nasty way of flipping over backwards when the clutch was popped too fast. Second, in 1937, the Oliver Hart-Parr 70 was introduced and truly revolutionized tractor design with an engine that really ran on ordinary automobile gas, had an electric starter, factory headlights, rubber tires and, perhaps the most amazing of all, a factory built AM radio.
Our featured tractor here is very special because it was lovingly owned by one of Harold LeMay’s dearest friends, Sonny Wilson. Sonny owned the Case tractor for more than 35 years, and took it to tractor shows and parades regionally around his hometown of Orlean, New York almost all of that time. Many have enjoyed working with Sonny on the annual open house, and many more got to enjoy Sonny’s enthusiasm on the day of show through his love of the small engines and tractors you see on display here every year. Sonny passed away on April 12, 2001 and is very missed.
The tractor restoration took approximately six months and could not have been done without the hard work and valuable information provided by volunteers, including Wayne Wilcox, Don Comstock, Ed Gordon, and Frank Collins. Also, a special thanks to Rich Tworek at JI Case in Racine, Wisconsin; Mel and Ken at Stuart & Stevenson in Auburn; Ray Ray Hoffman, editor of The Heritage Eagle; Fred, owner of Golf Landscaping in Puyallup; and Lyle Wacker of Wacker Decals in Osmund, Nebraska. Also, thanks to our in-house restoration team of Tom Towers, Mary Bernier, Dennis Russo, and Dean Nelson.
- In 1937, Case acquired Emerson-Brantingham Implement Company and Rock Island Plow Company
- The RC model was considered a tractor for smaller farms
- Price new: $950 (approx.)