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The History of Allis-Chalmers

Allis Chalmers Model B
The Right Tractor at the Right Time

In 1937, Allis Chalmers showed brilliant marketing for site and released the Allis-Chalmers model B. Allis-Chalmers aimed the little model B at the four million farmers that farmed 100 acres or less. Allis recognized that the farmers on these small farms still used horses as their primary source of farm power. When they released the Model B at the astonishing five hundred dollar price range the stage was set for the Allis Chalmers B to become one of the most popular tractors ever built and a true farming classic. Allis Chalmers designed the B to be lightweight and simple. It only weighed a ton and had a minimum of parts. However, the $495 price included such luxuries as rubber tires and a cushioned seat.

The company that would eventually become Allis-Chalmers started out as a small burr millstone maker in 1847. Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Reliance Works built a variety of products including French burr millstones, portable mills, shafting and water wheels.

Purchased by Edward P. Allis & Company in 1861, the company grew quickly. In 1869 the company expanded into steam power and soon produced the first Allis steam engine. The company line-up grew to include steam pumps including the largest centrifugal pump in America in 1884 and the first triple expansion pumping engine two years later. By 1889, there would be 1100 employees on the company's payroll. In 1901, Allis-Chalmers was formed by merging the Edward P. Allis Co., Fraser and Chalmers Company and Gates Iron Works.

Wanting to diversify, Allis-Chalmers built its first farm tractor in 1914. The tractor business grew, and in 1928 a line of crawler tractors was started. And when Allis-Chalmers decided to focus on the small and medium sized farmer, they came up with new designs that turned out to be one of the most popular series of tractors ever produced. The WC tractor was first built in 1933 as a prototype tractor. Soon to follow was the Model B tractor, then the Model C in 1940, the Model CA in 1950, the Model WD in 1948 and the Allis-Chalmers WD45 in 1953.

Over the years, the company made a series of acquisitions, including Simplicity Manufacturing, Inc., and introduced a number of product lines. In addition to farm tractors, Allis-Chalmers offered combines, hydroturbines, values and pumps, compressors, electric motors and Simplicity lawn & garden tractors. By 1979, Allis-Chalmers had grown into a $2 billion corporation and was one of the prominent machinery and tractor manufacturers in the United States.

The rapid economic change during the 1980s, however, created financial struggles from which Allis-Chalmers could not recover. It sold Simplicity manufacturing to its management in 1983. This move was followed by the sale of its farm equipment division to K-H-D AG of Germany (which was renamed Deutz-Allis) in 1985. Deutz-Allis was later sold to its management and became what is now the AGCO Corporation.

What remained of the manufacturing businesses were dispersed in 1998 and the company officially closed its offices in Milwaukee in January 1999. The remaining service businesses became Allis-Chalmers Energy in Houston, Texas.

In 2008, Briggs & Stratton Power Products, LLC, announced it would be restoring the Allis-Chalmers brand to the lawn and garden industry with two new lawn tractors. Available at Simplicity dealerships beginning this fall, the new tractors harken back to the glory days of the Allis-Chalmers farm tractor. The design of the new AC130 lawn tractor is reminiscent of these products, leaning heavily on the familiar orange color and distinctive Allis-Chalmers logo.


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